Broadly, this is a story about two things that Whatcom County residents love — their pets and the outdoors.
Specifically, it's about Jingles — the kitten of the sea.
It's an apt description for the 3-year-old cat who likes to go out on the paddleboard with her owner, Sara Holliday, in the water off their beachfront home in Sandy Point.
"It's really ridiculous. She is so funny," Holliday said of her beloved feline, whose full name is Jingle Bell (more on that later).
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The community got a peek at Jingles, and her water-loving ways, when Holliday posted photos Wednesday on The Seeing Bellingham Group on Facebook.
"If we try to go without her she just runs alongside the beach and cries. So now I guess this is her gig. She's getting pretty good. Just thought y’all would enjoy," Holliday wrote in her post.
People did, based on the hundreds of reactions to the post. Holliday said about 55 people messaged her as well. So, she created an Instagram account for Jingles. You'll find her at kitten.of.the.sea, of course.
Birth of a water cat
Jingles' full name is Jingle Bell.
She was so small — she fit into Holliday's palm — when they got her as a kitten, that they couldn't find her in their house. So, they put a bell on her. It was Christmas time.
Jingles has been going out on the water with Holliday since last summer, soon after the family moved from Lynden to Sandy Point.
"She really had no exposure to beach life before any of this," said Holliday, who is general manager at the Home2Suites by Hilton on Northwest Avenue.
You might recognize Holliday, her partner Les Meeks and daughter Lauren Swindlehurst from an episode of HGTV's "Beach Hunters," which The Bellingham Herald featured in November.
When they moved to Sandy Point, they noticed that Jingles wasn't afraid of the water.
Holliday believes that's because Jingles is a snowshoe, a breed known to enjoy the water.
They also noticed that Jingles would follow them down the beach.
"She is very attached to people, so wherever her people are, she wants to be there all the time," Holliday said.
So when they went out on the water, Holliday would nudge her paddleboard toward shore to see what Jingles would do.
"She jumped on the board right away," Holliday said.
To get Jingles used to being on board, Holliday said, she would go out a few inches and then come back to shore. That probably happened 10 or 11 times, with them heading out a bit farther each time.
Now, Jingles will ride 50 to 100 feet offshore. "As long as the water is calm, she wants to be on board," Holliday said.
If the cat starts pacing on the paddleboard, that's when it's time to head back to shore.
Once, Holliday said, she wasn't quick enough for Jingles, who jumped into the water and swam 5 to 10 feet to shore.
If they go out farther, provided it doesn't stress Jingles, Holliday said she'll be putting a life vest on her cat.
As for people's enthusiastic response to her kitten of the sea: "I think it speaks to the Pacific Northwest and how much people love their animals and love their outdoor activities."