I am happy to welcome Peggy to Furbaby Friday to share her love of animals, her cat, Hissy, and Yellowstone Heart Song from her Yellowstone Romance Series.
Peggy: Thank you for inviting me to talk about my fur babies today, Beth! Where do I begin? I ‘ve been an animal lover for as long as I can remember. I had mice, hamsters, frogs, rabbits… you name it, when I was little. We tried getting a dog, and also a cat, but for one reason or another, it never worked out that we got to keep them, so I spent a lot of time on my uncle’s farm in rural Germany. I loved hanging out with the chickens, the cows, the horses, and the cats. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a veterinarian.
Fast forward to when I was a teenager and living in the US. My first job was at age 15, working in an animal hospital’s boarding kennel. From there, I worked my way up to technician, and it’s a job I held all through high school and college. After four years of Animal Science/Pre-Veterinary Medicine, I decided to call it quits on the veterinarian dream. I got married, had a house, started a family, and lived the dream of having lots of animals. I was burned out on school, but I continued to work in the field. After staying home with my kids for their first ten years, my background landed me a job in a veterinary reference lab. Now I’m loving life as a full-time romance author, but animals tend to find their way into my books to help bring couples their HEA, in the form of horses, dogs, and even a goose.
Over the years, I’ve owned dogs, cats, horses, chickens, goats, you name it. Most of the animals were cast-offs from clients at the vet clinic or rescues from shelters. There was Misty, our black barn kitty who moved into our barn, young and pregnant. I had her spayed, and she decided she wanted to move in permanently.
Then there was Wink, our one-eyed little rescue cat. Someone had dropped him off at the clinic when he was about four weeks old. He was covered in fleas and had a terrible eye infection and upper respiratory infection. He barely knew how to eat on his own. I cleaned him up, took him home, and got him healthy, except for his eye. It was unsalvageable, so we had to have it removed. Hence the name Wink, because he looked like he was always winking at someone.
Most of my horses were racetrack cast-offs or kill-lot rescues. Due to life’s circumstances, I had to give up my animal lifestyle about a dozen years ago and drastically downsize (which meant that none of the ones that passed on were replaced). At the moment, I have only one cat and my welsh pony left. My other pets and horses have all passed away from old age. I’m a huge believer that pets are for life.
So, today, I want to give a special mention to my current fur baby, my cat Hissy, who is known on Facebook as the Writing Assistant. What kind of silly name is Hissy? Yes, there’s a story behind the name.
One day, about seventeen years ago, I was out feeding the horses when I saw this beautiful calico cat wander through the yard. She was skinny, and obviously nursing kittens. She was shy at first, but when I brought out a can of tuna, she came running and was most grateful. She came around again the next day, and I saw a tiny orange furball kitten with her. Unfortunately, the little stinker would not let me get close to him.
(Jedi and Misty)
I talked to my neighbor, who told me the cat lived in her shed, and that two of her kittens had been taken by hawks. Right then, I made it my mission that this last kitten would not meet the same fate. Mama cat (who we named Minx, because I used to have a calico named Minx decades ago) was easy to catch. The kitten was a challenge. I had to go into the shed and all but remove most of the wooden floorboards to finally grab him. Boy, was he a feisty one. Hissing and spitting and showing me how tough he was.
I brought him into the house to re-unite with his Mama, and for several weeks, no-one was able to get close to him. He would hiss and spit at anyone getting near his crate. My then 3-year-old son decided to call him Hissy. Weeks passed, and he finally decided that living in the house, getting fed, having a safe and warm place to sleep wasn’t such a bad deal, after all. He became a lovable couch potato, but we never changed his name.
Now, he’s my 17-year-old senior cat, the best cat I’ve ever owned. He’s never been a lap cat, but he loves sleeping next to me, either at night, or during the day when I’m working, typing away on the couch. As I said before, he’s my “Writing Assistant” and his fans on Facebook love him.
Last year he adjusted to living in an RV in Yellowstone for five months, and he will be going with us again in a couple of months when we leave for another season in the world’s first national park. He has feline diabetes that has been in remission for several years (crossing fingers it stays that way), and is in overall great health for his age. I can’t imagine life without him.
Peggy L Henderson is an award-winning, best-selling western historical and time travel romance author of the Yellowstone Romance Series, Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series, Teton Romance Trilogy, and the Blemished Brides and Wilderness Brides Western Historical Romance Series. When she’s not writing about Yellowstone, the Tetons, or the old west, she’s out hiking the trails, spending time with her family and pets, or catching up on much-needed sleep. She is happily married to her high school sweetheart. Along with her husband and two sons, she divides her time between living in Southern California and Yellowstone National Park.
(Peggy and Mel)
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Blurb for Yellowstone Heart Song:
Nurse and avid backpacker Aimee Donovan is offered the opportunity of a lifetime. She encounters a patient who tells her he is a time traveler and can send her two hundred years into the past to spend three months in the rugged Yellowstone wilderness at the dawn of the mountain man era. The only requirement: she cannot tell anyone that she’s from the future.
How did a white woman suddenly appear in the remote Rocky Mountain wilderness? Trapper Daniel Osborne’s first instinct is to protect this mysterious and unconventional woman from the harsh realities of his mountains. While he fights his growing attraction to her, he is left frustrated by her lies and secrecy.
Daniel shows Aimee a side of Yellowstone she’s never experienced. She is torn between her feelings for him, and exposing a secret that will destroy everything he holds as truth. As her three months come to an end, she is faced with a dilemma: return to her own time, or stay with the man who opened her eyes to a whole new world. When the decision is made for her, both their lives will be changed forever.
Aimee smiled sweetly. He could ask her all he wanted about bison. This was basic junior ranger stuff to her. How many countless ranger-led hikes had she gone on in her life? And a favorite topic of discussion on those hikes had often been bison. She could practically lead one of these bison talks herself. She had to admit, though, that her guide this time was far more interesting than any ranger she’d met in modern times.
When Daniel didn’t speak, she finally asked, “Well, how am I doing so far?”
He studied her for a moment with that intense look of his. “Where would you expect to find berries here?” he asked, rather than answer her question.
“I’d be looking around for sunny spots, I suppose, for berry bushes.”
Daniel pointed out some strawberry patches on the ground, and huckleberry bushes among the thickets. She moved eagerly in their direction, when he took hold of her arm and pulled her back. She turned her head, and raised her eyebrows in a silent question.
“Bears, remember?” he warned. He scanned the area for a moment, and inhaled deeply. “Often, you can smell a bear before you see him,” he explained.
“What do bears smell like?” She recalled the death and decay smell of the elk carcass, but she couldn’t remember now if the bear smelled like rotten meat as well, or just the air around him.
“Most of the year, bears smell like the places they visit,” Daniel explained. “In the early part of summer, they smell like the wet grasses.”
“Sweet?” she asked. He nodded.
“The tundra smells like the earth and sage, and a bear has that smell as well. It is only much more distinct. You need to train your senses to pick up the differences. Bears like to roll in their food, or anything with a strong odor, so whatever they have eaten, they will smell like it.”
“Ew. Okay. Kind of like dogs. They do that, too.” She took a deep breath, but all she smelled was the pine scent of the forest. “What else?” she asked eagerly.
“Listen to the forest. What do you hear?”
She closed her eyes and inhaled. The tranquil sounds of the forest birds, the smell of fresh pine and musty earth, even the distinctive cow scent left behind by the bison, and the rushing sound of the breeze through the tops of the tall lodgepole pines, all had an intoxicating effect on her.
“I hear the wind and birds,” she said softly.
“What kind of birds?” Daniel prodded.
She focused on the different sounds. “Oh! A woodpecker,” she said in surprise. She had never paid attention to different birdcalls before. She turned her head to listen closer. “I hear ravens, and probably some kind of jay?”
“Any other animals?” Daniel pushed her further. “You must learn to separate all sound.”
She sighed, but kept her eyes closed. Amazingly, she could, indeed, sift through the cacophony of chirps and make out individual animals. “Hey, that’s not a bird . . . that was an angry-sounding squirrel.”
She opened her eyes. In front of her, Daniel stared intently at her face. Her heart skipped a beat.
“Is it safe now?” she whispered.
Was he going to answer? She shifted her weight nervously. His intense eyes drove straight to her heart. She couldn’t read his expression, but she wasn’t about to back down and be the first to look away. Finally, he cleared his throat.
“There is no bear here,” he answered, his voice sounding a bit raspy. He motioned with his chin to the berry patches.
Relieved for the excuse to move away from him, Aimee picked handfuls of berries, and between mouthfuls carefully placed some in her backpack. “There are so many. I would love to take some of these back and make a pie!”
Daniel stood off to the side while she ate her fill, and casually popped a few berries in his mouth from time to time. He was like a security guard – constantly trained on her to make sure she didn’t make a wrong move. She tried to ignore him and concentrate on her task, but his eyes seemed to reach straight into her. Her skin tingled all over.
“Okay, I think I have enough,” Aimee said after her pack was rather full. She wished he would catch her double meaning. She’d definitely had enough of his continuous perusal, and was ready for a diversion. Daniel turned and led the way out of the forest.
“The last time I ate pie was in Philadelphia seven years ago,” he said wistfully when the trail widened and they walked side by side. Aimee was surprised he volunteered this information.
“You’re in for a treat, then. I make a mean berry pie.”
* * *
For the better part of the morning, Daniel led her through the forest. He showed her how to read different tracks, signs to look out for that an animal had been in the area, where to look for edible roots and plants, and how to watch the skies for changes in the weather. Along with the berries, she filled her backpack with mint, wild onions, licorice, and various other roots and plants.
She listened attentively as she tried to absorb everything Daniel told her. Some things she already knew, others were completely new to her. The subtle animal signs he picked up on astounded her. Silently, he had pointed out a black bear sow and her twin cubs in the distance, a moose in the thickets that she would have completely overlooked, and countless other smaller animals. He knew which critter made every track they came upon. He read the forest for information as someone in her time would read a newspaper. It was most refreshing to get a glimpse of this wilderness that she loved so much in her time from this man who carved out a living here.
Aimee savored the beauty of her surroundings. Aspen trees grew in abundance. Beaver lodges lined the banks along streams, and countless otters played in the waters. With the coming of the fur trappers to these mountains within a decade of this time, the beaver would be trapped to near extinction. Wolves would be hunted until none remained, and without this predator, the elk would take over, and cause the destruction of the aspen from overgrazing. This was a Yellowstone unfamiliar to her, but it was as nature had intended before the encroachment of man.
Despite the differences, the landscape still held a certain familiarity, and she realized Daniel was leading them back in the direction of the cabin sometime in the early afternoon. Her foot throbbed with every step she took, but today was one of the best days of her life. The raw, undisturbed landscape exhilarated her. No other hikers, no roads. Just me and this gorgeous backwoodsman.
Find Yelowstone Heart Song at: https://www.books2read.com/YHS
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