Knowing the plethora of cat lovers out there (myself included) I of course put Adrian’s picture first. He’s so cute that he will inevitably draw eyeballs as my recent posting of a video on Instagram showed when a few weeks after I got him.
But actually the genesis of my new book THREE RINGLING CIRCUS: A HISTORY OF SARASOTA, FLORIDA AND THE FAMOUS RINGLING BROTHERS, arrived well before Adrian, as it took me nearly 2 ½ years to write. Books are like that; they grow exponentially time-wise as you delve into the topic. Writing a book is truly a labor of love, as for me there is no easy way around a daunting task that requires that I check every fact and make sure all ideas are original (or correctly cited). The end result will be launched into the world in January 2024 – no guts, no glory, right?
Last December, a couple of months before I turned in the final manuscript and shortly before the sixth anniversary of my son Alex’s death, his beloved cat Peabody died unexpectedly during a routine procedure at the vet’s. In late 2016, Peabody became my cat “on permanent loan” as Alex had dropped him off a few months before his own passing due to his terrible living situation. A military vet injured stateside while on active duty, Alex struggled with addiction, PTSD and a variety of health problems.
It should have come as no surprise because in some ways, Peabody’s circumstances mirrored those of Alex. Peabody was 14, had a heart murmur and a plethora of digestive issues and allergies. Still, it was like being T-boned by a Mack truck and losing my son all over again.
But wherever Alex and Peabody are – and I’m not wise enough to even speculate – I suspect they may have had a hand in finding Adrian. Or, more precisely, Adrian finding me. At first I considered getting a cat from the woman who sold Peabody to Alex; she kindly offered to meet friends from Ohio who volunteered to take the kitten to Sarasota when they came to visit a few weeks hence. But you can never replace what you’ve lost and to me, choosing a lifetime companion sight unseen is unfair to everyone concerned, both two-legged and four. Plus raising a kitten can be a lot, especially when you’re used to sedate older cats who won’t even consider killing a slow-moving bug on the kitchen floor, thinking they have done you a huge favor by merely pointing it out.
Since I now live in Sarasota/Bradenton, I decided to get a cat from this area, preferably an adult Persian, Ragdoll or Himalayan, as I prefer a calmer breed with whom I am compatible. So I reached out to local breeders and also explored Petfinder. Before people jump in about rescuing animals, I am all about that. I would have definitely considered the above-mentioned types of 1-2 year old felines that may have been abandoned by kindly owners unable to keep them. But I was considering all options and trying to find the best fit, personality-wise. An animal who has been traumatized or requires special care is not a good match for me. Also, there are many individuals who love a particular breed and do an incredible job of not only raising and caring for them but making sure they find good homes.
My first stop was to check out a 2-year-old Persian, a bougie tortoiseshell who I’ll call “Princess.” While the cat was beautiful and so was the setting – a lavish home on Siesta Key – “Princess” took one look at me with hate in her eyes and ran for the hills. Obviously she was too royal for my middle-class lifestyle. “I don’t think it will work out,” I understated to the breeder.
Then a friend I play tennis with recommended a neighbor who raised what she described as “beautiful kittens.” Uh, probably not, but my curiosity was peaked so I texted her anyway and she sent me pictures of gorgeous, sedate-looking Highlanders, a newer breed I’d never heard of before.
I was pretty sure I was not going to purchase either of the kittens whose pictures and videos I’d expressed interest in when I went to meet this breeder. And I didn’t. Because she brought out three kittens, including one whose photo I initially dismissed as being “too vanilla.” And that was the little guy who chose me, coming to rest on my shoulder and purring loudly the minute she took him out of his carrier. Game over.
I’ve had Adrian for three months now and he’s anything but vanilla. While people wondered why I named him after Adrian Paul in the “Highlander” he’s pretty much living up to his moniker in terms of cuteness and miniature fierceness, doing all the things that I’d hoped for Peabody when we moved here in June of 2020, hanging out on the lanai most of the day, chasing leaves, bugs and the occasional gecko who dares venture out (I’ve already rescued a couple from his mouth). He gets the zoomies and sleeps in the giant cat condo one of my neighbors gave me when her client’s cat died unexpectedly; Peabody wanted nothing to do with it and I used it for occasional clothes storage when I was being lazy. Adrian the Highlander tries to pull packages of chicken out the refrigerator when he thinks I’m not looking and steals my clothes if I happen to drop them on the floor even though they are too much for his size and he gets entangled. And he wrinkles his nose when he meows and those curly ears…OK, I’m stopping now.
Both THREE RINGLING CIRCUS and Adrian have been exhausting and frustrating at times, launching themselves into my relatively new life in Florida, creating laughter and chaos. And while they’ve been preceded by other books and felines, with hopefully more of the former to come, unlike a certain brand of potato chip “there can be only one” of each and I’m grateful for both.