Pet Spotlight: Nancy Tesler

COMFORT ZONE

Dogs and cats to me are like sweets to a food addict. Give a few pieces of fudge to a depressed foodaholic and the endorphins surge. Happiness follows. Pets do that for me.  They are my comfort food. I like to use them in my mysteries for the same reason.  My protagonists are usually in high-stress situations and at some point in the story, their “fight or flight” response is bound to kick in. What better antidote to panic than stroking the fur of a beloved pet? And it works in reverse. Love begets love. Plus there’s no guilt in the aftermath as there surely will be for the fudge binger.

In “Pink Balloons and Other Deadly Things,” Book One of my five book mystery series, Carrie Carlin, a soon-to-be-divorcée and single mom, is juggling a career as a stress-reduction therapist with caring for two preteens and four animals (one elephant-size dog and three Siamese cats.) When her husband’s mistress ends up murdered with Carrie as the prime suspect, Carrie needs all the comfort she can get.  So too, does the protagonist in my new romantic suspense novel, “Ablaze.” Samantha Barron is a victim advocate who, after saving a dog from a fiery death at the cost of a burgeoning love affair, is rewarded with the dog’s undying devotion. Her need for comfort intensifies when the man who threw her off his crisis response team for running into that burning building, shows up in her office and butts into her cases, bringing  to the fore all those old unwanted, love/hate feelings.

 As I write this, Tootsie Roll is sprawled on my lap. If anyone thinks it’s easy to type with thirteen pounds of purring cat (except for the paw draped over the space bar) on one’s lap, try it sometime. Things could be worse. It could be his brother, Licorice Stick who has several pounds on him. The logical thing to do would be to dislodge him but I won’t do that unless more of him lands on the keyboard.

There’s a reason for my hesitancy. Tootsie is—well, high-strung. Our vet once suggested that I put him on Prozac. But that was only after a close encounter with a large and noisy Beauceron named Rex, who had moved into our house for several days. A Beauceron is a French dog, somewhat similar in looks to a cross between a German Shepherd and a Doberman.  You can understand Tootsie’s alarm.  Rex’s bark may have been worse than his bite, but Tootsie was in no mood to test the waters. By the last day of Rex’s stay, Tootsie had disappeared. Two days later I discovered his hiding place, a closet where he’d crawled between the folds of an old foam rubber mattress pad – his substitute, I presume, for the womb.

Tootsie, Licorice, and sister Buttercup (from “Poor Little Buttercup” of Gilbert and Sullivan fame,) were born along with two other siblings in a small shed in my back yard in New Jersey to a feral mother who took off after she saw me placing five dishes of Friskies by a small opening in the shed. It was clear that she was passing the baton of motherhood to me. Adoption, however, was out of the question because I was in the process of selling my house and moving to another state. So I attempted to trap them with the intention of finding them homes.

Tesler catsI borrowed an animal trap and managed to catch three terrified, yowling kittens. (Two were too smart for me and got away.) Unfortunately, God had not favored them in the looks department. They were varying shades of brown and gray and black, all ears and scruffy tails, not a beauty queen (or king) among them.

In addition, it took a couple of months until they would allow me to pet them.  Some deeply buried instinct passed along from generation to generation of their feral ancestors, told them that human beings were not to be trusted. Even my favorite Save-a-Cat organization had no luck in placing them.  I was it.

A cross-country trip, each huddled in a separate crate in the bowels of a Continental/United aircraft, only to arrive in the San Francisco airport and wait hours for an animal transport van that never arrived, did nothing to assuage their anxiety. I doubt they appreciated the fact that I hired a chauffeured limo at midnight in a desperate attempt to get us to our final destination.

They have, however, paid me back in full. Aside from providing me with endless material for books and blogs, they demonstrate their appreciation and love in myriad ways. I’m never without at least one or two bed companions (not always the best way to get a good night’s sleep, squished between my regular bed partner and a couple of cats,) but it’s the thought that counts. Their looks have improved considerably as they’ve filled in between those ears and tails, and their fur is soft and luxurious to stroke.  Still skittish, they continue to hide from children, strangers and any animal that’s not on the other side of the window. But each has his/her own personality and unique way of communicating, all of them follow me around like I’m the Pied Piper, and I’m met at the door with a greeting every time I return home. They would probably hide under the bed if an intruder got into the house so I’m not counting on them to save my life (except in the comfort-giving sense,) but all things considered, I’m very happy that I saved theirs.

Nancy Tesler
Nancy’s childhood dream was to be an actor. She received a BFA in Theater Arts from Carnegie Mellon University and embarked on a career that included off-Broadway, summer stock, films and a road company tour of some military bases in France, all of which sadly failed to put her name in lights but did turn out to be great fun and terrific training for the writing career that was to come. Following a hiatus to raise three children, she turned to writing for the stage and TV. Another career as a biofeedback practitioner helped pay the bills when, suddenly single again and inspired by an overwhelming urge to knock someone off, she created the five book Carrie Carlin “Other Deadly Things” mystery series, originally published by Dell and Perseverance Press and now available on Amazon as eBooks. Her first romantic suspense entitled “Ablaze” is due to be published in time for the holidays.

Visit Nancy’s website at www.nancytesler.com or follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nancyteslerauthor.