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Cat Defender

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Lovable Freddie Puts Tiny Wisconsin Village on the Map but His Affection and Good Works Are Unappreciated

"We don't have a mayor. We're in a presidential system. Our mayor is Freddie. Freddie the cat."
-- Jaymie Kunkel

An adult orange and white tom named Freddie has risen from the ranks of a down-and-out vagabond to become the unofficial mayor of the tiny Wisconsin village of Sharon, located near the Illinois line. (See photo of him above crossing the perilous street.)

No one seems to know where he came from; he simply showed up at Village Hall one day three or four winters ago and has been a fixture there ever since. "I would invite him in for a little while but felt bad for him because he didn't have a home and was always hungry and cold," deputy clerk and treasurer Jaymie Kunkel told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in a video on January 11th. (See "Love Affair with the Four-Legged Mayor.")

Kunkel began feeding Freddie and allowing him to sleep at Village Hall and soon be became a favorite with the ratepayers who regularly visit her office. "It's kind of warming to them to come into a place that they're paying their taxes or different things that people aren't always real happy to do and when they see him they are, 'Oh, you're the cat'!" Kunkel added. "He spreads cheer."

Given the fact that Wisconsin is infamous for its brutally cold and snowy winters, it is a good bet that he either was abandoned by one of the village's residents or dumped there by an out-of-town motorist because a homeless cat would not survive for long in such a forbidding landscape. (See Cat Defender posts of May 8, 2009 and February 20, 2010 entitled, respectively, "Domino, Feral and All Alone, Faces an Uncertain Future in Wisconsin Following an Unplanned Trip to Arizona" and "Abandoned and Left to Die in the Cold and Snow of Wisconsin, Domino Was the Most Memorable Cat of 2009.")

Freddie became even more renown once he began to make the rounds of local restaurants and, especially, the post office. "He's pretty much a novelty in town. If he is crossing the street and there are cars coming they tend to slow down for him," local postmaster Scott Vinke told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in the video cited supra. "They know he's got the right-of-way. So this is pretty much his town."

Vinke's sentiments are a breath of fresh air especially in light of how shabbily postal officials in Notasulga, Alabama, treated Sammy back in 2009. (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.")

It was not long until local residents began to refer to Freddie as the village's de facto mayor. "We don't have a mayor. We're in a presidential system," Kunkel explained. "Our mayor is Freddie. Freddie the cat."

Freddie thus has joined such other famous felines as Bootsie in El Cerrito, Caloo in Carlstadt, Tripod in Natchez, City Kitty in Naples, and Olivia in Modesto who have found not only homes but fame as well in local government. (See Cat Defender posts of March 20, 2007, September 22, 2008, November 28, 2008, March 25, 2010, and January 29, 2011 entitled, respectively, "El Cerrito's Bureaucrats Distinguish Themselves by Showing Compassion for a Waif Known as Bootsie," "New Jersey at Long Last Has at Least One Honest Public Servant and Her Name is Caloo," "Natchez Politicians Pause to Remember Tripod on the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of His Death," "Mayor of Naples Fears the Worst Now That City Kitty Has Not Been Seen in Several Weeks," and "After Scrimping By in a Polluted Parking Lot for Eleven Years, Olivia Is Ready for a Loving and Permanent Home.")

All local politicians and bureaucrats that are willing to show compassion for homeless cats are to be saluted. Their behavior stands in stark contrast to national politicians who use cats and dogs as political props in order to further their careers and then cruelly get rid of them as soon as they are no longer useful to them. (See Cat Defender posts of December 24, 2008 and March 12, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Former First Cat Socks Is Gravely Ill with Cancer and Other Assorted Maladies" and "Too Cheap and Lazy to Care for Him During His Final Days, Betty Currie Has Socks Killed Off and His Corpse Burned.")

Despite the numerous positive aspects of Freddie's association with Village Hall, his tenure there has not been all a bed of roses. In April of last year, for example, he was trapped by either a cat-hater or Animal Control and handed over to a nearby shelter.

He languished there for four months until an alert local resident spotted his familiar face on an online adoption service and contacted Kunkel who went and secured his release. Both he and Kunkel were indeed fortunate that he was not summarily executed by shelter staff during the interim.

Even more disturbing is the fact that neither Kunkel nor anyone else in local government cared enough about Freddie's welfare to even check with local shelters once he disappeared. As anyone who ever has lost a cat knows only too well, shelters and private exterminators are the primary suspects in such cases.

Furthermore, there is not anything in the record to indicate that Kunkel bothered to either put up any Lost Cat posters or to comb the neighborhood for Freddie. Apparently, she was too uncaring to even leisurely search online for him.

That she could feed and shelter him for three years and yet not feel a smidgen of either moral or emotional attachment to him boggles the mind. Thankfully for him, apparently not all residents of Sharon are quite so callous.

"He's just loving. He wants attention," Kunkel cooed in the video cited supra. It is just too bad that she was unable to reciprocate in his hour of greatest need.

Small communities like Sharon have their quaint charm but that does not mean that their inhabitants are necessarily any more compassionate and responsible than their big city neighbors when it comes to humanely treating cats. They very well may be adept at acting out the roles that they have chosen for themselves but beneath the surface they can be every bit as selfish and heartless as any hustler on Wall Street.

Considering Kunkel's glaring lack of concern for his well-being, it perhaps would be best if a loving home could be secured for Freddie. He has put Sharon on the map with his exploits but he deserves far better than he so far has received in return.

If they should decide to keep him, officials in Sharon need to realize that proper guardianship of a cat involves considerably more than merely providing food and shelter. First and foremost amongst these additional obligations is the moral imperative to safeguard at all times a cat's fragile life. (See Cat Defender post of January 30, 2010 entitled "Casper Is Run Down and Killed by a Hit-and-Run Driver while Crossing the Street in Order to Get to the Bus Stop.")

Photo: Seer Press News.