Cleo: How a Small Black Cat Helped Heal a Family
For all those people who say they aren't cat people, but deep down know they are.
Helen Brown wasn't a cat person, but her nine-year-old son Sam was. So when Sam heard someone mention that her cat had just had a litter, he pleaded to go and see them. Helen was powerless to resist and the deal was done - to be delivered when the kitten was big enough to leave her mother.
Just a week later, Sam was killed in a road accident. Not long after this, a little black kitten was delivered to the family's doorstep. Totally numbed by Sam's death, Helen had completely forgotten about the new arrival, which belonged in another universe when Sam was still alive.
Helen was ready to send her back, but Sam's younger brother, Rob, identified with the kitten who'd also lost her brothers. Stroking her, it was the first time Helen had seen him smile since Sam's death. There was no choice, the kitten - dubbed Cleo - had to stay
Cleo's immense character slowly taught the family to laugh again, giving them hope of getting back to normal. She went on to become the high priestess of Helen's household - vetoing her new men, terrifying visiting dogs and playing an integral role in their lives to become both a guardian and friend.
Helen Brown was born and brought up in New Zealand. After attending school in New Plymouth she studied journalism and became a cadet reporter with The Dominion. After meeting and marrying a Brit, Helen lived in England briefly before returning to New Zealand and having two sons, Sam and Rob. She became a popular columnist for The Dominion and her first book had recently been published when Sam was run over and killed. After the birth of her daughter, Lydia, Helen's marriage broke up and she moved to Auckland to work for the Auckland Star as a feature writer and columnist. Helen met and married Philip Gentry in 1991. Their family moved en masse to Melbourne in 1997, though Helen continues to write columns for the New Zealand media, where she's been voted Columnist of the Year several times.