For Kristen Calenda, Nubiana was more than a pet; she was a life-changing gift. To pay homage to the unconditional love she received from her cat, Calenda put pen to paper and crafted “Nubiana: A True Story About a Very Special Kitty,” a book now available in print.
Calenda had always wanted to write a book, and it was a class at All That Matters, a holistic and yoga center, that inspired Calenda to finally take the leap. While taking a 10-month course, Calenda received a unique assignment: Do something you’ve always wanted to do but have never had the courage or means to accomplish. For Calenda, that “something” was writing a story about Nubiana, and she knew this was her chance to do it.
“This is it,” said Calenda. “I really put no forethought in it. I truly took a pen and a paper – when I decided to do it, it was instantaneous – and I just started writing.”
Calenda started the book in September of 2011 and by December of that year, she had signed on with a self-publishing company that would provide her with the designs and illustrations to fill her book.
At the time, it had been three and a half years since Nubiana’s death, and Calenda saw it as a “now or never” moment to tell the tale of her beloved late cat.
Calenda said the story took her about two or three days to write. From there, she let friends read the rough draft and made edits and changes in the following weeks. In addition to the text, Calenda also incorporated numerous photographs into the book. The publishing company used a special computerized illustrator to turn the photographs into “paintings” that adorn the cover and pages of the book. The process took about four months.
Despite the abundance of colorful pictures, Calenda said the books is for all ages, and has lessons in pet ownership, compassion, healing and unconditional love.
“Nubiana was very special,” said Calenda. “She was a healing cat.”
Calenda said Nubiana, a black Persian cat, would let anyone hold and cuddle her. Because of the cat’s unique disposition, Calenda took her everywhere.
“People would always remark how unusual it was,” said Calenda. She remembered taking the cat on a whale watch, and said the people on the boat were more intrigued by Nubiana than the whales.
Calenda said Nubiana was comforting to all people, especially the very young, old and the disabled.
“She was a treasure,” said Calenda.
Calenda recalled a time when she and Nubiana were visiting Block Island. A disabled boy and his mother were also there enjoying the sights, when Calenda offered to let the boy hold Nubiana. With the cat in his lap, the boy’s face lit up.
“His mother started to cry,” recalled Calenda, who said the mom explained the boy didn’t often smile. Nubiana changed that instantly.
Calenda said Nubiana was so well behaved on her outings that people often thought she wasn’t real. It was a combination of Nubiana’s natural good behavior and Calenda’s inexperience in pet ownership that led Calenda to take the cat everywhere.
“I honestly didn’t know any better,” said Calenda. “She acted more like a dog.”
Nubiana came into Calenda’s life in 2006 when her husband brought the cat home from his friend’s house. The friend was moving, and unable to take the cat with her. Distressed, she asked Calenda’s husband to take the cat to the shelter; the only problem was that it was the weekend, and the local animal shelter was closed. So Calenda was stuck with the cat, at least for two days. She took her to the groomer and got the cat its necessary vaccines, and slowly, she warmed to the cat that had arrived in her driveway matted and dirty.
At the time, Calenda thought Nubiana was about 10 years old. Sadly, the friendly feline died only two and a half years later.
“Nubiana was a gem,” said Calenda.
Today, Calenda has another cat, Oscar, that is currently in pet therapy school. Calenda and her husband also rescued Oscar from a shelter, driving to Connecticut to pick up the black cat that is famous for his “big bear hugs.”
“I was never a cat lover,” admitted Calenda, who said Nubiana completely changed her love of cats and animals in general. “I mean, look where I am today.”
Calenda said that when Nubiana first came to her, she didn’t realize how special the cat was. In retrospect, she knows how unique her first pet was.
“She was so beautiful and had such alluring eyes that really made your heart melt,” she said.
Calenda found Nubiana with Oscar by her side just as she was taking her final breaths. To commemorate the cat, Calenda constructed a garden and a small memorial in her home in Nubiana’s memory. Calenda has even trademarked Nubiana’s name and hopes to develop a line of jewelry or toys based on the cat.
“I truly feel like she was sent to me,” said Calenda.
Calenda said now that the book is done, she looks back on it as an experience that helped give her closure on Nubiana’s death.
“Yes it was healing for me,” she said. “I still feel like she’s still with me everyday.”
“Nubiana: A True Story About a Very Special Kitty” is available for $13.99 on Amazon.com and at Rivers Edge Flowers and Gifts in Pawtuxet Village. Partial proceeds from book sales will be donated to local animal shelters and advocacy organizations. More information at www.kristencalenda.com