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Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Dumped in the Normans Kill, Chance Did Not Have a Prayer in Hell Until a Jogger Who Had Turned Off the Music Heard His Desperate Cries for Help

Chance Is Soaked to the Bone Following His Last-Minute Rescue

"I usually run with earbuds in, but didn't that day because of the rain. It's a good thing I didn't, otherwise I couldn't have been the tool God used to save the cat."
-- Matt Guidarelli

Chance was not given any chance at all. His death not only was a foregone conclusion but imminent as well.

On June 3rd, the eight-year-old brown and gray diabetic tom found himself hopelessly trapped with a thirty-pound rock inside a pet carrier that was rapidly sinking below the surface of the Normans Kill in the Slingerlands section of Bethlehem, just west of Albany. Compounding his already extremely dire situation, the rain was coming down in buckets and as a consequence the water inside his makeshift tomb already was almost up to his eyeballs.

At that point it sure looked like it was curtains for the sixteen-pound, six-ounce cat but he was not about to throw in the towel. Instead, he kept crying out for help all the while hoping against hope that someone out there would be able to hear him over the din of the falling precipitation.

Although some people consider them to be a little touched in the head, it is difficult to keep die-hard joggers cooped up indoors for very long. They run in the blazing sun, the freezing cold, and even in cloudbursts.

It thus so happened that twenty-five-year-old Matt Guidarelli was striding across a footbridge at around 5 p.m. on that fateful day when he accidentally overheard what he at first mistook to be an infant crying. Stopping to investigate, he spied the partially-submerged pet carrier ten feet below in the Normans Kill. ("Norwegian Creek" is the usual translation of the Dutch.)

Chance's yellow eyes and head were about all that were visible, however, as the remainder of his body already had been enveloped in water. Time also was running out fast in that he had only about three inches of breathing space remaining before he surely would have drowned.

Without wasting any time, Guidarelli climbed down into the creek and retrieved the pet carrier. Back on terra firma, he unlatched the cage and Chance stepped out apparently unharmed. He doubtlessly, however, had been given the scare of a lifetime.

Although the torrential rain had all but sealed his fate, it simultaneously had prompted Guidarelli to forgo his customary habit of listening to music while he jogged and that enabled him to hear Chance's plaintive cries for deliverance. Otherwise, the cat would have died a lonely and horrifying death in that the pet carrier likely soon would have been swept downstream and absolutely no one, save his attempted executioner, ever would have even known either that he had lived or how that he had died. It would have been the perfect crime.

"I usually run with earbuds in, but didn't that day because of the rain," Guidarelli told the Albany Times-Union on June 18th. (See "Jogger Rescues Drowning Cat in Carrier.") "It was a good thing I didn't otherwise I couldn't have been the tool God used to save the cat."

Wonderful and unexpected things occur whenever mass culture and all its trappings are shown a deaf ear. Once upon a time the human mind served as something other than a landfill between the ears for the lies, prejudices, and piles of filth that are disseminated so profusely by Hollywood, the television networks, Madison Avenue, the recording industry, theologians, and academicians but those halcyon days are now largely a thing of the past.

Much more to the point, the media moguls and propagandists have yet to come up with anything that is in any way half as beautiful, diverse, and as noble as the animals and Mother Earth. Man's preference for artifice at the expense of the genuine articles demonstrates not only his abhorrently bad taste but his total lack of discernment as well.

It nevertheless is refreshing that in this instance a self-professed godly individual actually went out of his way in order to save the life of a cat. That is especially the case in that Christians, if that is indeed what Guidarelli professes to be, are far better known for killing, abusing, and defaming cats than they are for doing them any favors.

Sticker Inside Chance's Would-Be Tomb

For example, Pastor Rick Bartlett of Bastrop Christian Church not only illegally trapped and stole a twelve-year-old brown and white domesticated cat named Moody in January of 2012 but he later hurled him to his death from high atop the Loop 150 Bridge in Bastrop. (See Cat Defender post of January 10, 2014 entitled "Texas Judge Idiotically Allows Pastor Rick Bartlett to Get Away with Stealing and Killing Moody but a Civil Court May Yet Hold Him Accountable.")

Every bit as reprehensible, many Christian churches, both Protestant and Catholic alike, kill and mistreat homeless felines with impunity. (See Cat Defender posts of February 12, 2007, July 30, 2009, and May 1, 2010 entitled, respectively, "God-Fearing Baptists at Eastern University Kill Off Their Feral Cats on the Sly while Students Are Away on Christmas Break," "Ferals Living at a Baltimore Church Find Out the Hard Way That Hatred of Cats Is Every Bit as Christian as Unleavened Bread and Cheap Wine," and "When It Comes to Cats, Acts of Faith Count for Absolutely Nothing with the Good Christians at Northside Baptist.")

True to his creed, Guidarelli likewise is anything but a cat fancier. "I'm not a cat person at all, and am actually allergic to them," he confessed to the Albany Times-Union. "What I did is what anyone should do if they have the physical ability to do it."

That type of crabbed thinking and behavior is so typical of Christians in that the vast majority of them care absolutely nothing about their fellow human beings, the animals, and Mother Earth. Rather, on those rare occasions when they are moved to extend a kindness of one sort or another to any of them they are motivated solely by the hope of being handsomely rewarded for doing so with eternal life in the sweet-by-and-by.

Regardless of his motivation, Chance would not be alive today if Guidarelli had not interceded on his behalf and for that act of compassion he is to be commended. It nonetheless is lamentable that he and his fellow Christians are so selfish and pigheaded as to be totally incapable of looking upon the animals and Mother Earth as anything other than objects of exploitation.

The only clue as to Chance's identity was a pink sticker attached to the inside of his cage. In particular, it included a weight measurement and a space for a cat's name. It has not been disclosed, however, if the weight recorded on the sticker corresponds with Chance's poundage.

Furthermore, officials are not even certain if the sticker was placed there by a veterinary clinic, shelter, kennel, or airline. Confounding the investigation ever further, apparently no decipherable fingerprints were recovered from the cage.

Not surprisingly, both the Albany Police and local Animal Control officials immediately seized upon the lack of readily available incriminating evidence as a convenient excuse in order to wash their hands of the entire matter. Instead, they have issued their customary plea for the public to intervene and do their jobs for them.

That in a nutshell demonstrates writ large everything that is so terribly wrong with the enforcement of the anti-cruelty statutes. Specifically, private individuals and professional cat killers, such as ornithologists, wildlife biologists, and PETA, are going to continue to commit their atrocities so long as they are able to rely upon the authorities not to either investigate or to hold them accountable under the law.

In this case, it is inexcusable that the Albany Police, Animal Control, and other humane groups did not have enough initiative in order to circulate photographs of Chance to all local veterinarians, shelters, and kennels because one of them surely would have remembered treating an obese and diabetic cat. A corresponding effort likewise should have been undertaken in order to locate the pharmacy that supplied Chance's owner with insulin.

Thirdly, police and Animal Control could have blanketed the hamlet of Slingerlands with Lost Cat posters. Fourthly, they could have conducted door-to-door interviews in the area where Chance was found.

While it is conceivable that the attempt on Chance's life was made by someone from out of town, facts and circumstances tend to indicate that the assailant was a local resident. It thus would appear that this was a preeminently solvable case of animal cruelty but due to the intransigence of the authorities the culprit not only has escaped justice but remains free to strike again as so many others like him have done so in the past.

Chance Is All Dried Out and Ready for a New Start in Life

For example, on May 5, 2008 a motorist in the Ithaca suburb of Newfield, two-hundred-eighty kilometers to the west of Slingerlands, accidentally spotted something moving inside a sack that had lodged in a branch of a dead tree above the West Branch of Cayuga Inlet Creek. Upon investigation, the driver discovered a gray mother cat trapped inside the sack.

As was the case with Chance, the sack had been weighted down with a brick and the American Shorthair surely would have drowned long ago if if had not been for the tree. She was lucky a second time in that she was not injured although neither her newly-born kittens nor her assailant ever were located.

"I don't know what drives people to kill an animal when there is a place for them in their community," Abigail Smith of the Tompkins County SPCA in Ithaca, which assumed custody of the nameless cat, remarked afterwards. (See Cat Defender post of May 20, 2008 entitled "Malice Aforethought: Upstate New York Cat Is Saved from a Watery Grave by a Dead Tree and a Passerby; New Hampshire Cat Is Not So Fortunate.")

A huge part of the problem is attributable to the fact that just about all conventional shelters kill upon arrival every cat that passes through their portals. That logic is inapplicable however in respect to both Chance and the Newfield female because their owners not only wanted to kill them but to inflict as much pain and suffering as possible in the process.

Despite the morally repugnant nature of such reprehensible acts of ailurophobia, Guidarelli's sympathies clearly lie with Chance's would-be executioner. "I can't be angry with the person who did this because I don't know the circumstances they (sic) were in, but there are so many other alternatives to get rid of an unwanted pet," he plainly told the Albany Times-Union.

The implied assumption in Guidarelli's declaration is that it is perfectly acceptable under certain circumstances to hideously murder an innocent cat. He also apparently views unwanted cats as something to be gotten rid of much like either la grippe or an especially virulent strain of venereal disease. Carried to its logical conclusion, such a warped morality could be employed in order to sanction the commission of almost any crime.

Followers of Christ can always be counted upon to sooner or later expose the baseness that lies hidden in the pits of their rotten souls. In the end, they seldom fail to put the screws to the animals, Mother Earth, and everyone else who is unwilling to go along with their blatant hypocrisies and evil deeds.

"I realized that Eastern thought had somewhat more compassion for all living things. Man was a form of life and that in another reincarnation might possibly be a horsefly or a bird of paradise or a deer," is how former United States Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas once summed up the difference between Western and Eastern religions. "So a man of such a faith, looking at animals, might be looking at old friends or ancestors. In the East the wilderness has no evil connotation; it is thought of as an expression of the unity and harmony of the universe."

Just like in a storybook, everything eventually worked out extremely well for Chance in that a fortnight or so after his terrible ordeal in the Normans Kill he was adopted by Megan McGinnis and Dena Sanders of Schenectady. "It was love at first sight," McGinnis declared to the Albany Times-Union. "There was just something about him, and we had to adopt him."

For better or worse, Chance's past experiences apparently have done absolutely nothing in order to diminish his trust in those devils who strut around on two legs with their noses poked high in the air and running off at the mouth. "It's amazing," Sanders told to the Albany Times-Union. "He's very cuddly and loves to chase a laser pointer."

She additionally is the one that he has to thank for his new moniker. "He's getting a second chance at life," she added.

Mother Cat Dumped in Cayuga Inlet Creek

McGinnis and Sanders are to be commended for opening up their hearts and home to him not only because of all that he has been put through but also due to the fact that attending to a diabetic cat is both time-consuming and expensive. In Chance's case, he suffers from type one diabetes mellitus and thus requires twice daily insulin injections and biweekly veterinary visits.

According to the report in the Albany Times-Union, Chance's insulin costs McGinnis and Sanders $250 a vial but it is difficult to decipher that statement because insulin is usually sold in bottles. For example, a ten milliliter bottle of the brand Humulin retails for $100 at ShopRite; Rite-Aid charges $139 for the same thing.

By way of contrast Glargine, which is sold under the brand name of Lantas, ranges in cost from $357 at Walmart to $442 at Kmart. It does have the advantage of reportedly being better suited for cats in that it not only is long-acting but is released into the bloodstream in small and equal amounts.

On top of the cost of the insulin itself, one-hundred syringes with needles are advertised on the web at around $25. Plus, diabetic cats require regular visits to the vet, blood-sugar testing at home, a specialized diet, and a healthy, stress-free lifestyle. (See "Regulating and Monitoring a Diabetic Cat Using Insulin" at www.peteducation.com and "Feline Diabetes. What Is Diabetes Mellitus?" on the web site of Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine.")

"He's an expensive kitty," McGinnis admitted to the Albany Times-Union. "But he's worth it."

That unquestionably is true and no one knows any better than McGinnis and Sanders just how fortunate they are to have him share their lives. Press reports have not broached the subject of Chance's prognosis, but generally speaking diabetic cats are capable of living long and full lives provided that their blood-sugar levels can be stabilized and they are blessed with diligent guardians.

One of his guardians' top priorities should be to get him on a diet. Simply shedding some of his excess weight might possibly either reduce or, perhaps, totally eliminate over time his dependency upon insulin injections.

Being in a home where he is both loved and wanted also should produce a marked improvement in his overall health. That is especially the case in that it is difficult to imagine that he previously enjoyed anything even remotely resembling a happy and tranquil life considering the diabolical extreme that his former owner went to in order to get shed of him.

Furthermore, since numerous cats have intervened in order to save the lives of their caretakers whenever they have suffered diabetic seizures, it is only fitting that Chance's new guardians are returning that life-saving kindness to him. (See Cat Defender posts of May 18, 2009 and April 21, 2012 entitled, respectively, "Elijah Teaches Himself How to Detect Low Blood Sugar Levels in His Guardians and Others" and "Adopted from a Shelter Only Hours Previously, Pudding Saves His Rescuer's Life by Awakening Her from a Diabetic Seizure.")

There also is much to be learned from Chance's trials and tribulations. First and foremost, is never to give up no matter how difficult and hopeless the circumstances. Dum vita est spes est.

Secondly, there are a few, but not very many, decent individuals left in this world. The trick is finding them and even that rests with The Fates.

It additionally could be argued that the best therapy for anyone feeling down in the dumps would be to simply think of Chance trapped in the Normans Kill. He got out of that jam and few individuals, if any, ever will be called upon to experience anything even remotely as harrowing and hopeless as that in their lifetimes.

He accordingly is an inspiration to one and all and his stunning, turnaround victory over outrageous misfortune is a celebration of life over death and of hope over despair. Hopefully, he will have a long life that is characterized by both good health and happiness.

Photos: the Albany Times-Union (Chance and pet carrier) and the Tompkins County SPCA (Newfield mother cat).

Friday, June 20, 2014

St. Andrews Honors Hamish McHamish with a Bronze Statue but Does Not Have the Decency, Love, and Compassion in Order to Provide Him with a Warm, Secure, and Permanent Home

Hamish McHamish

"Our statue is a way of saying thank you to Hamish for being so perfectly adorable and to celebrate him and the joy he brings us."
-- Flora Selwyn

There is perhaps nothing quite as confounding as the study of values. Whereas it is precisely life, beauty, and nobility of soul that should be cherished, society turns the natural order of things on its head and instead wallows in their polar opposites.

Even more disturbing, the thorough corruptness of organized living makes it all but impossible for most individuals to even recognize, let alone honor, those values and creatures that are truly worthy of being treasured. "...the world goes its way past all who will not partake of its folly," is how Ted Dreiser summed up the dilemma in his 1900 novel, Sister Carrie.

One of mankind's most outrageous offenses has been his systematic abuse of cats. Even when he has not been busily abusing and exterminating them in droves, his treatment of them has been characterized largely by indifference and gross neglect.

That even has been the cruel lot imposed upon those members of the species who have been blessed with loving guardians. For the most part, they too have lived out their brief sojourns upon this earth in obscurity only to have been consigned upon their deaths to unmarked graves in either landfills or backyards.

Such is the sad and cruel fate of these exquisite beings who ask so very little of mankind but yet receive even less in return. Recently, the citizens of St. Andrews took what appeared au premier coup'doeil to have been a small step toward breaking with that centuries' old tradition of neglect, belittlement, denigration, and abuse by immortalizing their fifteen-year-old resident feline, Hamish McHamish, in bronze.

Largely due to the efforts of Flora Selwyn, editor of St. Andrews in Focus, £5,000 were raised through private contributions. The project soon won the endorsement of the Fife Council and sculptor David Annand of Kilmany was commissioned to take Hamish's measurements as to prelude to fashioning a likeness of him out of bronze.

The Statue in Church Square

Local stonemason Colin Sweeney was prevailed upon to assist with the project and the finished product was unveiled atop a stone plinth in Church Square on April 5th. Given cats' legendary disdain for both crowds and ostentatious displays of affection, the handsome longhaired orange and white cat had to be shanghaied into putting in even so much as a cameo appearance.

It therefore was anything but surprising that after having been driven to the ceremony in a BMW and then introduced to Provost of Fife and Dunfermline Jim Leishman, who was serving as master of ceremonies, that Hamish beat a hasty retreat to the safety and serenity of a nearby beauty parlor, most likely Dynamic Hair at 98-100 South Street. "I knew as soon as I started speaking he would go away," the ex-footballer quipped good-naturedly according to The Courier of Dundee's April 7th edition. (See "St. Andrews Pays Tribute to Famous Feline Hamish McHamish.")

The honoree's shyness did absolutely nothing however in order to dampen the mood of those in attendance and the celebration proceeded as planned in his absence. In particular, students Hannah Holmes and Rosie Hanlon of the St. Andrews Opera treated the crowd to a performance of Duetto buffo di due gatti which is usually, although perhaps erroneously, attributed to Gioacchino Rossini. The students were followed by, appropriately enough, the Alleycats, a six-piece band that specializes in 1950's rock and roll.

Retired BBC producer Marianne Baird, who irresponsibly had turned loose Hamish to roam the forbidding streets of St. Andrews at the tender age of one-year, had the unmitigated gall not only to show her ugly mug in public but to bask in the glory that rightfully belonged exclusively to Hamish. "I can't really get over it," she gushed to The Courier. "All I did was get a kitten."

Baird's simply outrageous dereliction of duty as Hamish's guardian has been compensated somewhat by Selwyn's advocacy on his behalf. Not only was she the prime mover behind the statue but she also has championed his cause for years in her magazine.

"What a special lady this is!" Leishman said of her according to the account in The Courier. "Without all her determination and hard work, this would not have happened today."

Hamish Arrives at the Unveiling of His Statue

For her part, Selwyn's original intention appears to have been limited to paying homage to a remarkable cat. "Our statue is a way of saying thank you to Hamish for being so perfectly adorable and to celebrate him and the joy he brings us," she told The Scotsman of Edinburgh earlier on November 8th. (See "Statue to Be Made of St. Andrews Cat Hamish.") "It has been a very popular idea. Hamish is a wonderful animal."

Over the course of the intervening months, however, she appears to have fallen victim to the familiar siren call of the almighty shekel. "I hope it will be a big attraction. It'll be a nice change from golf and universities," she declared in an undated video posted on her magazine's web site. (See "Hamish McHamish Unveiling. The Cool Cat Around Town.") "It'll be an added bit to the town I hope."

The erection and unveiling of the monument also sets up a rivalry with Edinburgh which in 1873 immortalized Grayfriars Bobby, a Skye Terrier, who allegedly spent fourteen years watching over the grave of his owner. Unfortunately for him, the citizens of Edinburgh did not get around to publicly recognizing his fidelity until a year after his death.

"It is lovely that we will have a rival to Greyfriars Bobby," Selwyn told The Scotsman in the article cited supra. "It will be one-up for St. Andrews."

Long before anyone ever thought of sculpturing a statue of him, Hamish already was famous thanks in no small part to Susan McMullan's 2012 book, Hamish McHamish of St. Andrews. Cool Cat About Town. Now, he also has in excess of six-thousand followers on Facebook plus a Twitter account.

Wikipedia has a page devoted to him and he has been featured on the BBC. Furthermore, once news of Selwyn's plans to honor him were picked up by the Internet and world press he was transformed almost overnight into an international celebrity.

Provost Jim Leishman at the Unveiling

Like several other felines who have gone on to achieve world renown, a fair amount of legend and superstition also have grown up around Hamish. For example, both locals and visitors often rubs his bronze paws for good luck.

Some residents of St. Andrews even consider it to be a portent of evil tidings to so much as give him the cold shoulder. "The legend is if you don't let him into your home and feed him you will have bad luck," Selwyn testified to The Scotsman.

In spite of all the declarations of love and the memorial itself, there can be no denying that living on the street for the past fourteen years has taken a heavy toll on Hamish. Most noticeably, all the pain, suffering, and deprivations that he has been forced to endure are written in his sad, watery green eyes.

He clearly is a cat who has seen much and suffered mightily from the slings and arrows of adversity. His unkempt mane is another glaring example that he suffers from severe neglect.

All cats, but especially longhairs, need to be brushed on a daily basis. Doing so not only stimulates the growth of their coats but removes loose hairs and other particles that otherwise would be ingested during their incessant grooming.

Parasites also need to be promptly removed from his coat and minor scrapes and bruises treated. A fulltime and attentive guardian additionally would be able to detect and respond to far more serious maladies that a casual observer from the community simply would either overlook or ignore.

According to press reports, the only known contribution that Baird makes to his welfare is an annual veterinary checkup. Beyond that, she apparently could care less whether he lives or dies.

David Annand , Colin Sweeney, and Flora Selwyn

"When he started to wander around, he used to go to Grayfriars Garden at night because it was a good hunting ground. I would call him and carry him home," is how she rationalized her decision to abandon him to The Courier. "If he didn't want to come home, he would jump over the wall. But more and more, he would just jump over the wall."

From all of that she has arrived at the self-serving absurdity that "he's an amoral cat." It quite obviously would be asking far too much of someone like her but before she takes that long ride on the dragon she ought to for once have a good hard look at herself in the mirror and in doing so she might actually get a clue as to the difference between moral responsibility and its opposite.

More to the point, her analysis of Hamish's behavior does not make much sense. Generally speaking, toms roam only in order to locate sexual partners. Even then they usually return home for food and shelter.

Since press reports have failed to disclose whether or not he has been neutered, it is not possible to determine why he is still roaming at his advanced years. It is strongly suspected, however, that he has been forced into eking out a meager existence on the street because none of the town's almost seventeen-thousand residents has enough compassion and decency to provide him with a secure, warm, and loving home.

That petit fait alone casts an entirely different light on the words and actions of Baird, Selwyn, Leishman, McMullan, and everyone else even remotely connected with Hamish. Instead of praise, the entire lot of them should be stripped naked in Church Square and treated to the pleasure of having a cat-o'-nine-tails raked across their fat, bourgeois backsides.

Such an expedient might also sweat out some of the Johnny Walker that flows so freely in their veins and arteries. If not that, it surely ought to be sufficient in order to, at least temporarily, take their minds off of the Scottish national pastime of penny-pinching.

In the face of Baird's total abdication of her moral responsibilities to him, Hamish has been forced by necessity to assume the rôle of a threadbare hobo and thus to rely upon handouts from the community for his daily sustenance. Specifically, he is known to have been befriended by, inter alia, Sue Ryder's Charity Shop at 109-A South Street and the law firm of Pagan Osborne at 106 South Street as well as Dynamic Hair.

Hamish and Susan McMullan

He also is fed by some of the University of St. Andrews' nearly eight-thousand students but when the undergraduates leave town for the summer his weight is said to plummet precipitately. That in itself is a pretty strong indications that he is not receiving regular meals.

Securing shelter is another concern and on that vitally important subject press reports are inexcusably silent. On the plus side, St. Andrews is blessed with a surprisingly mild climate for a city that is situated so far north.

In particular, overnight readings generally average in the low-30°'s F. during the wintertime. It is dark outside for up to as much as eighteen hours a day during that period, however, and that makes for some awfully long nights.

Under such hellishly cold, dark, and rainy conditions, it is indisputable that Hamish deserves to be indoors curled up beside a blazing fire and with a reliable supply of good-quality cat food, a platter of herring, and a saucer of thick cream always on hand. In fact, it is nothing short of amazing that he has been able to endure so many wicked winters without contracting a fatal respiratory infection.

In addition to the daily de rigueur of securing food and shelter, Hamish is prone to all the perils that afflict homeless cats everywhere. First and foremost amongst these are the machinations of motorists.

For whatever comfort it may provide, Selwyn insists that he understands the rules of the road. "He is so clued up," she averred to The Scotsman. "When you watch him cross the road he waits for the lights to change."

Book Jacket from McMullan's Tome

Even if against all odds there should be so much as a scintilla of truth in that declaration, it would not alter the realization that all cats are utterly defenseless when pitted against motorists intent upon running them down and snuffing out their lives. (See Cat Defender posts of November 21, 2012 and January 30, 2010 entitled, respectively, "Officials at Plymouth College of Art Should Be Charged with Gross Negligence and Animal Cruelty in the Tragic Death of the School's Longtime Resident Feline, PCAT" and "Casper Is Run Down and Killed by a Hit-and-Run Taxi Driver While Crossing the Street in Order to Get to the Bus Stop.")

Just as it is the case everywhere, dogs in St. Andrews pose a potentially lethal threat to Hamish's continued existence. For example, toward the end of January he was chased up a tree by a pair of them.

Luckily, he was unharmed on that occasion but the unprovoked attack necessitated that he had to be rescued with a ladder by local students and employees of a beauty parlor, presumably Dynamic Hair. That close call with disaster also prompted Leishman to issue a plea to dog owners to keep their charges under tighter control.

"We've got to protect the old boy. He's getting on. I would ask dog owners to please keep their animals under control and on a leash when around Hamish McHamish," he told the Daily Record of Glasgow on January 30th. (See "Provost of Fife and Dunfermline Legend Jim Leishman Wants to Protect Scotland's Most Famous Cat Hamish McHamish.") "We've got to make sure he's not upset. He is Scotland's most iconic cat, after all."

Whereas Leishman's comments are a step in the right direction, it is difficult to know if they were uttered out of a genuine concern for Hamish's safety and well-being or if they were prompted by economic considerations. Regardless of his motivation, considerably more needs to be done in order to safeguard Hamish's fragile life.

Hamish Is Chased Up a Tree by Dogs

The best solution would be to place him in a permanent home with a guardian who would be willing to assume personal responsibility for his care and safety. He still could be afforded a measure of freedom so long as he always has someone looking over his shoulder.

If no one in St. Andrews is willing to undertake that sacred responsibility, the job of safeguarding his life falls by default to the citizens of the community. Should they be unwilling to do that out of either compassion or moral responsibility, they at the very least ought to have enough bon sens to act based solely upon the cultural and financial contributions that he makes to the town.

The incident with the dogs should have served as a wake-up call to them but there is little evidence to indicate that they fully appreciate just how close they came to losing him. Specifically, if he had not been able to scale that tree, the mood at the April 5th ceremony would have been more akin to a wake than a celebration.

It additionally would be both foolhardy and irresponsible for residents to dismiss the attack as an isolated incident. They also should not be lulled into naïvely believing that since Hamish has been wandering the streets of St. Andrews for so long that he knows how to take care of himself.

Both notions have absolutely no basis in reality. For example, residents of Talkeetna, Alaska, said the latter about their eighteen-year-old mayor, Stubbs, before he was mauled to within an inch of his life by an unleashed dog on August 31st of last year. (See Cat Defender posts of October 28, 2013 and September 25, 2012 entitled, respectively, "Slow to Recuperate from Life-Threatening Injuries Sustained in a Savage Mauling by an Unleashed Dog, Stubbs Announces His Intention to Step Down as Mayor of Talkeetna" and "Talkeetna Has Profited Handsomely from Mayor Stubbs' Enlightened Leadership but the Lure of Higher Office Soon Could Be Beckoning Him to Change His Address.")

Mayor Stubbs after Having Been Mauled by a Dog

Individuals who hunt cats with large dogs, such as lurchers, are another huge concern throughout the English Isles and Ireland as well. For example, twenty-four-year-old Joshua Varey, twenty-two-year-old Shuan Mullens, and forty-nine-year-old Paul Ashworth, all from Colne in the borough of Pendle in Lancashire, are currently on trial in Burnley Magistrates' Court for using vicious dogs in order to chase an unidentified black cat up a tree.

Not contented with that bit of devilry, Mullens and Ashworth then attempted to shake the cat down while Varey filmed the proceedings on his mobile phone. (See The Citizen of Blackburn, June 6, 2014, "East Lancashire Thugs Filmed 'Barbaric' Act of Cruelty on Cat" and Cat Defender post of March 24, 2010 entitled "Seven-Month-Old Bailey Is Fed to a Lurcher by a Group of Sadistic Teens in Search of Cheap Thrills in Northern Ireland.")

While it is doubtful that cat-hating thugs would be able to get away with such an atrocity in downtown St. Andrews, it is nonetheless an outside possibility. That is especially the case during the evening and overnight hours when the shops are shuttered and the streets deserted.

The citizens of St. Andrews also need to be vigilant in order to ensure that Hamish is neither kidnapped nor stolen. That is an especially huge concern when the town is inundated with thousands of visitors every fifth year when it serves as host of the British Open. This year the tournament is being played in Hoylake, Merseyside, but it is scheduled to return to St. Andrews next July.

Although it is not known if Hamish's rambles take him anywhere near the Old Course, someone nevertheless needs to make certain that he is not struck by an errant tee shot. Although such incidents are decidedly rare, they do occur ever now and again.

Benny with Ann-Noreen Norton

For instance, during the autumn of 2010 Ann-Noreen Norton of Dartmouth in Halifax, Nova Scotia, was lying on  her deck with her four-year-old tuxedo, Benny, when he was struck in the spine by a golf ball that came from an unidentified duffer at the adjacent Brightwood Golf and Country Club. The resulting injuries forced him to undergo three months of intensive veterinary care that ended up costing Norton almost C$2,500.

She subsequently sued the golf course in small claims court but it not known how she and Benny fared. (See The Chronicle Herald of Halifax, November 29, 2012, "Wounded Cat Tees Up Court Case.")

Golf courses are additionally hazardous to cats owing to the fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides that are ladled on them by the gallons. They may look picturesque but they also are toxic.

In the final analysis, the overwhelming preponderance of the available evidence strongly suggests that the citizens of St. Andrews are merely exploiting Hamish for their own selfish purposes and as a result care little about either his wants or his pressing needs. The statue, for instance, is of absolutely no value to him and that salient reminder is vividly demonstrated by his total ignorance of both its existence and significance.

He cannot either eat or drink it. It does not provide him with any warmth on a cold evening and it contributes absolutely nothing toward his personal safety.

By contrast, all the benefits to be derived from its commissioning are destined to accrue to the citizens of St. Andrews. To top it all off, they are so thoroughly incorrigible that instead of being ashamed of their callousness and greed, they are busily trumpeting their baseness to the entire world.

Even at this extremely late date and as his days grow progressively shorter, they remain abysmally ignorant as to both his intrinsic value and inalienable rights as a sentient animal. If any of them cared just a little bit about him, they would be willing to move mountains in order to prolong his life and to make his golden years as comfortable as possible.

 Hamish Is Still Waiting for Both Remittance and Deliverance

An analogous situation exists in Atlantic City in regard to Alley Cat Allies' (ACA) hideous abuse and naked exploitation of its Boardwalk cats. Even though all of these cats are friendly and preeminently adoptable, ACA has cruelly sentenced them to life imprisonment at the hellish Underwood Hotel. The situation is made all the more deplorable by the fact that the organization is endowed with more than enough resources and expertise in order to place all of them in loving homes.

It is not about to do that, however, because in sacrificing their lives and happiness it is able to proclaim to the world the success of TNR. To witness these primarily elderly cats strolling up to perfect strangers in search of the caresses and tuna that they have been denied by ACA is nothing short of heartbreaking.

The same holds true in respect to how Americans abuse, denigrate, and nakedly exploit the homeless. Although billions of dollars are appropriated each year supposedly for the alleviation of their plight, just about every cent of it finds its way into the pockets of thoroughly dishonest and thieving politicians, social workers, Christians, and Jews.

By contrast, the down-and-out receive almost nothing. Plus, thanks to the excellent job that the capitalist media do in propagating their lies, the world remains largely ignorant of the outrageous crimes of these glorified poverty pimps.

Regardless of whether the victims are either cats or the poor, the prevailing prejudice of all societies is to favor appearance over substance, lies at the expense of the truth, and exploitation over compassion. That is not the way that things have to be; it is merely another poignant example of how values become perverted.

For as long as that is the case, virtue is destined to remain primarily a private matter. The best that Hamish therefore can expect from his human counterparts is that someone from outside St. Andrews will belatedly come to realize just how special he is and accordingly will intervene before it is too late in order to save him from the machinations of his heartless exploiters.

Photos: The Independent of London (Hamish in the street, statue, and his arrival at the ceremony), D. C. Thomson of The Courier (Leishman), St Andrews in Focus (Annand, Sweeney, and Selwyn), George McCluskie of the Express of London (Hamish and McMullan), Amazon (McMullan's book), Daily Record of Glasgow (Hamish up a tree), Lauri Stec (Stubbs), The Chronicle Herald (Benny and Norton), and The Scotsman (Hamish outside a restaurant).

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Odds Were All Against Him and His Enemies Were Well-Financed and Unscrupulous but Rocky Nonetheless Prevails in a Stafford Courtroom

Ginny Fine and Judge Damian G. Murray Square Off in Court

"I'm shocked. I don't even know what to say. I was not expecting that."
-- Ginny Fine

Rocky, the bobcat-hybrid from Stafford Township in New Jersey, has escaped by the skin of his teeth a cruel fate that would have been almost as bad as death itself. That surprising turn of events occurred on May 16th when Municipal Court Judge Damian G. Murray ruled that the three-year-old, thirty-eight pound cat had to be returned to his owner after a much ballyhooed DNA test was unable to definitively pinpoint his genetic makeup. "The bottom line is Rocky goes home," Murray ruled according to the May 16th edition of the Asbury Park Press of Neptune. (See "Bobcat DNA Test Inconclusive, So Rocky Can Go Home.")

The ruling came as a coup d'ciel to Rocky's beleaguered owner who had arrived at the hearing with her gallows' face on and expecting the absolute worst. "I'm shocked," Ginny Fine of Beach Haven West later exclaimed to the Asbury Park Press. "I don't even know what to say. I was not expecting that."

If the DNA test had conclusively demonstrated that Rocky was a purebred bobcat instead of a hybrid, she surely would have lost permanent custody of him. Even more abhorrent, Rocky would have been condemned to spend the remainder of his days on this earth unjustly incarcerated at some hellhole zoo.

The latest and most dramatic installment in this cause célèbre began to unfold on March 25th when Rocky escaped from Fine's residence. With the able-bodied assistance of one of her domestic felines, Elsie, she subsequently was able to locate and corral him on April 6th but by that time the damage already had been done.

Since meddlesome neighbors earlier had ratted out both her and Rocky to the Stafford Police she was left with no alternative other than to notify them that she had regained custody of her cat. To her surprise, however, Animal Control officers showed up at her residence a day later and confiscated Rocky as a prelude to imprisoning him at the Popcorn Park Zoo in nearby Lacey Township.

The legal rationale for the seizure was supplied by an October 18th stipulation that Fine had been strong-armed into signing after Rocky had escaped for the first time earlier that month. The gist of the matter boiled down to her signing away her rights to Rocky if he should escape again in exchange for having him immediately returned to her.

This time around the legal scrum took on ominous overtones when the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) elected to intercede on behalf of Rocky's sworn enemies. It did so by going directly to Murray with its suspicions that Rocky was a purebred bobcat and not a hybrid as Fine has claimed from the outset.

Always willing to blindly do the bidding of his fellow political elites, Murray on April 11th granted the DFW's demand that Rocky's DNA be tested. In doing so, he cast aside all appearances of being an impartial trier of facts.

"If you've got one-hundred per cent bobcat, that should not be in your backyard," he laid into Fine with a vengeance. "I sure wouldn't want my grandkids walking up and petting your cat." (See Cat Defender post of April 26, 2014 entitled "The Opportunistic Old Hacks Who Run the Show in New Jersey Are All Set to Unjustly Condemn Rocky to a Lifetime Behind Bars for, Basically, Daring to So Much as Breathe.")

Pursuant to that order, Rocky was anesthetized on April 16th and a blood sample was taken and delivered to the Northeast Wildlife DNA Lab at East Stroudsburg University in the Keystone State for analysis. Although the results originally were expected to have been available in about a week, the fact that the analysis took four weeks is a pretty strong indication that the wildlife biologists pulled out all the stops in their attempt to hang both Rocky and Fine.

Meanwhile, as Murray, his buddies at the DFW, and the clinicians at East Stroudsburg dillydallied and played their petty little scientific and legal games, Rocky was left to languish in jail at Popcorn Park. "And now he is locked up in solitary confinement in two ten by twelve (feet) cement rooms with no fresh air, friends, exercise, love or enrichment, which I gave him almost every day because I took owning an animal like Rocky seriously," is how Fine described the deplorable conditions of his confinement in an April 30th letter to the editors of The Sandpaper of Surf City. (See "Rocky Road.")

She also was kept totally in the dark as to the results of the test. That was in spite of numerous telephone inquiries that she lodged with the DFW.

A Victorious Ginny Fine Addresses the Media 

On May 15th, however, an unidentified spokesman for the DFW's parent body, the Department of Environmental Protection, telephoned a reporter with The Sandpaper in order to inform him that the DNA test results would be announced in court the following day. That clearly was just one more underhanded maneuver in the DFW's diabolical game plan to inflict as much hurt, suffering, and uncertainty upon Fine as possible. (See The Sandpaper, May 16, 2014, "Rocky the Bobcat Is Free, Free at Last.")

It furthermore showcases the country club chumminess that exists between judges, bureaucrats, and the capitalist media to the exclusion and, often, detriment of both defendants and cats alike. By behaving in such a cavalier fashion, Rocky's adversaries took on the characteristics of a bloodthirsty lynch mob running amuck with the approval and sanction of a kangaroo court.

Although the eggheads at East Stroudsburg University did their level best to string up both Rocky and Fine from the nearest tree, all that they were able to determine at the end of the day was that Rocky's mother was ninety-eight per cent bobcat. Even though he had been the very bloke who had ordered the test, the results left Murray so stupefied that he was forced to contact his cohorts at the DFW for an explanation.

What he was told really should not have come as any surprise to either him or anyone else for that matter in that only mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is capable of establishing a direct link between parents and offspring and even it is limited solely to the maternal line. Nuclear DNA (nDNA) on the other hand, which is derived from both parents, does not establish a direct link between them and their offspring.

In order to surmount this difficulty, the DFW also contacted Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in an effort to determine the identity of Rocky's father and, presumably, to order that he too be subjected to a DNA test. Since bobcat ownership is entirely legal in Montana, Bitterroot Bobcat and Lynx of Stevensville, from whom Fine had acquired Rocky, is not required to maintain and divulge its breeding records.

For the time being, the inquiry into Rocky's paternity is an abeyance but Murray stated on May 16th that Fine still could lose custody of him at some later date if his father should be identified and subsequently determined to be a bobcat. It is difficult to gauge how serious a threat that is without first knowing what additional tricks the DFW has up its dirty sleeve.

Deborah and Gerald Roe, the proprietors of Bitterroot, sans doute know who Rocky's father is but they are unlikely to blab to either the DFW or anyone else for that matter. Besides, it is far from clear just how significant it would be even if Rocky's father were determined to be a full-blooded bobcat.

First of all, the scientific and legal definitions of a purebred and a hybrid likely are at odds with their corresponding legal definitions. For example, since Rocky's mother was ninety-eight per cent Lynx rufus, that very well might be close enough for geneticists to classify her as a purebred.

As best as it could be determined, however, New Jersey does not specify how much foreign DNA a cat must have in its genes in order to be considered a hybrid. In that case, Rocky might conceivably qualify under the law as a hybrid based solely upon his mother's DNA makeup. If so, identifying and testing his father would be superfluous from a legal point of view.

More to the point, the mtDNA test performed on Rocky was destined from the outset to be inconclusive even if it had shown his mother to have been a purebred bobcat. All animals, except those that are conceived parthogenetically, are comprised of both female and male DNA and accordingly an analysis of both would be required in order to determine with absolute certainty the true genetic makeup of a cat. Even breeding two supposedly purebred bobcats would not necessarily result in purebred kittens if their DNA previously had been compromised.

Although Fine did regain custody of Rocky, Murray availed himself of the golden opportunity presented to him to stick it to her good in the pocketbook. Specifically, he fined the already cash-strapped defendant a whooping $1,000 for allowing Rocky to get out plus another $216 for the tranquilizer darts that the bunglers with the Stafford Police, Animal Control, and Popcorn Park fired at him in their futile attempt to capture him.

Rocky Bides His Time in His Cell at Popcorn Park

Murray in turn earmarked that latter sack of shekels to the Stafford Veterinary Hospital in Manahawkin which had supplied the darts. The grubby practitioners doubtlessly have been salivating all over themselves ever since at their unexpected windfall.

All of that was onerous enough in its own right but Old Murray Bird is never seemingly quite capable of letting well enough alone. Instead, he is constantly opening his big, fat trap and in the process making a complete fool of himself.

This time around he was crying a river for the Stafford Police who, according to him, were "all over this town, hunting through the woods" for Rocky. First of all, that seems highly improbable because if they had mounted an even halfway serious search they surely would have located him long before Fine and Elsie.

Much more to the point, their unwarranted and amateurish intervention served only to exacerbate an already delicate situation. "Yes, he did get out my back door, but he only disappeared after being chased by ten Stafford policemen, two Animal Control officers and people from Popcorn Park Zoo for four hours which included being hit with at least one dart," Fine disclosed in her letter to The Sandpaper cited supra.

Secondly, police departments in New Jersey are not only ubiquitous (seemingly every zip code has one) but knee-high in dough as well and therefore scarcely need Murray to rob from the indigent, such as Fine, in order to assist them in paying their bills. Officers likewise are paid handsomely. For example, in Galloway Township they knock down on the average $112,000 per annum.

Thirdly, it is easy work in that they can be observed lounging around restaurants, getting their wool trimmed at barber shops, doing their laundry, reading newspapers, and schmoozing on their mobile phones far more often than they can be found actually enforcing the laws. For instance, they are almost never seen nowadays either walking a beat in urban centers or enforcing the laws of the road on the state's busy and chaotic thoroughfares.

That is because wearing a badge and carrying a gun has become a big business. C'est-à-dire, cops get promoted for arresting and incarcerating individuals as opposed to being proactive.

Contrary to what most Americans fervently believe, there is a huge difference between maintaining law and order and cops' lining their pockets. There additionally is considerably more to creating and maintaining a halfway decent society than simply constructing prisons and providing lawyers and judges with unlimited employment opportunities.

Murray's abiding love for the police is reminiscent of the sentiments expressed by Judge Steven Helvin of Rockingham County General District Court on March 8, 2012 when he reluctantly convicted Harrisonburg police officer Jonathan N. Snoddy for killing an injured cat. "It's difficult for a judge to second guess law enforcement," he admitted on that memorable occasion. (See Cat Defender post of March 22, 2012 entitled "In Another Outrageous Miscarriage of Justice, Rogue Cop Jonathan N. Snoddy Is Let Off with a $50 Fine for Savagely Bludgeoning to Death an Injured Cat.")

Even in allowing Fine to regain custody of Rocky, Murray ordered that he be confined to a recently constructed pen that cost her $1,600. The enclosure also is subject to random, unannounced inspections by both Animal Control and the DFW.

In issuing that latest directive, Murray once again could not resist the overwhelming temptation to give Fine yet still another severe tongue-lashing. "We wouldn't be going through this had you built a secure enclosure," he lectured her from the bench according to the Asbury Park Press article cited supra.

Contrary to earlier press reports, she apparently did comply with the October 18th stipulation by constructing a new enclosure for Rocky. Her error was in neglecting to install double doors and that omission in turn led to his getting free on March 25th.

At least for now, Fine is not bellyaching about being subjected to the oversight of both Animal Control and the DFW. "It is something I don't have a problem doing, if I can have the cat back," she declared to the Asbury Park Press.

Rocky Is Given a New Lease on Life

Nevertheless, she and Rocky are far from being out of the woods and it is difficult to get around the nagging feeling that their enemies simply have set another trap for them like they did last year when they foisted upon them the October 18th stipulation. Much more to the point, cats occasionally are going to get out no matter either how secure their enclosures or the level of vigilance demonstrated by their caretakers.

In that regard it would have been a positive stop forward  if Murray had at the very least expressed some sympathy for the difficulties that lie ahead for both Rocky and Fine. In particular, he could have instructed both Animal Control and the DFW to work with, not against, her in a constructive manner so as to make a success of this latest arrangement.

His ruling also left unanswered several vitally important questions. Most important of all, what will happen should Rocky somehow manage to escape from Fine's residence for a third time? In particular, is the October 18th stipulation that mandates his immediate seizure by Animal Control still in effect?

Secondly, who is picking up the tab for his room, board, and veterinary care at Popcorn Park? On that subject it goes almost without saying that individuals who so nakedly exploit and abuse defenseless animals for profit and gain are not about to perform any pro bono work under any circumstances.

It also seems clear that Fine has ample justification for legal action against all of hers and Rocky's attackers. First of all, he was illegally stolen from her solely upon the unfounded suspicions of the DFW.

Secondly, he was unjustly incarcerated for six weeks and his confinement could have had a detrimental impact upon him. In particular, his experiences with both his pursuers as well as the zookeepers possibly could make it more difficult for Fine to keep him contented at home.

The still unidentified organization responsible for darting Rocky and then letting him escape easily could be charged with animal cruelty. Everyone of his pursuers is extremely fortunate that he did not collapse in the street and in turn was not run over and killed by a motorist.

Rocky additionally very easily could have contracted either some disease or been injured in some unspecified manner while he was incarcerated at the zoo. Apparently none of that occurred, but psychological scars are not nearly as easy to recognize.

Fine also has reason to complain about the simply abhorrent manner in which she has been dealt with by the authorities. "...how dare people suggest I'm a liar when I have been lied to since the first ten minutes after Rocky got out by everyone from every department involved," she wrote in the letter to The Sandpaper. "I followed the rules, gave proof of paperwork, built his new pen and even called to tell Stafford he was home! What a huge mistake on my part."

To sum up, Rocky and Fine were not the only big winners when this legal brouhaha finally reached its crescendo in that both Stafford Township and the Stafford Veterinary Hospital also made out like bandits. The big losers on the other hand were the cat-haters at the DFW who were thwarted in their evil designs and Popcorn Park and Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, both of whom dearly wanted to add Rocky to their collections.

As soon as Murray had handed down his much anticipated ruling the capitalist media immediately forgot all about Rocky so it is not known how he and Fine are progressing. All that has been revealed is that Animal Control officer Kelly Karch was scheduled to have inspected Rocky's new digs on May 19th and that if all was found to be in order he was supposed to have been released from jail later in the day.

"The first thing I'm going to do (is) to roll around on the floor with him," Fine told The Press of Pleasantville on May 16th. (See "Bobcat Can Return Home to Stafford, Judge Rules.") "I've missed him so much. I've gone to visit him, but I've only been able to see him through a cage."

Embattled Ginny Fine Finally Has a Reason to Smile

Elsie and Checkers sans doute also will be happy to see their fellow lodger once again. "They miss him terribly," Fine confided to the Asbury Park Press. "Elsie has been walking around the house, looking in all the rooms for him."

Since the specifics of Rocky's new living arrangement have not been spelled out in detail it is difficult to speculate on either the quality of life that he will enjoy or the dangers involved. For instance, if he is segregated in the pen he is not going to be a contented cat.

On the other hand, if he is given free rein of the house there is always the possibility that he once again could escape and thus wind up in legal limbo. While it is conceivable that Murray issued specific guidelines, the more likely scenario is that he left those details to the discretion of Animal Control and the DFW.

Visitors are another huge concern. "He has never shown aggression to visitors in my home and I have a steady stream of kids of all ages in my home," Fine revealed in her letter to The Sandpaper.

The danger in that regard is not that Rocky might inadvertently either injure or scare one of them, but rather that they might carelessly allow him to escape. Another concern is that one of Fine's detractors might gain entry into her home under false pretenses in order deliberately provoke an incident.

The road ahead for both Rocky and Fine is fraught with many perils and difficulties. The important thing for her to remember, however, is that she has been given a second chance not only to care for Rocky but to prolong and safeguard his fragile life.

His enemies are both numerous and totally unscrupulous. Above all, they will stop at absolutely nothing in order to do in both him and her.

She might want to consider relocating to Montana where she at long last would be able to escape the long arms of New Jersey's grasping and opportunistic public officials. It is regrettable that they have absolutely no regard whatsoever for either Rocky's inalienable right to exist or his welfare but they are not about to mend their evil ways and so long as Fine elects to live in the Garden State both she and Rocky are going to be subject to their whims, prejudices, and ambitions.

Generally speaking, the breeding and domestication of both purebred bobcats and their hybrids is not a desirable development. Nevertheless, they already exist in the thousands and Fine doubtlessly saved Rocky's life when she purchased him. Saving a life always should trump both ideology and ambition but no public official in New Jersey wants to hear that.

Fine also is to be commended for standing steadfast beside Rocky throughout his latest bout with the authorities. Bereft of funds, legal counsel, and the assistance of any of this society's so-called animal rights groups, she had little hope of prevailing.

All that she had going for herself was her undying love of Rocky. While her cause was just, even justice seldom prevails in this wicked old world unless it is backed up by money and guns.

In spite of all of those daunting obstacles, whenever the stars are in the correct alignment even a sophist and an epicurean have been known to conspire to kill a caesar. Likewise, a lucky cat will prevail in court once in a blue moon if the stars deem it appropriate.

Photos: Thomas P. Costello of the Asbury Park Press (Fine and Murray and a happy Fine), Edward Lea of The Press (Fine meets with the media), and Jack Reynolds of The Sandpaper (Rocky).

Monday, May 19, 2014

Even after Fourteen Years of Faithful Companionship and Exemplary Service, Teachers, Students, and Administrators at Westbrook High Remain Clueless at to Simba's Intrinsic Value

Simba the Rapt Student

"We didn't want him to just go away someday and never be recognized for what he's brought to the school. The climate and culture here, he just elevates it."
-- art teacher Carol Connor

When seniors at Westbrook High School (WHS), eleven kilometers outside of Portland, Maine, don their caps and gowns and stream into Merrill Auditorium on June 8th in order to receive their diplomas one of their most illustrious classmates will not be amongst them. Not surprisingly, his rather conspicuous exclusion from the ceremonies has engendered considerable speculation, not to mention idle gossip.

Of all the plausible explanations advanced so far, a lack of intellectual acumen has not been one of them because he is widely regarded as being one of the brightest bulbs on campus. Also, since he is well-liked by most of the teachers it does not seem likely that one of them has given him the shaft. His gentlemanly manners and unimpeachable personal conduct also make it doubtful that disciplinary problems could be the reason that he is being held back for another year.

Although there has been some speculation that he fails to apply himself to his studies, that seems spurious in that he shows up bright and early each school day at 7 a.m. While it is true that he occasionally has been caught nodding off in class, that is hardly conclusive in that he very well could be, like Dame Agatha's Colonel Ephraim Pikeaway, most alert when he appears to be sound asleep.

Other critics have cited a total lack of ambition on his part but, even if true, that would hardly be a crime in that successful scholars have seldom amounted to anything in this world other than propagandists for the capitalists and militarists. It therefore is entirely conceivable that ethical considerations have precluded him from taking a diploma and subsequently venturing out on his own in order to make his way in a thoroughly corrupt world.

A far more plausible explanation is that he simply enjoys attending high school. After all, he has been doing so for the past fourteen years.

It therefore should not come as any great surprise that his name is Simba and he is a ginger-colored tom who is estimated to be somewhere between sixteen and nineteen years of age. He arrived unannounced and unheralded at WHS in 2000 and has been gracing its hallways, classrooms, and various other venues ever since then.

Over the course of the past fourteen years thousands of students as well as dozens of teachers and staffers have come and gone but he has been the one constant in Westbrook's ever-changing kaleidoscope. The old brick and mortar facade that WHS presents to the world as its public face will doubtlessly outlast him, but it is precisely Simba who is the school's heart and soul.

Simba and Tina Soucy 

Like just about all of the most enduring and truly valuable experiences that life has to offer, it began innocently enough for both Simba and WHS all those years ago. "I was just moving into my classroom downstairs, and he was sitting outside, and I let him in," newly hired math teacher Tina Soucy recalled for the benefit of WMTV of Auburn on March 29, 2013. (See "Cat Greets High School Students for More Than a Decade.")

Although she has not publicly explained what exactly it was that prompted her to befriend Simba, it is conceivable that in being new to the job she was feeling a bit insecure and therefore needed the special type of nonjudgmental moral support that only a cat can provide. Regardless of her motivation, that act of kindness on her part allowed Simba to get his paws inside the schoolhouse door and he then did the rest all by himself.

"He knew what he was doing, because he made friends with the superintendent (Marc Edward Gousse)," Soucy disclosed to The Bangor Daily News on April 4, 2013. (See "Westbrook High School Cat Becomes a Star in National Media.")

Even since then Simba has been a fixture not only in Soucy's math classes but Gousse's office as well. He also is known to pay regular visits to the guidance office as well as to attend sporting events and band practices held on campus.

The pièce de résistance, however, remains Soucy's classroom where he is not only fed and watered but allowed to sometimes stay overnight. She also provides him with rides home during inclement weather.

"He's here very early in the mornings, and oftentimes stays through the night," she affirmed to The Bangor Daily News. "I'll sometimes find him curled up on my chair when I arrive in the morning."

Whenever Soucy takes to the lectern Simba proves himself to be a rapt pupil even though there is some evidence to suggest that geometry is not his favorite academic discipline. "He just walks on (students') desks, lays on their backpacks and listens to the lessons," she related to The Bangor Daily News. "Although one time, when I was teaching quadratic equations about four years ago, he covered his face in his (paws)."

Simba with Marc Edward Gousse

As is the case with cats wherever they choose to venture, not everyone is enamored with his presence. "He'll show up in class and sit on people's textbooks and just intrude," Kim Larley, who was scheduled to have graduated last year, groused to WMTV in the article cited supra. "He's cuter when he sleeps."

Generally speaking, however, the calming effect that he has on most individuals is appreciated all across campus. "(For) most people, it's human nature. Animals are very warm," Gousse testified to WMTV. "They're calming. They bring a sense of peace."

Art teacher Carol Connor wholeheartedly concurs in that assessment. "I just see such an emotional connection and real care about this creature," she told WMTV. "He has such a calming effect on all of us."

Victoria Simoneau, who graduated last year, learned firsthand from Simba how to be both productive and relaxed. "He kind of sets the tone and reminds us that we don't have to be stressed," she told WCSH-TV of Portland on April 5, 2013. (See "Westbrook High's Unofficial Mascot Is the Cat's Meow.") "We can be as relaxed as Simba and still get stuff done."

Of course, poet Rod McKuen understood all of that years ago. In particular, he once penned the following lines:

"There has never been a cat
Who couldn't calm me down
By walking slowly
Past my chair."

Attending classes at Westbrook is not all fun and games for Simba, however, and with ailurophobia being as virulent and widespread as it is, the school has deemed it necessary to place certain restrictions on his movements. For example, he is not allowed near students who are allergic to cats.

"Simba the Scholar" by Carol Connor

Even though that policy must make life difficult for him at times, it is still far less draconian than the expulsion order that the United States Postal Service in Notasulga, Alabama, issued to an elderly orange-colored cat named Sammy in January of 2009 after a female patron complained that she was allergic to him.

Sammy's eviction was all the more unjust in that he had been a much-beloved fixture at the facility for more than a decade. (See Cat Defender post of February 11, 2009 entitled "U.S. Postal Service Knuckles Under to the Threats and Lies of a Cat-Hater and Gives Sammy the Boot.")

The school cafeteria also is off limits to Simba but that is not quite as bad as Smallcat being banned from the premises of Comma Coffee in Carson City and Ember being kicked out of the Blunsdon Arms in Swindon. (See Cat Defender posts of February 17, 2009 and October 23, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Health Department Banishes Smallcat from Popular Carson City Restaurant but Her Feisty Owner Is Putting Up Quite a Fight" and "Pecksniffian Management at Swindon Pub Plies Ember with Food and Then Gives Her the Bum's Rush.")

Even on those rare occasions when politicians and bureaucrats are thwarted in their attempts to impose outright bans on cats at establishments that serve food they nevertheless almost always succeed in placing onerous restrictions on them. That is precisely what the health department in New York City has done to the Algonquin Hotel's resident feline, Matilda III. (See Cat Defender post of December 5, 2011 entitled "The Algonquin Cruelly Responds to Threats Made by New York City by Trussing Up Matilda III and Bombarding Her with Shock Therapy.")

Unlike so many cats who seek sanctuary at public institutions and establishments, Simba is by no means homeless. Rather, he lives with Eileen Shutts at 42 Monroe Avenue, which is only slightly more than two-tenths of a mile removed from the WHS campus at 125 Stroudwater Street.

Even that arrangement is somewhat troubling in that cats who are loved and wanted at home usually choose to spend a lion's share of their time with their guardians as opposed to engaging in endless roaming. In Simba's case, he quite obviously is getting something at school that he is being denied at home.

Perhaps Shutts is either away from home during the day or is not sufficiently attentive to his emotional needs. The particulars of Simba's living arrangement are difficult to assess owing to the fact that press reports have not broached the subject of where he bides his time when WHS is closed, such as on weekends, during the Christmas holidays, and throughout the long summer months. The one exception to all of that would be Gousse who likely is at his post twelve months a year.

"Sweet Soft Kitten" by Victoria Simoneau

All that has been disclosed is that Shutts gained custody of him in 2006 after a family named Foye gave him up and moved out of the neighborhood. It accordingly would seem logical that certain unknown deficiencies in the care that he received from the Foyes were at the root of his decision to adopt WHS as his alternative home. Therefore, by the time that Shutts had acquired custody of him it already may have been too late for her to have curtailed his roaming.

As long as WHS elects to leave out the welcome mat for him there is not anything per se wrong with Simba continuing to spend his days on campus. The only known potential threat to his health and well-being comes from motorists in the small town of eighteen-thousand residents and even that depends upon the density of traffic, the vigilance of law enforcement personnel and, most important of all, the number of busy intersections that he is forced to cross during his daily commute.

Since it is only a six-minute walk from his home to the school, he should be relatively safe so long as he stays on the sidewalk. Nevertheless, he is getting on and pretty soon both his hearing and agility are going to begin to desert him and once that happens the odds of him winding up underneath the wheels of a cat-hater increase exponentially.

"I think he probably knows he's liked and loved, and it's mutual," Gousse declared to WMTV in the article cited supra. If he truly means that, he will take immediate concrete steps in order to better safeguard Simba's valuable, yet fragile, life.

At the very least, Shutts should take it upon herself to see to it that he arrives safely at school each morning while it should be the responsibility of either Gousse or Soucy to make certain that he gets home unscathed at night. It is, after all, highly unlikely that any caring parent would send off a small child to school each morning by its lonesome and a cat is in far greater need of a chaperon than any child. Much more to the point, to knowingly allow a cat to venture out into vehicular traffic is an admission that its life is not considered to be worth very much.

The enormity of the danger confronting Simba is compounded by the fact that whereas it is a crime to deliberately run down and kill a child, the entire world laughs right along with motorists who do likewise to defenseless cats. (See Cat Defender post of November 21, 2012 entitled "Officials at Plymouth College of Art Should Be Charged with Gross Negligence and Animal Cruelty in the Tragic Death of the School's Longtime Resident Feline, PCAT.")

If neither Soucy, Gousse, nor anyone else connected with WHS can be prevailed upon to act out of either emotional or moral considerations, they at least should have enough bon sens to realize that Simba is an extremely valuable financial asset. For instance, both students and faculty members alike were able to sell to the public last April a collection of paintings, drawings, and photographs of him.

Room 8 All Those Years Ago

That sale also garnered the school not only local but national and international media attention and none of that would have been even remotely possible without Simba. The media circus that ensued did, however, leave the star of the show a bit knackered.

Also, since it is well established that no self-respecting cat has any interest whatsoever in posing for either artists or photographers, that trying ordeal surely must have contributed mightily to his exhaustion. In spite of that, the effort likely was worth it in that the finished objets d'art not only raised money for the purchase of direly needed art supplies but, much more importantly, immortalized Simba on both canvas and in glossy prints.

"It's been a rough week for him," Soucy acknowledged to The Bangor Daily News in the article cited supra. "He's famous now."

So, too, is WHS. "It's just a little art show, but it's become a big story," Connor summed up to The Bangor Daily News.

She additionally was grateful that Simba at long last finally had been recognized for all that he has done for Westbrook High over the years. "We didn't want him to just go away someday and never be recognized for what he's brought to the school," she added. "The climate and culture, he just elevates it."

Much the same thing has been said over the course of the past seven decades concerning a wonderful, long suffering gray and white cat named Room 8 who from 1952 up until 1968 graced the classrooms and hallways at Elysian Heights Elementary School in the Echo Park section of Los Angeles. In addition to spreading cheer and good will wherever he went, he also shared students' lunches and was famous for inadvertently erasing blackboards with his tail as he pussyfooted through chalk trays.

Room 8's Final Resting Place

Unlike Simba, life was a hardscrabble affair for him. Born in 1947, he soon was forced to take to the streets after, apparently, having been abused at home.

Shockingly enough, even during his long sojourn at Elysian Heights he was not permitted to live on the premises. He thus was forced to rough it most of the time although he did live for a while with a family known as Nakano and later at the residence of student John Hernandez.

Despite his many hardships, he persevered and his notoriety soon spread far beyond the confines of Elysian Heights. For instance, in November of 1962 he was featured in Look Magazine and that was followed by an article in the Weekly Reader five years later. He also made an appearance on Art Linkletter's television show, "House Party," and was featured in a 1968 television documentary entitled "Big Cats, Little Cats."

He is perhaps best remembered today thanks to a 1966 tome coauthored by Elysian Heights alumnae, principal Beverly Mason and teacher Virginia Finley, entitled A Cat Called Room 8. Amazingly, a few copes of this rare treasure are still available on Amazon for a pretty expensive penny.

Following his death at the age of twenty-one on August 13, 1968 he was interred at Los Angeles Memorial Park in Calabasas where a three-foot-high granite tombstone featuring a likeness of him adorns his grave. It is, however, in the memories of the students, faculty, and staffers at Elysian Heights who were fortunate enough to have known him during his all-too-brief existence that his presence is still felt the strongest.

"Room 8 was a good cat," former student Vivian DeLeon recalled back in 1968 on the fortieth anniversary of his death. "He was the greatest cat in the whole world." (See Cat Defender post of April 14, 2008 entitled "Room 8 Lives On in the Hearts of the Pupils and Teachers That He So Profoundly Touched at Elysian Heights Elementary School.")

Cat-Killer Wade Pilloud's Career Has Gone Nowhere but Up

It nonetheless is not only sad but disturbing that apparently no one connected with Elysian Heights during the course of his long tenure there was willing to have taken personal responsibility for Room 8's well-being and care by providing him with a permanent and loving home. As a consequence, he was forced to spend countless nights roaming the forbidding streets of Echo Park cold, hungry, and lonely.

The glaring omissions inherent in both Westbrook's care of Simba and Elysian Heights' abject neglect of Room 8 pale in comparison, however, with the criminal conduct of professional educator Wade Pilloud. For example, back in September of 2006 when he was principal at Indus High School in Koochiching County, Minnesota, he shotgunned to death a pair of five-week-old motherless kittens that were living on campus. Moreover, the reason that the waifs were without their mother is that earlier he had dispatched her to the devil via a kill trap.

For that trio of cold-blooded, premeditated murders he was convicted in December of that year of only count of animal cruelty and one count of damaging school property. Local judge Chad Leduc only added to that travesty of justice by sentencing him to perform a measly twenty-four hours of community service as well as to attend anger management classes.

Although Indus eventually did get around to firing him, it simultaneously rewarded him with $31,000 in severance pay. He was not out of work long, however, before Marsing High School in Idaho hired him as its principal in 2007. (See Cat Defender post of May 3, 2007 entitled "Principal Who Shotgunned to Death Two Kittens at a Minnesota School Is Rewarded with a Similar Post in Idaho.")

After collecting an award from the Idaho Department of Education for improving math scores at Marsing, Pilloud then moved on in the fall of 2012 to head up Halmstad Elementary School in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. (See WQOW-TV of Eau Claire, May 29, 2012, "New Chippewa Falls Principal Opens Up about Past.")

No one should find any of that surprising because in America it is almost always the flotsam of the human race that not only endures but rises to the top of the dunghill known as society. Meanwhile, those individuals with so much as a scintilla of decency in their souls make it only about as far as a boomerang tossed into a whirlwind.

Simba

Perhaps the most difficult task of all in life is to learn the true value of things. Joe Conrad summed up this dilemma as follows in his novel, Heart of Darkness:

"Droll thing life is -- that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself -- that comes too late -- (and) a crop of unextinguishable (sic) regrets."

It is the latter part of that equation that causes all the difficulties and for that reason the quest for the eternal verities must, by necessity, be an ongoing process. Some of those individuals currently affiliated with WHS have taken a few, tentative baby steps on the long road toward acquiring an abiding appreciation for Simba. Like their colleagues before them at Elysian Heights, however, they still have an awful lot to learn.

First of all, cats are in no way inferior beings; au contraire, the exact opposite is closer to the truth. "If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man but it would deteriorate the cat," Mark Twain observed in his 1894 Notebook.

Secondly, this world is a place of action, not mindlessly running off at the mouth. It accordingly is not nearly sufficient for personnel at Westbrook to claim that they care about Simba's well-being; rather, it is incumbent upon them to take concrete measures in order to vividly demonstrate that concern.

As was the case with Room 8 and Elysian Heights, the fundamental inequities that characterizes Simba's relationship with WHS are impossible to ignore. Specifically, just about all of the benefits to be derived from their lengthy association have accrued to the school whereas Simba has been paid off in crumbs.

Although he is said to be in good health, Simba soon will pass from the scene and once he is gone it will be much too late for Westbrook to make amends for its colossal omissions in its treatment of him. Furthermore, to rely upon artistic depictions, memorials, and memories as acceptable substitutes for failing to treasure the flesh and blood genuine article while it was still alive is, in the final analysis, just one more poignant example of man's selfishness, runaway egotism, and callousness.

Photos: Tony R. Bennett of The Bangor Daily News (Simba by himself, Simba with Soucy, "Simba the Scholar," and "Sweet Soft Kitten"), AOL (Simba and Gousse), Find a Grave (Room 8 and his grave), The Chippewa Herald (Pilloud), and KSNW-TV of Wichita (Simba up close).