What a writer will do for research…

I went on a writer’s field trip this morning, and when I came back my dog Mouse said, “Whoa! Where have YOU been??? More important, why didn’t you take me with you? You smell AMAZING!”

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So I said, “Why, thank you, Mouse. Now please remove your nose from my leg and I’ll tell you where I’ve been…”

I went to a place called Witty Kitties, which is a local shelter for special needs cats…mostly cats that have FIV (which is the feline equivalent of HIV) or feline leukemia. Animals that are too sick to be at the regular shelter end up here. This shelter also rescues reptiles…like this alligator:

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(Believe it or not, this was someone’s PET here in Iowa. They kept him in a tub in the basement…until he got too big for the tub! And yeah, I really did go inside the fence to get a closer look at this guy…but it was a very BRIEF look. They’d just fed him a frozen rat…that’s why he looks so happy.)

…and this tortoise:

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(The shelter takes him to schools and lets kids stand on him to show them how strong his shell is. I noticed no one invited ME to stand on him, though. He’s like a roomba when he moves around…he hits a wall, then turns around and goes the other direction…)

…and snakes (I mean BIG snakes…pythons!)…and bearded dragons…and iguanas…and a cute little red-footed tortoise that was rescued from a local pet store (apparently the animal shelter could have cited the store, but the store is one of the shelter’s big donors, so they let it go), and some lizard that hitched a ride in someone’s suitcase when they went to Florida (actually, I didn’t see that guy because he either escaped recently or he died).

But I wasn’t there to visit the snakes or the bearded dragons or the iguanas or the cats, so I’m not going to show you ALL my pictures. Besides, I don’t want to scare my husband…at one point I had four cats sitting in my lap at the same time. If I start begging to bring home cats, he might not let me go to the animal shelter anymore.

I was there to visit this guy. This is Hockey:

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He’s a blue-tongued skink.

Look, I think he likes me! (What do you say, Dear? Can I keep him??? He’s not a cat…you said “no more cats,” but you didn’t say anything about skinks!)

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Buddy #5, which will be out a year from now, is tentatively entitled The Case of the Library Monster. The library monster is…a blue-tongued skink! I had a few questions I needed answered, plus I just wanted to talk through my plot with someone who really knew and understood skinks to see if everything worked. The people at Witty Kitties were more than accommodating. I learned a lot…and I had a great time. All in the name of “research.”

And okay, I really wasn’t there to see the llama or the emus, either, but I can’t resist showing them to you:

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This was such an amazing place. Jenni, the vet there, has a heart of gold…and she clearly loves what she does as much as I do. (Everyone should love their job as much as she and I do!) Maybe Buddy #6 will have to involve special needs cats or other reptiles so I’ll have another excuse to go out there and hang out with her some more.

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