Archive for October, 2010

This is one story I’ve only told one or two of my closest friends. When I think of it, I want to cover my face and hide.

The autumn leaves remind me…

It was the fall of 2006, a few months after the adoption. I was in the throes of PTSD treatment, and I projected my own worries onto Hannah. I became concerned that Hannah, cooped up in my (then) tiny studio apartment (which was even smaller than the garret), was not getting enough exercise. I had heard that cats could be walked, just like dogs, and I knew of a small park just a few blocks from my building.

I bought a leash, fastened it around Hannah’s neck, looped the end around my hand, and brought her out into the world.

Hannah, in the studio apartment (2006)

She sounded like a fire alarm, wailing, as she gaped at the ground and the sky, her head lurching in all directions. When I placed her down on the city pavement, she climbed up my legs and threw her front paws around my neck. I placed her down on the pavement once more, but, like a reflex, she was back in my arms again, clinging to me.

A middle-aged woman in a flower-printed dress stopped to stare. “She thinks you’re going to leave her,” she called to me with a half-smile, her voice carried by a gale.

Leave her. The words flew to my chest and stuck there. Hannah buried her face in my neck like a little girl.

“It’s okay,” I said to her, feeling her belly heave against my body. “I’m taking you home.” But Hannah was not consoled by my words. She continued to cry, the wind muting her tones, as I carried her in my arms, feeling worse and worse about what I had done as I rushed back to the apartment.

Hannah and Sam (2010)

Inside, Hannah frantically scampered under the bed and hid there for hours. What were you thinking? I sat on my bed, stunned by my stupidity, feeling great remorse. You could have lost her forever.

Four years later, I am glad that my mistakes with Hannah did not cause any irreparable damage. Some days I still feel badly, but I can also look back on that unknowing self and have compassion for her. I think, perhaps, so can Hannah. As for Sam Sam is just lucky I know so much more now than I did back then.


What do you think? Have you ever made a mistake with your pets? Share your story and comments below.


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Hannah, after hearing the good news


I have been lax in writing another Hannah Grace story to share with you. That is not to say there is nothing to tell you. And I promise to deliver, very soon.

For now, here’s a teaser: a photo of Hannah and Sam, along with the exciting news that agent Kent Wolf, from Global Literary Management, who represents such books as the Pulitzer-prize winning Tinkers, Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, and Oogy, among others, has offered to represent Hannah Grace. I’m very excited to work with Kent to see this memoir to commercial publication. I think Hannah knew the news the day I received it: when I returned home from a very long workday, she sat by my feet as I ate dinner, which she never does, and gazed up at me with what appeared to be a contented smile.


Hannah and Sam


At yesterday’s  2nd Annual Boston Book Festival, I attended panels on “Memoir: Writing a Life,” and “The Legacy of Trauma,” where published writers spoke about the challenges and triumphs of writing about the very difficult experiences humans (and other beings) encounter and transcend. It just goes to show that, the truth is, it’s not about trauma it’s about finding the right words to illuminate life experience. It’s about surviving and thriving. It’s about where we go from here.


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As I’ve healed from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and re-connected with the world, Hannah has been my “home base.” Whenever I come home from a trip or job interview or date or day out with a friend, whether I am filled with joy or disappointment or anxiety or sorrow, Hannah is there, greeting me with a nose kiss, a meow, and an affectionate turn of her head on the back of my hand. Now, when I come home, there’s Sam, too.

It’s been two weeks since Sam came out of his bathroom quarantine to freely mingle with Hannah, and, so far, there’s nothing broken, injured, or dead, other than a few felt-covered mouse toys. When I think back to their initial meeting, I remember Hannah’s hissing and growling along with Sam’s shrieking, and the paralyzing PTSD-driven terror that gripped me. Now, Hannah and Sam get along relatively well: they sit peacefully in the same room (I am waiting for them to cuddle), eat from the same bowl, frequently play, and steal each other’s beds.

They are not without conflict. Just yesterday, while I was talking on the phone with my mother, I watched as Hannah chased Sam around the living room, put her front paws on either side of his body, then lowered her opened mouth for a bite of his hind. I interceded with a sharp “hey!” and one clap of my hands, at which point Hannah ceased and desisted. She and Sam immediately went in separate directions. Five minutes later, they were both asleep.

I’ve sensed Hannah is happier with Sam around. She purrs more, even though at times Sam can be a thorn in her side. Once a victim of abuse, Hannah has learned how to overcome her anxiety and be assertive. She enforces her boundaries. Sometimes she stares Sam down until he backs away. Other times she simply walks away. Once in a while, she wallops him. (Of course, I sit close by with a water gun, just in case.) Meanwhile, Sam teaches Hannah about fearlessness as he walks right up to her, nose-to-(almost)nose, and uses his paw to tap her on the head for a game of tag.

Just shy of his 3-month birthday, Sam has doubled in size, though he still manages to hide from company by shimmying his way into the two-inch space between my bedroom bureau drawer and the floor, refusing to come out until I am the only human being left in the garret. Hannah, on the other hand, slumbers on my guests’ handbags and does not want them to leave.

The way Sam and Hannah take in life takes my mind off life’s stresses: I watch as Sam learns from Hannah by doing everything she does. He’s a real copy cat. When Hannah sleeps, he sleeps. When Hannah grooms, Sam grooms. When Hannah leaves the room, Sam follows.

Sam studies Hannah's eating technique

When Hannah goes to the litter box, Sam does too. And when Hannah eats her wet duck-and-green-peas prescription food, Sam sits one paw’s length away (for otherwise Hannah swats at him) and studies her technique, then tries it himself when Hannah is done. He has even started to circle me on the living room floor and, when I bend to pet him, wrap his tail around my back, just like Hannah.

When the neighbor’s outdoor cat got mauled by a dog last weekend, Hannah and Sam hid under my bed for hours in what seemed to be a post-traumatic “freeze” reaction to the sounds of an injured cat howling and a dog wimpering. Not even food could make Sam emerge. Only when Hannah took her first step out from that cocoon of darkness was it safe for Sam to follow.


{Writer’s Note: My poetry collection Between You and Me, about healing from trauma, has been accepted for publication by Pudding House Press. More information to follow.} As always, I love to hear your thoughts on the subjects raised on the Hannah Grace book blog. Please feel free to leave your comments below.

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