Saturday, December 30, 2017

RIP Heather McClaw

RIP Heather McClaw

February 14, 2005 – December 30, 2017

We came to the rescue for her brother, but I couldn’t look into her big blue eyes and not take her as well. As one of her foster moms said, “She’s got eyes clear to infinity.”

It was a good decision. Heather was pretty much inseparable from Reese. Here we have Pinky and the Brain: 

We didn’t realize she was Nurse Heather until our eldest cat, Rambo, who was seventeen had an illness. Heather and Tara “bookended” the Old Man and kept him warm until he felt better. Here’s the three of them in better times:

I think she could get almost anything out of people if she used her Big Blue eyes: 

She was the first one of our cats to help make Indy welcome. I knew the little scamp would be okay when he finally recognized, “hey, she looks kind of like me.” She’s been a patient and good mama to the Irrepressible “Dr. Jones.” 

She bathed Indy and loved him just like his Mama cat did:

She even conned her brother, Reese, into accepting the evil little alien.

Probably the best testament to her character is when we had a heartworm positive foster dog, Andy. Because of the immiticide, Andy had to remain on crate rest for 28 days. We figured the cats wouldn’t bother him. Instead, Heather chose to keep him company. For most of his stay, she remained faithfully outside that crate. Whenever Andy got restless and needed to take a potty break or wasn’t feeling well, she’d come and get one of us to help take care of him. 

She faithfully kept her post throughout Andy’s fostering and even gave her approval to his new parents, Rick Dunham and Pam Tobey, when they drove down from D.C. to pick him up.

And why do I keep calling her “Nurse Heather” instead of “Doctor Heather?” Because docs make their diagnoses, write their orders, and leave the nurses to do the work. She stuck around with the patient to make sure all was okay.

Her vet described her as the World’s Sweetest Cat and even the student vets at UT-Knoxville Vet School said she was one of the easiest animals they ever worked with. She’s just a dear good girl. But she’s not perfect. Never leave any kind of “bling” within her reach. She’ll steal it! I don’t know how many necklaces Tony had I both lost to her before we found her stash.

She’s truly the Queen of Bling. Someone actually said, “Why would you do that to your cat?” Hey, she put her head in there. She LIKES having jewelry. I remember after she came back from radiation for her thyroid, we bought her Mardi Gras beads. She was insulted they were plastic.

I don’t know why an animal so sweet would have to go through what she has. Her veterinary record was thick and painful, including a bladder full of struvites, two nukes for thyroid, and pancreatitis. When we found out last fall she had cancer, we would have biopsied, but the mass in her abdomen was close to her aorta and the vets said the procedure was dicey at best. Somehow I believe she hung on past my birthday and Christmas to make the holiday good.

I’m sure her brother, the weremeezer, will sing the song of their people to the moon for her. I don’t think I have ever met a sweeter, more thoughtful animal. I’m writing this through tears and I expect I’ll be crying for days to come. My heart feels broken in half. I don’t think I could put it much better than Leonard Cohen.

There is a crack, a crack in everything. 
That’s how the light gets in.

Rest peacefully, Little Bird….You brought a lot of light to this world.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Cat Tails Blog

Cat Tails War Zone is a charity anthology co-edited by Dana Bell and myself to benefit Shadow Cats, a cat rescue out of Round Rock, Texas. Shadow Cats does amazing work in several areas: feeding feral colonies, sheltering FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) and FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus ) positive cats who can recover from the illnesses which were previously thought to be fatal with proper food, rest, and shelter. They also work to find forever homes for adoptable cats and kittens.

My husband and I learned about this rescue from our veterinarian, Dr. Roy B. Smith, who runs the rescue with his wife, Sheila. While we lived in Austin, we volunteered for them. Here’s a picture of our Shadow Cat, SamWise, who was an amazing animal:

What we’re looking for are stories where cats were helpers to a war effort. There actually are many real-life examples of cats protecting ancient temples, guarding soldier’s food supplies from rodents, and keeping troop morale up by serving as a unit mascot. If you’re interested in seeing real-life examples of cats helping, here’s an article from PetMD:

At the moment, we have stories ranging from the Vikings to the future. Examples of time-frames are: Vikings, Revolutionary War, World War II, current-day warfare, and the future. We’re accepting all genres, so you can even have your troops fighting aliens or some other type of creature, but please keep the rating PG-13. The deadline is December 31, 2017; however, we can be somewhat flexible if need be. Contact the editors at: for details.

The submission call, with more details, is here:

Saturday, November 11, 2017

More Alternative Truths

People often ask why writers write what they do. I have never had a clearer answer than in this particular case.

My story in More Alternative Truths is dedicated to my Mom, Helen Dorothy McFarland-Brewer, who instilled a desire to learn in me that often put me at odds with the schools I attended.

Mom loved to do many things: cook, sew, interact with family, play with cats, but I think the thing she enjoyed most doing was teaching. And she seldom missed an opportunity to provide new knowledge. From an early age, Mom taught me to observe the world around me and study it, to read and learn as much as I could, to respect learning in others. From solar eclipses to cooking clay for me so I could learn how to make colors, she seldom missed a teachable moment.

As I grew, she said "Look it up" as many times as she said, "I love you." I learned early how to use both dictionaries and encyclopedias--the only problem with that was I occasionally got lost and couldn't stop!

Every day, I see the new administration decrying facts. Every discipline is taking a hit, particularly science. And if that science interferes with fascist corporate interests, the pertinent disciplines may not be taught at all in the future.

Growing up with a natural educator for a mother, I wondered could someone born to teach stop even if she faced stiff penalties? And what would be the inevitable consequences when those teachers continued to provide their most precious treasure, knowledge, to others?

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Alternative Truths Anthology

"This machine kills fascists," Woody Guthrie painted that message on his guitar in 1941 in a fit of patriotism. Other artists subsequently followed suit. At that point, the United States was fighting Hitler.

Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid's Tale, describes the conditions in 1939 the year she was born:  "“Having been born in 1939 and come to consciousness during World War II, I knew that established orders could vanish overnight … Anything could happen anywhere, given the circumstances.”

I lost two uncles in that fight. They were both good men who enlisted and believed in the cause. No one ever conceived that fascism was coming to our own country. And yet here we are, 76 years later facing a reality that grows increasingly surreal each day. 

The following comes from Bob Brown, publisher and editor of Alternative Truths:

"Alternate Truths Anthology was formed, when on February 23, 2017 I, and many of my friends, asked what we could do. We could write, we could join that noble tradition of using the pen, to poke the powerful.

So was born, Alternative Truths. And our pens became word processors and our ideas became stories.

Kellyanne Conway was not the first political operative to applying flexibility to truth. But she gave us the best ever description of the premise when she coined the phrase, “Alternative Facts,” in describing what George Orwell had for all previous generations labeled as New Speak.

Like beauty, truth, especially political truth, is in the eye of the beholder, and for years Americans have tolerated the common elements of exaggeration and rhetoric from their politicians. But not since the early days of the nation has such a mockery of truth been made in the name of politics, and in that vein we present to you, Alternative Truths."

The anthology is twenty-four stories from notable authors, including Phyllis Irene Radford, Louise Marley, Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station, and twenty-one others following in Guthrie's tradition creating everything from humor to dystopic horror in the name of truth.

I leave you with words from one of my favorite presidents: 

"It is the part of  America to stand for the freedom of the human mind and to carry the torch of truth."  Franklin D. Roosevelt

R. Kyle, April 29, 2017