My Muse Is Gone


I fear this will be a short, sorrowful Wednesday post.

On Tuesday morning, my husband had to take our much-beloved cat, Miss Nina Garcia Benedict, to be euthanized. Her kidney disease had swiftly advanced from stage 2 to acute in two very short months. She was only 10 years old.

Nina owned us the way that a proper cat owns her people: with complete and utter domination. She was stunning to look at from her kitten days onward, and bore the fact with the humility of a Hollywood starlet.

Whenever I sat down to write, Nina would materialize five to ten minutes later. If she wasn’t standing solidly on my keyboard or peering over the back of the screen, causing it to tilt threateningly towards me, she was on my lap, needling my thighs until I squawked. (Who am I kidding? I could squawk for hours, and she still wouldn’t stop.) She helped me write six novels, many stories, and countless blogs. Perhaps I’d have written even more without her valuable assistance, but those would have been hollow words.

And when I cried–as writers sometimes do–Nina was right there to rub her furry head against me, concerned.

I’m out of town this week, and am already anticipating walking in our front door, and feeling her absence. I can’t even think about writing more stories without her.

See? I told you this would be a brief post. There’s not more that I can bear to say about her right now.

Do you have–or have you had–an animal in your life that helps you with your writing? I want to hear your stories.




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About Laura Benedict

Laura Benedict is the Edgar- and ITW Thriller Award- nominated author of eight novels of suspense, including The Stranger Inside (Publishers Weekly starred review). Her Bliss House gothic trilogy includes The Abandoned Heart, Charlotte’s Story (Booklist starred review), and Bliss House. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and in numerous anthologies like Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads, The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, and St. Louis Noir. A native of Cincinnati, she lives in Southern Illinois with her family. Visit her at

46 thoughts on “My Muse Is Gone

  1. My sincerest sympathies… Being a dog – and cat – lover, I know the difficulty of making that “last trip to vet” and of the empty, quiet foyer – our Golden would sleep there, and thump her tail against the hardwoods in anticipation whenever she heard anyone puttering about the house, and it’s amazing how suddenly a small space seemed over-sized… and number 3-son’s cat would settle in wherever (as cats are wont to do), and ignore the references to her girth and Garfieldness…

    Other than sometimes being the objects of, or characters in, my writing, I find their presence in and around the house, note-pad, and keyboard, or company in walks through the woods or the neighboring subdivision quieting, reassuring, and sometimes inspirational (yes, Muse-like).

    We’ve raised and kids and pets at our old farmhouse, and will never be empty-nesters, despite the boys moving on… not with three rescues currently under – or on top of – the dining room table.

    Safe travels, and again, my heartfelt condolences.

  2. So sorry Laura. She looked adorable. I can’t even talk about my beautiful absent pets, even after a few years. I keep quiet, plant special trees for them. A feathery-soft “woolly bush” for my white whippet, a statuesque pencil pine for my Siamese girl, a sharp leafed grevillea for a loyal, yet snappy, terrier. The trees help me feel an emotion of their presence, rather than their absence. ❤️

    • How wonderful, Jay. Your living shrines also make homes for so many more creatures. Nina’s ashes will be worked into the garden that she loved to dash into. I’m going to borrow your planting idea and find an elegant perennial to honor her.

  3. My condolences, Laura. Nina Garcia was a beauty inside, I’m sure, as she was out. I hope the memory of her love can help mitigate her absence.

    My wife and I had to have our beloved Oksana euthanized for kidney failure several months ago. She was the peacekeeper among our seven cats, a friend to all except those she never met. I’m honoring her with a role to play in a W.I.P.

    Take care.

  4. Losing a beloved pet sucks. I’m a dog person and none helped me write, but I miss them all the same. Sorry for your loss.

  5. My goodness, Nina was so beautiful! I know you’re hurting. We have a big, silly dog and four cats. The dog is my constant writing companion. Our gray cat who passed away last year would sit in my lap in the winter and help keep me warm when I wrote. The dog is too big to sit in my lap, but when I’m writing a scary scene, he keeps a lookout for serial killers, zombies, and ghosts so I can concentrate on my writing.

    May you muse rest in peace.

    • Big, silly dogs are among my favorite things. Our black Lab, Esau, died 14 months ago. My daughter and I were just laughing yesterday about how–even after 6 years of being broken of the counter-surfing habit we adopted him with–he wasn’t able to resist a cooling rack of cupcakes when he thought we weren’t looking. I miss his giant, goofy presence under my desk every day.

      Tell your pup to be extra vigilant tomorrow. Zombies and ghosts everywhere!

      Thank you.

  6. My youngest daughter, a tortoise-shell siamese, still sleeps on my left forearm every night. She’s 8 years old. I literally hope I go before she does.

    My sincere condolences.

  7. I’m so sorry, Laura.

    The only consolation is memories.

    Yesterday (and most days), my husband and I laughed about the antics, expressions, and quirks of our tiny starving rescue Tom kitten who grew up to be the toughest guy in the neighborhood and our starving five-pound rescue Weimaraner who grew up to be the cat’s bodyguard.

    When the cat’s health faded b/c of early malnutrition and he could no longer win his fights, he’d bring the opponents home for the dog to chase off. After the battle was won, the cat would sit on a high shelf, blithely washing himself as if nothing had happened while the dog jumped up and down, trying to catch a glimpse to make sure her battle-worn charge was all right. The Tom cat’s pride would never allow him to give the dog the time of day but he knew he could always count on her to protect him.

    That was 45 years ago and they still make us smile and bring joy to our hearts. And, once the tears dry, your beloved kitty will do the same for you.

  8. My heart goes out to you, Laura. It is a painful process to let go of a beloved companion, especially one as beautiful and sweet as your Nina. Losing our four footed companions is not losing a pet, but a member of the family.

    I’ve been in that place more times than I want to remember.

    None of my previous companions helped me write, until our newest Brittany, Cooper. All Brittanys love affection, but Cooper loves to snuggle. I work on a laptop and sit in my oversized rocker/recliner and Cooper insists on sitting with me. At 50 lbs he’s not exactly a lap dog, but he curls up next to me. He takes up 2/3 of the chair, leaving my legs almost dangling off the edge, and I have to balance my computer on the arm, scrunching my arms to reach the keyboard. Awkward, but I love having him snuggled close.

    He’s in several in all of my books under a different names. In my first book, his character enthralled one reader enough she looked up the breed and is considering adopting one. 🙂 He lightens otherwise dark stories.

    My thoughts and sympathies are with you, Laura.

  9. I am so, so sorry for your loss, Laura. Losing a valued family member is difficult, at best. I’m sure Nina will still be with you in spirit during writing time. {{{hugs}}}

    • Thank you, Sue. Husband captured a photo of our remaining dog and cat both looking off to the left when it was treat time. I’m sure it was Nina, ready for her share.

  10. I’m heartbroken for you, Laura. I know the pain you’re experiencing and the absence of your beloved Miss Nina is its own brand of torment. You made the only decision you could.

    Any time you lose a pet, it’s tough, but there are ones that are special, like your Nina. My girl Feliz Navidog was with us for 16 years. I knew she would break my heart when we would inevitably lose her. Gut wrenching day. I went into a daze where I couldn’t remember how I spent my days. Trips I would make to speak at writers’ groups were lost in a fog. After a year or two, I still was heartbroken but I turned a corner when I was asked by HarperCollins to guest blog for them & I wrote about my girl after having a bad grief day.

    I was greatly comforted by the 80+ comments that warmed my heart. I wanted to adopt another rescue dog, but I was afraid my heart wasn’t ready for another “love of my life” pet. People convinced me that I wouldn’t be replacing Feliz. That could never happen, but I would be opening my home to a dog who desperately needed one.

    I was finally able to move on & Taco came into my life. Then came Sancho & most recently, Dickens. They make me laugh every day and my dogs helped me through the darkest days of my life after I lost my husband. Their unconditional love is a joy & a blessing.

    Hugs from Texas.

    • Every time we’ve lost a pet, I think that I can never do it again. There is never a right time to let go. Our bonds are true family bonds, and sometimes deeper. To be loved unconditionally is a rare, rare gift. I believe it’s something only animals can do. Humans are…human.

      I’m so happy that your pups bring you joy and comfort. You deserve every bit, my dear.

      • That’s the mindset we’ve had for the last couple years. After losing four dogs in a row (2 on the same day!), we just can’t bear to go through the pain again. Lately, though, I’ve been thinking an angora rabbit (the huge ones) might be a nice way to ease into welcoming a new furbaby into our lives. Haven’t convinced the hubs… yet. 😉

  11. I’m so sorry. (((hugs))) Losing a pet is so hard.I lost my little girl dog a month ago. I live in a small apartment, but it feels so empty without her. Her urn and toys are now on the same shelf as Koko’s. Koko was the first dog that was my own, and I still miss him five years later. I haven’t yet found the next dog to fill the emptiness (my dogs were rescues, and rescues don’t consistently have the right dog), but I am looking. You can’t fill the hole in your heart with another pet, but another dog would make this apartment less empty.

    I hope you are able to fill the emptiness of your house soon. But you can fill the hole in your heart with memories of Nina. (((hugs)))

    • How sad about your girl and Koko, BJ. There is or soon will be another pup out there whose life you will transform.

      We are blessed to have an elderly, loyal rescue–a rat terrier/rottweiler (!) mix, and another cat, who also wandered up the driveway and into our hearts. The memories of Nina will never go away, I’m certain.

      Thank you.

  12. I’m so sorry about Nina.

    When I think of my lost furry loved ones, I see them with my mom and dad in a meadow by a beautiful lake. Most of the dogs and cats are scattered around my mom who is reading and my Golden Molly is supervising my dad’s fishing.

    I have had more than ample evidence that they often come here to check things out and see if I’m okay, and I never worry about spectral mice and the creepy what-ever-it-is in the basement because I’m sure Pan is on kitty patrol in death as in life.

    Once you get past the worst of the pain of losing physical Nina, I’m sure you will be able to feel her, too.

  13. My deepest condolences. She was beautiful I’m a cat lover. Currently have two. Both have inspired me to write and have actually been in a couple of my stories. Incognito, of course. I have a little Manx who loves to help when I’m writing. Once he walked across my keyboard, managed to type 78 in Google search and got results!

  14. So sorry for your loss, Laura. What a beautiful movie star cat Nina was! My special buddy was Tipper, a Siamese cat. I called him my “puppy-cat” because he followed me around like a puppy. I’ve had lots of cats, and you know how aloof they can be, but Tipper met me at the door, then followed me from room-to-room like a dog. When I sat, he did too, usually on my lap. He was such an alpha cat, dominating any dog who approached. He was my therapist as well. Many times when I was upset, he’d show up to settle me. Like the time I was having a frustrated call with my former cable provider whom I thought I had terminated before I moved to another state. Tipper jumped up on the dining room table and watched me, then suddenly attacked my arm which he’d never done before. But it distracted me enough to make me calm down and regain my composure with the idiot on the other end of the line. I called that anger-management. Tipper probably kept me from having a heart attack that day.

    • Tipper sounds truly special. How lucky you were to have such a beautiful bond.

      Nina really was a movie star of a cat! When she wandered up our driveway, we were huge fans of Project Runway. She was so elegant, even as a kitten, that I knew we had to name her after the fabulous Elle editor and Project Runway judge.

  15. So sorry to hear about Miss Nina. Losing our babies/muses is so hard. It sounds like she had 10 amazing years with you. They really are our therapists, best friends, companions, and comic relief.

    Before my fur-child Watson passed at the ripe age of 16, he could be found sleeping in one of two cardboard boxes I put on my desk (one for him, one for the second fur-child, Ripley). He was there every single night when I sat down to write, and never made a peep except when I got frustrated. He’d get out, headbutt me a few times, and then go back to his box. He very rarely ever made a sound too- a very quiet cat.

    He also loved snuggling under the covers and would scratch at the pillow for me to lift them up, usually around two or three in the morning. Covered in the rain or freezing cold, it was a nightly thing. I miss it.

    I miss all my fur-children: our German shepherds, Misty and Tosh, the multitude of cats I’ve had over the years since I was a child. They make such an impact on our lives, and I think they make us better people.

    If you’ll excuse me… I think it’s raining inside. I hate when that happens.

    • Thank you, Mollie. I love your idea that fur babies make us better people, and couldn’t agree more. So glad that you have such precious memories of your darlings.

  16. Laura, all I can do is send giant hugs your way. I’m so sorry. Many years ago, I lost a dog to kidney disease (age 11), and I feel your pain. Once a furry child enters your life, you’re never quite the same. Allow yourself time to wallow. Hang in there. I’ll bet there will be a book dedicated to Nina in your future.

  17. Laura,
    I’m so genuinely sorry. There is no feeling like a home with a big piece of what made it a home missing.

    Some years ago I lost my precious, sweet lab, a double blow because she was the darling of my late husband, so it was almost like losing him all over again. I did dedicate a book to her, in fact the first of my series which features the continuing character of a dog named Cutter. But after she died and I was so full of the awful emotions you’re feeling now, I thought of all the people who had no such outlet for their grief. So I decided to give them one, and ever since then every Cutter’s Code book (number 11 will be out in May) has featured a dedication from a reader (and sometimes, sadly, family or friends) to a beloved dog they’ve lost. Is it some extra work for me, helping them write it until they’re happy with it? Sure. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

    And it took me three years to work up to it, but eventually I adopted a sweet girl from a service member who had to rehome her, and she’s been the best thing that could have happened to me.

  18. Laura, I’m so sorry. It is nature’s cruelest act that our best friends have lifespans which do not match our own. My sympathies.

  19. Just reading this a day late. So sorry to hear of your loss. Losing a fur baby is so painful. I’ve lost many over the years.

    I once had this beautiful purebred calico Maine Coon named Bug (Ladybug). She got along with all the other cats in the house, plus she knew how to get each person to pet her. She was great. Everybody loved her. When I was on vacation in Mexico I called my mother and she told me that my beautiful Bug had died suddenly. I was devastated. A necropsy was performed and it turned out her kidneys were shriveled to nothing. This was apparently some sort of birth defect. Her kidneys were probably never fully functional, although there were no signs or symptoms that we were aware of, and they ultimately failed and she died. She was probably 4-5, I don’t recall exactly. It was heartbreaking for everybody in my family, and my breeder. She was so loved.

    Her half brother Romeo was my number one cat of all time. He and I were completely on the same wavelength. It’s very hard to explain. He was always with me. When I was working in my home office on the phone he would often chat. Many of my customers knew his voice. Again, a much loved cat. When I had to put him to sleep at 14, unexpectedly young, but there were problems, the loss was emotionally devastating. Really painful. Just writing about it now my eyes are welling up. When customers found out he was no more they were shocked and devastated, too. Everybody was so used to his chatter.

    I feel for your loss. I hope you feel better soon.

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