January 8, 2021

My Darling Pussycat: A Tribute to Jabari Andretti!

Big Cats are some of my favorite animals: leopards, lions, tigers, cheetahs, jaguars, panthers, and cougars. I love them all. They are such beautiful, graceful animals. I used to be an avid viewer of the Big Cat Diaries television series before it was canceled. It was a great way to begin my day as I sipped my coffee and dressed for work in the mornings.

I think my interest with big cats began when I was a young girl growing up on the island of Nevis in the West Indies and heard the story about Christian the Lion who was born in captivity at a zoo in Harrods London, England. In 1969, a young Australian, John Rendall, and his friend, Ace Bourke, bought Christian when he was a couple months old, and raised him in their London flat until he was around 10 months—when Christian got too big to handle. They eventually had to make the difficult decision to move Christian to Kenya, his ancestral home, where he could have a chance of living freely in the wild. Christian did survive and was able to become the King of his own pride. He’d found his place in the wild.

Christian’s story, and my watching the Big Cat Dairies series gave me the idea for Jabari, Massimo's pet leopard in The Playboy's Fugitive Bride. I was awed by the fact that a wild animal could grow to love a human being. It gave me hope that human beings would someday come to love and appreciate the differences in each other.

Massimo was ten years old when his grandfather gave him Jabari, a one-month-old, Kenyan orphaned leopard cub as a gift. Massimo, who had recently lost his mother, immediately bonded with the orphaned cub and they developed a deep and remarkable friendship that would last a lifetime. Many years later, as a young man, Massimo came to realize that Jabari was the most valuable gift anyone had ever given him when Jabari saved his life in the Kenyan jungle.

Massimo was so enamored with Jabari and other wildcats that he began calling Nia Pussycat, a nickname she detested at first, but eventually grew to love. I encourage you to read the third and fifth book in the Billionaire Brides of Granite Falls series: The Playboy's Fugitive Bride and With These Four Rings to learn more about Jabari, Massimo, and Nia’s journey of love, and to learn the final fate of Jabari Andretti, the beloved leopard whom many of my fans have grown to love.

Sadly, many of the big cats are in danger of being extinct for a plethora of reasons: loss of habitat, illegal hunting for their skin, and retaliatory killing when they prey on the livestock of neighboring villagers. If these amazing animals are to survive, we must find a way to respect and preserve their habitat, and find other means of protecting them before they are completely gone from the face of the earth.

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