The chance to be part of the Pets in Space Anthology is so exciting. I’m a military vet who has always loved dogs and cats. “Doggie” was one of my first words. “Kitty” soon followed. As soon as I could string together a sentence, I asked for a pet of my own. To appease me, my mom gave me a toy dog on a leash. It had batteries that allowed it to bark and bounce, just like a real live warm and cuddly puppy. Ha. Does this face look fooled to you?
When I was 22 years old and a new lieutenant about to start USAF pilot training in Del Rio, Texas, I got my own first real pet—a cat. Foxbat was a true Texan, born on a local ranch. I named her after the infamous Russian MiG-25 fighter jet. It was the middle of the Cold War and relations with the Soviet Union were tense. The way I figured it, why not neutralize a threat by making it seem cute and cuddly? Here she is, not much bigger than my car keys:
Foxbat was so little when I brought her home that she slept in my slipper while I was at training during the day. She was a real trooper—she attended all the pilot parties at our house, was partial to Cheetos, was known to lick the mouths of empty beer bottles, and stayed up until all hours—just like us student jet pilots. As the years passed and I went on to other assignments, she made many a military move to new duty stations.
Foxbat was a truly extraordinary cat. She used up every one of her nine lives, surviving even a rattlesnake bite, somehow making it home before she collapsed. I got her to the vet in the nick of time. She bounced back better than ever, and went on to live nineteen adventurous years, passing away only when a ravaging disease called FIV took her down. (There is a vaccination for FIV now, but there wasn’t then.)
Since Foxbat, many other pets have padded into my life and into my heart. My home has contained as many as seven dogs and cats at a time. But I still miss Foxbat. She was and will always be my soul kitty.
When I wrote Stray, my novella in Pets in Space, I tried to capture the essence of this powerful human-pet bond. In this excerpt, Lt. Lukas Frank has just received some pretty bad news about his fiancée, Captain Carlynn Riga. Even a Marine needs the support of a good dog when times are tough:
Bang-Bang waited by the doors, holding a sitting position where Lukas had left him during the briefing. The white tip of the dog’s tail batted against the floor, slowing as his yellowish, old-soul eyes zeroed in on the turmoil inside Lukas that the station’s staff could not see.
Lukas halted, his breath stuttering. The only other living thing capable of breaching his defenses and rendering him so transparent was Carlynn. Her eyes, the color of black coffee, had brought him to his knees more than once, turned him inside out, and showed him what love looked like when viewed in someone’s gaze.
He bent down on one knee, and Bang-Bang’s paw hooked over his forearm. “She’s missing.” He managed to get the words out. Inconceivable words. It seemed surreal that he might never see Carlynn again. Might never hold her…
The softest of sorrowful, high-pitched whines exited Bang-Bang’s throat, and Lukas almost lost it. He pressed his cheek to Bang-Bang’s. Kindred spirits. Their bond had been there from the moment they crashed into each other on the streets of Barésh, the filthy, overpopulated domed mining world around which Bezos Station orbited.
BANG BANG—two loud booms diverted his attention that night on patrol about a year ago. He had swung his weapon around, sweeping for threats, his heart racing way too fast, before he backed off and let out a shaky breath. Not Glenn-Musk. Not the attack. Not dozens of bodies tumbling into the vacuum of space, Lukas helpless to save them. No, the double bang was only a backfire from one of the rattletrap mining vehicles the Baréshtis drove. Then a street dog flew out from under a parked vehicle, headed right for him, two freakishly intelligent eyes broadcasting sheer terror. Lukas opened his hands like a pair of catcher’s mitts and caught him. The way the dog pressed close, trusting that Lukas would protect him even as his skinny body shivered and revealed his panic, got to him. Yeah, got to him good. A brush of coarse whiskers, a wet nose, and that was that. They were a team from then on.
Thanks a million for having me at your blog! I love chatting about pets and books.
Susan Grant is a New York Times/USA Today bestselling, RITA Award-winning author of science fiction, time travel, and paranormal romance. As a jet pilot and global traveler, she finds plenty of inspiration to create action-packed stories featuring strong women and honorable men.
Find Susan here:
I’d like to thank Susan for stopping by to share her story. I can see why Foxbat is your soul kitty for sure.
So readers, do you have a soul pet? The one you can’t forget?
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