After we lost Chelsea in late 2008, I swore I wasn't going to get another pet for a while; that way, we could travel without encumbrance. But it wasn't long before I realized that my house had lost its soul. It was empty and cold and lifeless.

I started volunteering at a local no-kill shelter, socializing and playing with lots of kitties. Surely this would feed my habit, I rationalized.

Yeah, right. Like I could be around all those kittens and not take one home. I lasted six weeks before an eager little tortoiseshell girl with a tiger-sized purr ran into my lap and into my life. At first we called her Ginger, as a reflection of her peppery coat of long fur. But somehow it didn't suit her, and it was hard to pronounce, so we shortened it and she became Ginny forever.

I call her my little Cummins engine because of that roaring purr, which starts the minute you touch her. She's also our talker; she gets quite vocal when she wants something, and will stretch out a paw to snag your pants leg. Her meow is always up-inflected, like a request or a question: "Murrr-roww?". She has one black front paw and one tan, a cream-colored chin, and a wide-eyed startled gaze except when she's sleepy. She demands a good hard rubbing every day with her favorite blue comb. She's a bit OCD and scratches endlessly at any closed cabinet where she thinks there might be a mouse. She'll do the same thing to my bedroom door if I'm too slow getting up in the morning. When she gets frisky, she does the funniest gazelle leap into the air; or she does the sideways "Halloween cat". She likes to "pretzel" on her back, turning her front end one direction and her back end the other -- if only I were that flexible!