Friday, September 20, 2013

Kittens on the Tracks

by Sheila Connolly

There is a rule in writing cozy or traditional mysteries:  don't kill animals. If you browse in a bricks-and-mortar bookstore, you will quickly see that most cozies have a kitten or a puppy on the cover, and sometimes more than one.

It's kind of ironic, since cozies are murder mysteries, which means that at least one human person dies in each book, and sometimes more people as the killer attempts to cover his or her trail. Even children are fair game, now and then. The protagonist is often a target of violence, although we know by definition that s/he will survive, since most cozies are issued as series (I can't offhand recall an example where the series was not renewed by the publisher and the author, in a fit of pique, massacred the protagonist).

But I'd always regarded this rule as sort of an urban legend particular to publishing and other media.  Not so, I discovered recently while reading the newspaper.  In New York City, that paradigm of the Big City, power was cut on two subway lines to Brooklyn because…there were two kittens on the tracks.  Yes, part of the New York transit system was brought to its knees by a pair of curious felines.

Yes, of course they're adorable
The Associated Press provided many useful details.  The kittens were black (one) or white with gray stripes (the other).  No age or gender given.  The  woman who owned them reported to transit officials that they had escaped to the subway, and it took seven hours to rescue them (during which they were reported to have been seen "running dangerously close to the high-voltage third rail."

They were lured to safety with cat food provided by the owner, then removed from the subway tunnel in crates.  The transit authority provided passenger shuttles for those inconvenienced. No estimate of the costs of providing the service was given.

As a good cozy writer, I should have remembered that I was a party to a similar event in the Bay Area in California, a couple of decades ago:  there was a dog in the tunnel between two stops on the Richmond line.  It took an hour or two to persuade the dog to make an exit—apparently he thought it was a big game.

But it's comforting to know that there is still a sense of kindness in the world. Transit officials knew there would be a financial cost to them (ultimately passed on to the subway riders, no doubt) to save those two kittens, but isn't that far better than having them say, "forget it, those little buggers aren't worth that much—run 'em over"? 

It would be nice if the AP had added a final note:  was there applause and cheering when it was announced that the trails were once again kitten-free?

Addendum:  in my books, the closest I've come to attacking an animal was a woman who was aiming a two-by-four at a goat, but she stopped before she could make that swing. And all pets in the books, including the goats, are rescue animals.

Coming very, very soon!

Populated by: one cat (Lolly), one dog (Max), and two goats (Dorcas and Isabel).  And a bunch of humans.  Yes, there is a bunny in the story--briefly.


Unknown said...

A pet peeve of mine is a story that includes animals were you never know what happens to them. An example is 'Mistress' by James Patterson and David Ellis. The main character, Ben, enters the apartment of recently deceased Diana Hotchkiss to feed her cat. I enjoyed the story, but always wondered what happened to the cat. If a writer wants to include pets, fine. Just take care of them, and please don't kill them.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Deb. I won't read a book where there is any hint of cruelty to animals... T. Straw in Manhattan