Up until recently, we’ve been a family of cat rescuers. Three books into an FBI search-and-rescue K-9 series, and I was basing all my dog experiences off my childhood black Lab. Luckily, my writing partner, Ann, is a dog rescuer and trainer, so she carried a lot of that load. But little did I know that was about to change.
It all started when my youngest daughter needed volunteer hours for high school and decided she’d earn them at the local animal shelter. I went with her to the information night for parents where they told us to expect our children to come home asking for a cat. Well, that won’t happen to us, says I.
Two months later, we were the owners of a tiny calico cat named Mia who we all adored.
Mia opened the door to cat rescue for us. We adopted three-month old Autumn from a local animal rescue. We pulled eight-month old Milo from the alley behind my older daughter’s apartment building where he’d been abandoned weeks before when the people next door moved away without him. We trapped four-month old feral kittens Luna and Nala right out of our own backyard where they were slowly starving to death (great eaters, terrible hunters). All our cats have been given a wonderful, welcoming home.
We’ve had some truly bad luck. We lost Mia at just under three to lymphoma after a brutal nine month chemotherapy battle. We lost Luna just before her first birthday to an E. coli infection we could never manage to clear with every treatment possible.
After we lost Luna, we regrouped. We were all suffering from cat PTSD and didn’t want to try again with another cat, but we legal had room for one more pet in the household. So my youngest daughter started looking at dogs that needed rescuing. And that’s when we met eighteen-month old Chloe.
Chloe came from northern Ontario and was brought south by a group that only rescues working dogs. Part Australian cattle dog, part border collie, she’d been passed from foster to vet to kennel to rescue so many times over a three-month period that the final rescue didn’t even know why she’d been originally surrendered. But she’d been proven in the past to be non-aggressive with cats (any dog that was a danger to our cats was a deal breaker for all of us), and she was listed as a low energy dog. This suited us fine because we didn’t want our three remaining cats to be herded on a daily basis or run ragged.
As a family, we went down to meet Chloe at her foster home and we hit it off immediately. She was shy, but got over her discomfort quickly. She didn’t bark at us, and she showed no aggression whatsoever. She came with some rudimentary commands, so we weren’t starting at ground zero. We were all in agreement that she would work out well with us, so we brought her home.
The cats were less than impressed, but we were very careful with them. For the first two weeks, Chloe stayed on leash with someone with her at all times so we could monitor her interactions with them. Once it was clear she wasn’t a threat to them, she got more and more time without someone hanging over her. Within a month, she had full unleashed access to the whole house on her own.
When you rescue an animal, you never really know what background they are bringing with them, so the key is to watch them carefully and be flexible as needed. In Chloe’s case, there were signs of abuse around grooming that appeared fairly quickly. When she cowered away from a brush, we got a grooming mitt. When the bathtub was an exercise in terror, we tried the hose on a hot day, and then waterless shampoo that can be sprayed on, massaged in, and wiped off with a towel.
She remains shy around strange people and dogs, but with repeated exposure to new people and situations, she’s starting to come out of her shell. She didn’t know how to play with toys at the beginning, but through trial and error, we’re learning what she likes and she’s learning how to play. Squeaky, tossable toys are her favourite, be it a rubber ball or a red plush dragon. And she’s never met a stick she didn’t love… and then destroy.
So this is our life now—daily walks, obedience training, convincing Autumn that the interloper is staying, keeping Milo out the dog food, and supervising the beginnings of play between Nala and Chloe. As I start drafting FBI K-9s #4, I think life with Chloe will only make Meg’s black Lab Hawk that much more real to me.
I may even have to give Hawk a squeaky red dragon to play with.
Follow the continuing adventures of Meg Jennings and her search-and-rescue K-9, Hawk, in STORM RISING, releasing December 2018 from Kensington Books.
“A wonderfully readable series launch.” —Publishers Weekly on Lone Wolf
Special Agent Meg Jennings and her trusted search-and-rescue Labrador, Hawk, must race against the clock before a diabolical killer strikes again . . .
Somewhere in the Washington, D.C. area, a woman lies helpless in a box. Barely breathing. Buried alive. In Quantico, the FBI receives a coded message from the woman’s abductor. He wants to play a game: decipher the clues, save the girl. The FBI’s top cryptanalysts crack the code and Special Agent Meg Jennings and her K-9 partner, Hawk, scramble to the scene of the crime—too late. But the killer’s game is far from over . . .
Another message, another victim. The deadly pattern is repeated—again and again. As the body count mounts, Meg decides to break protocol and bring in her brilliant sister, Cara, a genius at word games, to decipher the kidnapper’s twisted clues. Meg knows she’s risking her career to do it, but she’s determined not to let one more person die under her and Hawk’s watch. If the plan fails, it could bite them in the end. And if it leads to the killer, it could bury them forever . . .
“Tense and exciting, Sara Driscoll has created a new power couple, Meg and her FBI K-9, Hawk.” —Leo J. Maloney, author of Arch Enemy