HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: (Breaking news: I am at Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont tonight! Come on down!)
Anyway, when I lived in Atlanta, we had my cat Lola, and a wacky enthusiastic beagle-type pooch named McGee. They were both terrific animals, but the oh-so-snarky Lola’s take on McGee was that he did not exist. I don’t think Lola every admitted there was another animal in the house, no matter what McGee did. McGee, happily, was a dog of very little brain, so he did not have enough space to include the concept of “cat” after Jim, and food, and how to “arooooo” and well, that’s about all he could handle. So it worked out nicely.
As the brilliant Kathy Lynn Emerson so hilariously explains, it is not always easy.
The Scottie Barked at Midnight: Of Dogs and Cats
I hesitated for a long time to introduce a dog of any sort into the Liss MacCrimmon series for one simple reason—there were already two cats. Now, some cats like dogs, but I didn’t think a cat with the personality of Lumpkin, the big yellow Maine Coon Cat Liss inherited along with her house, was likely to be very accepting. He had trouble enough adjusting to Glenora, the little black kitten I added in A Wee Christmas Homicide.
By the time someone suggested I include a Scottish terrier in one of Liss’s stories, I’d already written a scene in Vampires, Bones, and Treacle Scones in which Lumpkin has a run in with Papelbon, the dog belonging to Dan’s niece, Samantha. Here’s what happened when they met:
Lumpkin spat, hissed, and expanded to twice his normal size. Since he was a Maine Coon cat and weighed in at well over fifteen pounds on his slimmest day, he was a formidable sight.
The reason for his ill humor was a dog, Papelbon by name, a black and brown mutt of uncertain ancestry, although it probably included a splash of border collie. He belonged to Dan Ruskin’s brother Sam.
In spite of the unfriendly reception, Papelbon wagged his plume of a tail and tried to touch noses with the outraged feline. Lumpkin took a swipe at Papelbon and missed. With a yip of surprise, the dog retreated behind Sam’s legs.
“Come out from there you yellow-bellied chicken.”
“Daddy!” Sam’s daughter Samantha, age nine, knelt beside Papelbon and flung her arms around his furry neck. “Don’t be so mean. That nasty old cat scared him.”
Papelbon licked her face.
Liss hid a grin as she scooped up the cat and slung him over her shoulder, thus clearing the way for Sam, Samantha, and Papelbon to enter the house “I’ll be right back,” she said as she started down the hall. “Make yourselves at home.”
Lumpkin growled low in his throat all the way to the kitchen. Liss carried him into the connecting pantry/utility room. “Sorry, sport,” she told the cat. “You’re confined to quarters for the duration. Live with it.” She had to move fast once she put him down, but she managed to shut the door before he could get past her. The unmistakable sound of claws scoring wood made her wince but didn’t surprise her in the least.
By The Scottie Barked at Midnight, the ninth entry in the series, Lumpkin has mellowed somewhat, although he still has his share of bad habits. He has accepted the presence of a second cat and a move to a different house, but there are some things a cat just should not be expected to tolerate. Here’s a short excerpt, the scene where Lumpkin and his little buddy Glenora meet the Scottish Terrier Liss has rescued for the first time.
Liss unlocked her back door, scooped up the Scottie, and stepped into the kitchen. Both cats materialized out of nowhere. Lumpkin, the Maine Coon cat, caught sight of the dog first. His head shot up, as did his tail, which instantly puffed up to twice its normal size. Glenora, smaller and coal-black, went up on her hind feet, trying to get a better look at the newcomer.
“Now, guys—play nice.”
Moving slowly, Liss lowered the Scottish terrier to all fours. She was quivering with excitement, anxious to investigate these new and interesting creatures, one of whom was bigger than she was.
“Lumpkin. Glenora. This is—” She broke off, momentarily stumped. She had to call the dog something. Sweetie was just too cutesy. Wee Jock was a cliché, aside from being the wrong gender. Pets belonging to past presidents had led to the overuse of Fala and Barney for Scottish terriers. Then it came to her—the perfect nickname for an animal that had narrowly escaped being run over by a car. “For now, we’re going to call this pooch Lucky,” she informed her feline housemates. “Be polite to her. She’s a guest.”
All high spirits and friendliness, Lucky danced up to the two cats. Glenora bristled and spat. Lumpkin’s ears went back. That was the only warning before he struck out, slashing at Lucky’s nose. The Scottie backpedaled so fast that she tumbled ass over teakettle.
“That’s enough!” Liss grabbed for Lucky, meaning to lift her out of harm’s way, but the crisis had already passed.
Lumpkin sat down and began to wash his nether regions. Glenora turned her back, flicked her tail, and stalked out of the room. Trailing her leash, Lucky discovered a dish containing leftover dry cat food and chowed down. Liss collapsed onto one of the kitchen chairs.
“That went well,” she muttered.
I’d love to hear real-life stories of the
first meetings between dogs and cats and how their owners coped while their pets adjusted to sharing. In this case, of
course, the Scottie already has a home
and returning her to it is what involves
Liss in murder and mayhem.
HANK: So Reds? Do yours fight like cats and...well, you know. Do they? Or can there be dog détente?
Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of over fifty books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award in 2008 for best mystery nonfiction for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2014 in the best mystery short story category for “The Blessing Witch.” Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (The Scottie Barked at Midnight) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries as Kathy (Murder in the Merchant’s Hall). The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” series and is set in Elizabethan England. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com