There’s a Cat Hair in My Mask:
How Cats Helped me through Unprecedented Times – a COVID memoir
“Cat Hair” was a labor of love/hate. It was a story I needed to tell, didn’t want to tell, didn’t want to think about, could think about nothing else. It was funny, scary, heartwarming, disturbing, and at times downright dangerous. When I finished it, I wasn’t sure I wanted to publish. Then everyone would know! But I went ahead and put it out there, because that’s what writers do.
I got my first review today. She writes:
This book is a memoir about one woman’s battle with depression and anxiety and how she helps cats and they in turn help her… took me two days to read, not because it was short but because it was both readable and fascinating. —Verified Reviewer
1. In the Beginning
When the coronavirus COVID-19 hit the world like a blistering shitstorm, I was living in an old house in Portland, Oregon with my husband and three cats. It was the beginning of February 2020, and Jim and I had just returned from our annual vacation in Mexico. I don’t remember hearing anything about a pandemic as we watched the glorious sunrises and sunsets from our beachfront suite on Cabo San Lucas. The only American horror story I knew of was our explosive political situation. Even with the devious mind of a mystery writer, I would never have imagined what was to come.
Nice as it was to hang out in warmer climes and eat fresh fruit and enchiladas, I was happy to get home. The flight, the airports, and the interminable line at customs were grueling. By the time I arrived in the dark, cold, rainy Pacific Northwest, I was exhausted.
We’d hired an excellent live-in cat sitter for the week we were gone, and the cats weren’t upset with us when we returned. Fact was, they probably had more fun with Jenn, who I’m sure lavished constant affection on the little clowder. It was wonderful to see them again. That night, as I went to bed with cats snuggled around me, I slept well.
As with most vacations, the return was fraught with undone chores and catch-up. I plunged headfirst into answering emails, planning promotion for my new book, and writing, as well as restocking cupboards, watering plants, and so on. I could feel the anxiety rising and wondered, as I always did after a holiday, if this heartless jerk back into reality was really worth the few days of relaxation.
Jim liked to watch the evening news. Unless he was working, every day between five and six o’clock, he sat down in the green easy chair we inherited from his father and clicked on the television. He was arbitrary about stations except for FOX, which was infamous for its politically skewed reporting. He refused to watch that one. The others were probably skewed as well, but skewed to our own point of view, so that worked.
During our time in Mexico, we hadn’t kept up with the goings-on in the States. We figured they could get along without us, and us without them for a while. That was our traditional modus operandi while on a trip, with the exception of Mazatlán in January 2017. On that one, we found ourselves glued in horror to our TV screens and mobile devices as the new President a flurry of executive orders that systematically stripped our country of things we’d worked so hard to achieve. But that’s another story—this one is about a different tragedy or, I should say, a series of tragedies that knocked us on our collective asses like fallen dominos. And this story is about cats.
So there was Jim, watching the news. The first segment was all politics and disaster: the upcoming presidential primaries; Trump’s impeachment trial and disappointing acquittal; another mass shooting, bringing the number up to twenty-eight just this year. Then it switched to reports of a deadly virus that had taken hold in China and was now making a jump to other countries including the U.S. Its origin was still unknown—a zoonotic disease, transmitted from animals such as bats or pangolins? A bioweapon of mass destruction from some secret Chinese lab? Who knew? The news anchor speculated, as they do, on the worst-case scenario. That was the first time I heard the word pandemic, outside of history or dystopian fiction. Little did I know that one word would become commonplace, used everywhere by everyone around the world.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes pandemic thus: “An outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area such as multiple countries or continents and typically affects a significant proportion of the population.” I didn’t pay much attention. I knew the news media latched onto anything that made a good story—they would go to any lengths to get people to watch. A simple winter storm was elevated to a snow-pocalypse; a political protest became a rampage. That’s how they made their money. I assumed this pandemic scare would be no different and went off to make dinner for the cats.
Click to purchase There’s a Cat Hair in My Mask: How Cats Helped me through Unprecedented Times for Kindle or in Paperback. For a signed copy of this or any other of my books, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Signed Book” in the subject line.
Thank you for sharing Chapter 1 with us ☀️ 🍀💫
Thank you for reading.
That was good, a time none of us will forget.
Sadly that’s true. But some good came of it too.