Saturday, January 30, 2016

RIP Xander, a Very Good Cat and Faithful Writing Companion


“If you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work … the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk lamp … The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding.” 

~ Muriel Spark, A Far Cry from Kensington

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Writers and cats, right? Or maybe it's cats and their writers?




This week I lost my dear cat, friend, and faithful writing companion, Xander. If you've read any of my books, he was probably pressed up against my leg or on my desk for 99% of the writing, revision, and editing process. He was there for failures and successes, and when I heard about Oprah, I screamed — and I'm sorry to say scared him so much he peed on the floor.

Xander was a stray and had a hard life before we took him in. We used to call him "our little POW" because he had such post-traumatic stress disorder — and really didn't come out from under the bed for a few years! But he came into his own finally and became a confident and spirited member of the family. 




(While never really losing his grumpy-ness. I used to tell people he was like Lou Grant, from Mary Tyler Moore, in a cat suit. The Kiddo, a different generation, said he was Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation in a cat suit.)




And so we say goodbye to Xander this week. But don't be surprised if a little grey-and-white kitty shows up in a future Maggie Hope book....



Maggie's cat, pictured here on the Japanese edition of
THE PRIME MINISTER'S SECRET AGENT,
is based on the late, great, cat, Mr. K.

19 comments:

Joan Emerson said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Xander . . . pets do hold such a special place in our hearts and in our families.
And a little grey-and-white kitty would be absolutely perfect for a Maggie Hope book.

Edith Maxwell said...

Aww. He sounds like a perfect cat companion (although I confess I cannot see him on that Japanese cover). I have a black and white buddy, my Birdy, who is my office mate - and on the covers of my Country Store series. ;^)

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

The cat Mr. K is around Maggie's shoulders and is also red. Easy to miss. Birdy! I assume because he chases Birds?

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh, I am so sorry… It is so sad, and distressing and a good cat is such a good pal. I had Lola for 20 years. I got her at the Humane Society, she was so tiny when I brought her home that she couldn't even go up the steps. I had gone to the shelter for a long-haired gray cat, but scrawny little tortoiseshell Lola put her paw through the bars of the cage, and batted at me. So what could I do.
After she died I was so upset, I remember it so well. Then one night I had a dream about her… She said to me : don't worry, I am fine and happy. And the fact that my cat was talking to me seemed perfectly reasonable. And I did feel better.
So I'm sure they are together, having tuna and cream, and we all honor and hail Xander, indeed, a very good cat.

Hallie Ephron said...

RIP Xander... when we lived in NY we collected a few strays from the basement (do NOT go down there) of our apartment building. It was so wrenching when I had to give them away because of a cat allergy that sent me to the hospital. They were the most wonderful companions. Sending hugs, Susan.

Edith Maxwell said...

Ah, now I see the cat. I was looking for Xander himself! Birdy is named that because he chirped when he purred as a kitten - and still does 13 years later.

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Edith, that's adorable! Hank, as you know, we also have a Lola cat, a vivacious and affectionate five-year-old tabby... Yes, I think a lot of the time, cats choose us.

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

I'm just so used to writing with him. He would always sit with me. Through six books!

FChurch said...

I can't understand people who say they don't like cats, or dogs. It seems to me that they are dismissing the species as a group without understanding how unique each individual animal is--that they have distinct personalities--and they bring so much love and joy into our lives. Sorry for the loss of your companion, Susan--RIP Xander--it's clear from your photos that he felt himself to be much loved!

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Very sorry about Xander, Susan--this is the most painful and horrible part of loving an animal. And being a writer, home alone, they make such a difference. (Though Yoda the cat isn't much of writer, more the editor type.)

And I love your Japanese cover!

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

That's the rub, isn't it Lucy? All great love eventually brings great pain, but I for one think it's worth it.

Julia said...

It's so painful to lose a beloved pet. A friend told me, "Pets have us their whole lives, which is their joy. We don't, which is our sorrow."

We lost our sweet big dog at the age of thirteen this fall. He, too, would always curl up in his bed near where I was writing. Now our Shih Tzu, Louie, does the same thing! We who work from home are lucky to be able to have so much time with our cats and dogs.

Diana R. Chambers said...

So moving, Susan. My shelter BFF dog has taught me so much about love. It has to be worth it. I don't have such a relationship with our new feral kitty, now purring on my lap, but watching him "come out from under the bed" has taught me another kind of love lesson.

Libby Dodd said...

Losing a fur child is very hard. We lost our matriarch recently and I still think how she'd have liked the cheese or eggs left on my plate. (She was our dairy queen)
It's very hard, but oh so worth it.
I think they help us be better people.

Kathy Reel said...

So sorry that you sweet Xander is gone, Susan. I know you all loved him so, and, of course, the great part is that he knew that, too. So glad that you had him and he had you for so long. Having lost my furry boy last spring, I still haven't been able to take on another one, but I know that one of these days, a doggie is going to speak to me, and I won't be able to say no. And, that is really the greatest tribute to our pets that have died, that we loved them so that we continue to need and want that space in our lives filled. Of course, never replaced.

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Julia, yes, I actually find comfort in the fact that Xander didn't know loss. Diana, just wait a bit with your new kitty.... Thank you, Libby. I do feel like a better person. (And Xander also liked the milk in the bowl after I'd eaten cereal, which I always gave him. Kathy, exactly -- we're not looking for a new cat at all, but maybe one of these days, one will really need a home....

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Lola used to scoop milk out of the cereal bowl with her paw-- very delicate!
And Susan, Xander is still with you as you write.

Xxxx from the Sarasota airport

Dee Sprinkle said...

So sorry to hear. I know it is tough losing a writing partner. May Xander RIP....

Ann in Rochester said...

Losing a pet is such a (started to say heartache but it is really a crappy shitty horrible thing.)We have a little grey and white sweetheart too, Eliot, also know as Hellicat. She and I will offer up a thank you tonight, to those gods that be, the ones who make cats. xox