Corporal Cuffs, Beloved Station House Mascot, Is Abducted Right Under Cops' Noses
"A lot of hearts are broken over Cuff's going missing. We want him to come back."
-- Sergeant Paul Sprigg
The City of Brotherly Love is a tough town. Abject poverty and homelessness are at epic proportions and the homicide rate is out the roof. Pettiness and corruptness are the norms in politics and the weather is lousy seven months out of the year.
Before he became a famous novelist, Pete Dexter was beaten to within an inch of his life by assailants who took exception to a story that he had written for a local newspaper and disgruntled Eagles' fans once even booed Santa Claus! Despite all of that and more, it nonetheless takes an awful lot of bloody cheek to steal a station house cat from right under the noses of the cops.
As improbable as it may seen, that is precisely what happened on May 16th when an unknown white male on a red bicycle made off with Corporal Cuffs as he was sitting outside the station house at South and Ninth streets. The abduction of the three-year-old yellow and white mascot has had a profound effect on the officers.
"A lot of hearts are broken over Cuff's going missing," Sergeant Paul Sprigg told the Philadelphia Daily News on May 19th. (See "An All-Points Bulletin for Cuffs, a Cop Station's Top Cat.") "We want him to come home." (See photo above of him with a very young Cuffs.)
Officers have blanketed the area around the station house with posters that feature a color photograph of the cat and which read: "Police Station Mascot. Missed by Many." They also have asked shelters and veterinarians to be on the lookout for him.
Cuff's abductor was seen not only petting the cat outside the station house but also making off with him on his bike. The cops made an effort to track him down as soon as they realized that he had taken Cuffs but they were too late.
Although Cuffs normally wears a collar, he has a habit of wiggling out of it and was therefore not wearing any identification at the time of his abduction. It probably would not have made any difference anyway because honest individuals do not steal cats off other people's doorsteps. Moreover, neither microchips nor tattoos provide any protection against cat thieves.
Sadly, the cops' prospects of getting Cuffs back do not look particularly promising. The fact that he has not been returned in spite of the enormous amount of publicity generated by his seizure indicates that the thief intends to keep him.
Cuffs, a gift from officer Matthew Matt, arrived at the station house as a kitten and was immediately put to work as a mouser. He was so proficient in his work that the station house soon thereafter was declared to be rodent-free.
To say that he was just another underpaid working stiff would be a gross understatement because he quickly morphed into something much more. Not only did he become a beloved companion of the cops, but he also was a big hit with the adults, children and, oddly enough, dogs of the neighborhood.
"Cuffs gets more attention than the officers do around here," Sprigg added. "Everybody loves him. Of course, I'm the one who gets to clean his litter box."
The officers doted on him by giving him crab cakes, bottled water, and toys. Two ladies from the neighborhood even footed the bill for his veterinary care.
Mothers would bring their children by to play with him and even dog-walkers would occasionally stop by to visit him. In fact, he got along well with Sergeant Edward Mayer's bomb-sniffing German Shepherd, Blaster.
Much to the officers' chagrin, Cuffs was equally at home with those on the opposite side of the law. "He jumps right up in prisoners' laps and sits with them," Sprigg confided to the Daily News.
Some observers, such as Paula Poundstone, would no doubt interpret such impartiality as a moral weakness. "The problem with cats is that they get the exact same look on their face (sic) whether they see a moth or an ax murderer," she once opined.
She is incorrect, however. Unlike most people who rely upon prejudice and hearsay to inform their thinking, cats are far more open-minded in that they evaluate individuals and events on their own merit. Consequently, whatever misdeeds an individual may have perpetrated against someone else is of no concern to them so long as they are treated compassionately.
Perhaps even more illustrative is the transformative effect that cats like Cuffs have on both law enforcers and lawbreakers. As a group, cops are not known for either their compassion or sentimentality but yet Corporal Cuffs nonetheless was able to bring out these qualities in the members of the South Street station house.
A cat named Opie has had a similar effect upon the inmates at Turney Center Industrial Prison and Farm in Only, Tennessee. (See Cat Defender post of November 2, 2006 entitled "Three-Legged, Bobtailed Cat Named Opie Melts the Hearts of Hardened Criminals at Rural Tennessee Prison.")
Being a gregarious cat, Cuffs enjoyed, inter alia, sitting in the window at the station house or on the patrolmen's bikes as well as greeting his adoring public on the bench outside. Unfortunately, it was the latter that proved to be his undoing.
It is difficult to fault the cops' conduct in this case because there was no way that they ever could have anticipated that anyone would have been brazen enough to steal their cat. As for the future, the cops have stated that they simply would like to have Cuffs returned and that they do not intend to press charges against his abductor.
As for Cuffs, the best that can be hoped for at the moment is that he is now in the care of a genuine cat lover who will give him a good home. It is unlikely, however, that any individual or family will be able to lavish the amount of attention on him that he received from the cops and their neighbors.
If he was seized for nefarious purposes, such as medical research or the fur trade, it is probably curtains for the sweet little cat who touched so many lives during his brief stay at the station house.
At last report, his bed, food dish, and toys are still in their usual places so apparently the cops have not given up all hope of seeing him again.
Photo: Philadelphia Daily News.