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Opening of Curiosity Rescued the Cat


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Chapter 1

  

Knowing that today would be one of Willow Glen Animal Shelter’s busiest of the year, Felicity Davis had skipped last night’s Fourth of July fireworks and gone to bed early. Even before her alarm buzzed, she jumped out of bed, causing her dog, Wilson, a Pyrenees mix, and her tabby cat, Jasmine, to rouse and leap from the bed.

 

Felicity wanted to get to the shelter well before it opened and people started calling in with lost pet reports, so she breezed through her morning routine. “Sorry our walk is going to be short,” she apologized to Wilson as they went only once around the block. “We’ll take a longer one tonight.” 

 

Normally, Felicity loved going to work as the shelter’s executive director. But she had come to dread July 5th and the following days when the shelter was inundated with calls from frantic owners, looking for their lost pets, and with pets, who had run away to escape the terrifying booms and bangs of fireworks. 

 

Felicity entered the shelter to the cacophony of dogs barking and staff members and volunteers cleaning kennels and cages. After greeting the early crew, she went upstairs to her office and shut the door, effectively turning down the bark volume.

 

This year, July 5th fell on a Wednesday, which also happened to be the day each week when the shelter’s Pet Profile column was due to the local newspaper. By ignoring all the files and notes on her desk, Felicity was able to focus on writing this week’s column. She wrote about microchip identification and why this permanent form of I.D. was the most reliable. As always, she finished her column with a few sentences about an animal available for adoption. This week, she featured Bingo, a three-year-old, male beagle, who’d been found in a park.

 

Felicity had just emailed her column to the newspaper when Gladys Phelps breezed into her office, bringing a cup of coffee and the morning paper. “Thanks, Gladys! Your timing is perfect.” Felicity was grateful every day for Gladys. “Mmm, Sumatra, my favorite,” she said, taking a sip.

 

“I thought you might like some extra caffeine. We’re going to need it today,” Gladys said knowingly. She was a retired elementary school teacher, who’d been the shelter’s office manager for four years. Being in her 70’s, thin, and gray-haired, Gladys appeared fragile; but there wasn’t an unruly dog or human she couldn’t handle gracefully. “Last night’s fireworks display was even bigger than last year’s. I just hope that won’t mean more lost pets.”

 

“You and me, both.” When Felicity had moved to Willow Glen six years ago to become the shelter’s director, she was only twenty-six years old and the youngest director the shelter had ever hired. Since then, she had improved the shelter’s services and expanded both its budget and staff. Instead of being in debt, the shelter now operated with an annual surplus. Felicity loved her job. Helping lost and unwanted pets find new homes was her true calling. “Hopefully, we’ll have more reclaims this year.”

 

“Maybe we’ll be lucky and people will have heeded our warnings about keeping pets indoors during fireworks,” Gladys said as she headed back to the lobby.

 

In a nearby neighborhood, Agatha Warren made a detour on her way to work to visit Clara Atkins, who operated a cat sanctuary out of her home. Agatha had caught a stray cat early that morning and hoped Clara could locate his owner. Clara had been the town’s head librarian for decades before retiring a few years ago to start a cat sanctuary. Everyone knew Clara. They also knew that although she loved cats, she merely tolerated people.

 

Clara answered the door with a cup of tea in one hand and a kitten in the other. She kept her long, gray hair in a messy chignon. She dressed in colorful, flowy clothes and wore an array of artsy glasses which accented her sharp, steely, blue eyes. Clara looked like a librarian, one Andy Warhol or Jerry Garcia would have hired. “Hello, Agatha, come in. What do you have for me?”

 

Holding up a cat carrier, Agatha said, “I found this boy hiding under my azaleas this morning. He came right to me when I offered him chicken - ate it right out of my hand. He even let me pick him up and put him in the carrier without any fuss. He’s gorgeous and friendly, definitely someone’s pet; but he doesn’t have a collar.”

 

“Follow me to the cat room,” Clara instructed. Upon entering the cat room, Clara put the kitten she’d been holding in a cage and Agatha set her carrier on a table.

 

“Well, I’ll be,” Clara said as she peered into the carrier. “He is gorgeous, and I think he might be a toyger.”

 

“A what?” Agatha asked.

 

“A toyger. It’s a rare breed of cat that I’ve only seen in magazines and books. The breed was developed to inspire a love of wild, endangered tigers.”

 

“Has this breed really helped wild tigers?” Agatha asked, skeptically.

 

“I highly doubt it,” Clara said, looking askance and handing Agatha an intake form and a pen. “I need you to fill this out for me and sign it.”

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