And now, as promised, the Saga of Shadowpaw, or how a little black kitten made the journey from Virginia to Saskatchewan through the auspices of a Hugo Award-winning science fiction editor and publisher.
Yes, fellow writers, eat your hearts out: my publisher brought me a kitten. What has yours done for you?
Here’s how it all fell out…
My wife is allergic to cats. This is a tragedy, because she loves cats, and has always wanted to have one. But we’ve never quite dared to try it for fear that we would fall in love with a cat, only to have to give it away again.
We’ve mentioned this dilemma often, and among those to whom we mentioned it were my publishers, Betsy Wollheim and Sheila Gilbert of DAW Books (in the photo at left that’s Sheila on the left, Betsy on the right, and me in the middle, in Sheila’s office at DAW).
Well, Betsy (winner of this year’s Hugo Award for best professional editor) is also allergic…but she manages to live with cats. The secret, she told us, is a particular breed that has lower levels of the allergen to which cat-allergic people react: Siberians.
Not only that, she told me, but she was friends with an excellent breeder in Virginia, Kim Capes of Blue Ridge Siberians. If we were serious about getting a Siberian kitten, she offered to check out the current litter on her next trip down there and pick one out, based on personality.
We decided we were serious. She made the trip. Although there were a couple of options, right from the beginning her first choice was a little black charmer who was friendly and inquisitive and everything you want in a kitten.
From there, things moved rather quickly. We decided to risk it. We would buy the little black tom. The next question was, how would we get him to Saskatchewan?
I’d explored shipping options, and that could certainly be done, but it wasn’t ideal. It quickly became apparent that the best way to do it was for me to fly down to the States and bring the kitten back as carry-on luggage…not something I’d ever even really thought of the possibility of doing before that.
Betsy offered to meet Kim in Baltimore and drive the kitten back to New Jersey, where I would be waiting at the home of my editor, Sheila Gilbert. And thus it was decided, and so it was done.
While the primary purpose of the trip was to get the kitten, there was, of course, a side benefit: a trip to New York, where I haven’t been in twenty years. I’ve never had the chance to visit the DAW offices in person before (up above is a photo of a book display there that includes mine!) and I’ve never had the opportunity to do that very writerly thing and have lunch with my agent, Ethan Ellenberg (pictured at left). So I combined business with cat-fetching, and had a fabulous time: everyone at DAW is wonderful, I had several great meals, I met people who had previously only been email addresses, I saw Newsies on Broadway (hence the photo of Times Square at night–and I highly recommend the musical, by the way), I saw as much of the Metropolitan Museum of Art as can be seen in a about four hours (not nearly enough!), I got to experience the commute from New Jersey to New York (I prefer my current commute from our bedroom to my office, thanks), and I got to do that cool Canadian thing where, when everyone around you is complaining about the bitter cold (about 15 F), I’m able to shrug and say, “Oh, well, when I boarded the plane in Regina it was -20…and we don’t call that bitter cold.” This makes you seem either tough or slightly nuts. Maybe both.
The flight back was a bit of an adventure, but Shadowpaw (as my daughter Alice had already named the kitten after the style of the cats in the Warriors fantasy novels she adores) weathered close to 12 hours in the carrier (extended by a one-hour delay in the flight from Chicago to Regina) without much complaint: and almost as soon as he was let out in our house his tail popped up and he was being petted and purring. He really is as wonderful a kitten as you could ask for, and we’re all thrilled with him: and best of all, my wife, Margaret Anne, has had no allergic reaction to him at all. (Actually, I’m the one who’s been sniffling a bit, but since I’ve never had a problem with cat allergies I suspect I picked up a cold in New York.)
For those contemplating flying with a cat: different airlines have different policies, but it’s pretty straightforward. You pay a fee—I flew United, which charges $125—and the cat has to be in an approved carrier. Soft or hard-sided, it doesn’t matter, as long as it fits within specific dimensions that allow it to be placed under the seat in front of you, where it must remain throughout the flight. The scariest part was going through security, simply because I had to take Shadowpaw out of his carrier and carry him through the metal detector in my arms. He didn’t struggle, but if you had a cat that did, that could be worrisome. In Shadowpaw’s case, he was so overwhelmed by all the people and noise around security that he actually went back into his carrier with obvious relief.
As far as bringing a cat into Canada from the U.S.: no problem, as long as you have a rabies certificate. If you don’t, as I understand it, you can still bring the cat in but you have to have it vaccinated in fairly short order. But in my case, I had the certificate, so everything went smoothly.
And that’s the tail…er, tale…of our new cat: and proof (not that I needed any) that I am fortunate beyond words to be able to say I’m a DAW author.
Although apparently their new slogan is not going to be: “DAW Books: We bring our authors kittens!”