"While this story about an animal's tremendous will to live is extraordinary, the practice of euthanizing animals in a gas chamber is all too ordinary. It is very disturbing to realize how many other animals have survived the gas chamber, only to be gassed again or, worse, placed in a plastic bag alive and left to suffocate in a cold cooler."
-- Community Animal Welfare Society
Cats never have cared much for notoriety but in spite of that many of them were catapulted by both events and circumstances into the limelight during 2011. Although many of their stories were indeed heartbreaking, it was, as always, a real pleasure to have been able to share a tiny bit of their lives even if it was only from afar.
As usual, abandonment issues were prominent. In particular, a tiny kitten named Blizzard was left all alone in an Oklahoma snowstorm while another one, Chabot-Matrix, found himself clinging for dear life to an ice floe in a stream in Maine.
A castaway later dubbed the Unsinkable Molly Brown somehow managed to make her way to Governors Island from parts unknown while Olivia continued to persevere in a polluted parking lot in Modesto. Meanwhile, in tiny Sharon, Wisconsin, Freddie was crowned as the town's de facto
mayor after previously having been forced to divide his time between the street, Village Hall, and a local shelter.
Like all years before it, 2011 produced its share of cats who were horribly victimized by unspeakable acts of animal cruelty. For example, Big Bob of Indianapolis was not only shot by a gunman but also run down and left for dead by a hit-and-run motorist.
In Choctaw, Oklahoma, someone divested Deuce of his rear legs and part of his tail while in West Hartford, Connecticut, a tiny kitten dubbed Lucky had her mouth glued shut by an assailant.
In a forbidding park in Toronto, Half Mask continued to astound the world with her uncanny ability to successfully elude a pack of ravenous coyotes intent upon having her for supper while in Moncton, New Brunswick, Churchill survived being badly mangled in a kill trap. At the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Gardens on Staten Island, long-term resident Gracie was able, with a little help from her friends, to fend off a sinister plot to get rid of her.
The Grim Reaper was his usual busy self in 2011. In Atlantic City, Snowball finally succumbed to the inevitable after somehow surviving for two decades at the infamous Underwood Hotel. In Half Moon Bay, California, handsome Marvin was betrayed and murdered in cold blood by a no-good, rotten journalist and a shelter.
In rural Wisconsin, Almond took up residence in a tree house built into a maple and refused to leave. In Bridport, Dorset, Dodger was introduced to the world as another of England's famous felines who venture on to mass transit by themselves.
In London, 10 Downing Street welcomed Larry as its new resident feline but it did not take long before both Fleet Street and the prime minister's staff had out their long knives for him. The most amazing cat of the year, however, was Andrea who survived two gassings at a mass extermination camp in Utah.
As famous as all of these cats eventually became, they nonetheless represent considerably less than one per cent
of all the remarkable felines in the world. Sadly, time and labor constraints do not make it even remotely possible to do justice to so much as a small fraction of them.
In a sense, it is seemingly always the best stories that, for one reason or another, go unwritten; consequently, a comprehensive understanding of the species remains every bit as elusive as attempting to interpret one of their smiles.
For previous Cat of the Year
stories, see Cat Defender posts of December 21, 2006, December 25, 2007, January 25, 2009, February 20, 2010, and February 23, 2011 entitled, respectively, "Heroes and Victims: Sixteen Special Cats to Remember from the Year 2006," "Survivors and Adventurers: Fifteen Wonderful Cats to Remember from the Year 2007," "Sparkles, Who Was Forced to Pay the Ultimate Price for Belonging to the World's Most Abused Species, Tops the List to the Most Memorable Cats of 2008," "Abandoned and Left to Die in the Cold and Snow of Wisconsin, Domino Was the Most Memorable Cat of 2009,"
and "Frosty, Who Nearly Froze and Starved to Death in an Uncaring Capitalist's Frozen Food Warehouse, Stands Out as the Most Remarkable Cat of 2010."
1.) Andrea. Beautiful Stray Somehow Survives Multiple Gassings at a Utah Shelter.
Because her story is so utterly amazing and tragic at the same time there simply is not any conceivable way that a black and white female known as Andrea ever could be denied the title of Cat of the Year
Her life and death ordeal began in September when she was abducted off the mean streets of West Valley City, Utah, and taken to the local shelter. She was unjustly incarcerated there for thirty days before officials initialed her death warrant.
In mid-October, she was placed in the West Valley City Animal Shelter's (WVCAS) carbon monoxide gas chamber and administered a lethal dose of gas. When that failed to kill her, she was subjected to a second exposure of the deadly chemical.
Convinced that she finally was dead, her executioner sealed her up in a plastic trash bag and deposited her in a cooler. When the mass murderer returned an hour later in order to deposit the corpse of a dog that he had exterminated he heard a meow coming from inside one of the trash bags. Tearing open the bag, he found Andrea terrified but still very much alive.
Although it is not uncommon for shelters to either wring the necks or to drown animals that survive gassing attempts, WVCAS decided to give up the battle after its second attempt on Andrea's life. "It was just one of those things where they (shelter personnel) thought this cat obviously wants to live," is how Aaron Crim of WVCAS insouciantly summed up the situation. "Let's give it a chance to find a permanent home."
The fact that it took WVCAS two gassings plus suffocation and hypothermic attempts on her life to arrive at that conclusion is nearly as dumbfounding as Andrea's survival. From all of that it would appear that WVCAS specializes in inflicting as much pain as possible on the animals that it kills and only relents when it runs out of either patience or money.
Although Andrea initially experienced difficulties walking and using the litter box, it is believed that she did not suffer any permanent damage. Nevertheless, it is always conceivable that neurological, liver, and kidney maladies could manifest themselves later in her life. Also, it is not known what effect the gassings may have on her longevity and ability to reproduce, that is, if she has not already been sterilized.
She was handed over to the Community Animal Welfare Society (CAWS) in Clearfield which later placed her in foster care with Janita Coombs in Syracuse. "She's pretty tough, obviously," Coombs marveled. "She's definitely got some will to live."
On December 11th, Andrea finally secured the permanent home that she desperately has needed and deserved for so long when she was adopted by a local family. She now has joined a household that already has one resident female plus two toms. Hopefully, everything will work out for her and she will be able to put the past behind her and go forward into a long and happy life.
Instead of igniting a meaningful national debate on the immorality of killing cats, dogs, and other animals, the multiple attempts made on Andrea's life quickly degenerated into an esoteric discussion of extermination methodology in which the efficacy of gas chambers took center stage. "We've never had an instance like this since we started using this method so it does work," Crim boasted shortly thereafter. "It's actually very humane and it's very quick. This is just an anomaly."
Confidential records obtained by Coombs and CAWS under the Government Records Access Management Act (GRAMA) quickly demonstrated that Crim is not only a diabolical mass murderer but a barefaced liar to boot. Specifically, the records show that between February of 2010 and October of 2011 WVCAS's gas chamber failed on at least nine occasions.
Presumably, those animals, like Andrea, were gassed a second time. It also is quite possible that some of them survived only to later die of either suffocation or hypothermia.
"While this story about an animal's tremendous will to live is extraordinary, the practice of euthanizing animals in a gas chamber is all too ordinary," CAWS stated on its web site. "It is very disturbing to realize how many other animals have survived the gas chamber, only to be gassed again or, worse, placed in a plastic bag alive and left to suffocate in a cold cooler."
In spite of the justifiably negative publicity that it has received, WVCAS defiantly remains committed to gassing at least fifty-one per cent
of all cats and dogs that wind up at its extermination camp. "This issue has been examined closely multiple times since the shelter's construction," city manager Wayne Pyle said dismissively in January. "We're comfortable that the policy in place is a good one."
Despite the myriad of lies disseminated by Pyle, Crim, and other adherents of gassing, there is absolutely nothing even remotely humane about this method. The terrified screams of the condemned animals, the fights and wrestling matches that break out during these en masse
executions of up to two dozen animals at a time, the blood left behind on the floor, and the scratches on the walls all attest to the horrible suffering that they are forced to endure.
Death seldom is quick in that asphyxiation can take up to half an hour. As a consequence, convulsions, seizures, and excessive drooling are common.
In spite of the diabolical nature of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide gas chambers, there is absolutely nothing either humane or foolproof about injections of sodium pentobarbital either. More to the point, the entire debate over extermination methodology misses the point in that it is morally wrong for man to kill any animal.
Nevertheless, as long as Animal Control, shelters, cops, veterinarians, vivisectors, ornithologists, and wildlife biologists are allowed to commit their heinous crimes with impunity the killing is never going to stop. (See Cat Defender posts of November 12, 2011 and February 7, 2012 entitled, respectively, "The Multiple Attempts Made Upon Andrea's Life Graphically Demonstrate the Urgent Need for an Immediate Ban on the Killing of All Shelter Animals" and "Long Suffering Andrea Finally Secures a Permanent Home after Incredibly Surviving Quadruple Attempts Made on Her Life by an Unrepentant Shelter.")
2.) Half Mask. Brave Female Is Under Siege from a Pack of Coyotes.
For more than a decade, a colony of twenty-five or so cats lived happily along the rocky cliffs of Bluffers Park high atop Lake Ontario in Toronto's Scarborough District. The winters usually were brutally cold and snowy but since their dedicated caretakers provided them with winterized shelters, veterinary care, and plenty of food and water they prospered in spite of the staggering odds against them.
"(I never have seen) a colony as plump, healthy, well-groomed and happy as the Bluffers Park gang," columnist Jack Lakey of the Toronto Star
proclaimed in 2009.
The cats' good fortune ran out in February of 2010 when a pack of ravenous coyotes took up residence in the park and promptly devoured two of them. That forced their caretakers into staging all-night vigils in order to trap and remove them to safety.
"The days of the cat colony are over, one way or another," volunteer Robert Brydges stated the undeniable. "Those that we don't find homes for will be eaten."
Armed with sticks, flashlights, and whistles in order to keep the coyotes at bay, Brydges and his associates were able to successfully trap and remove twenty of the cats. Two of them immediately found homes while the remainder ended up in basements while they awaited adoption.
"All of these cats, although labeled feral, are tame and would make beautiful pets if given a chance," Brydges said at that time.
A courageous and free-spirited female known as Half Mask proved to be too wily for any of the trappers, however, and as a result has elected to stay on in the park by her lonesome for the past two years. Although she is still cared for on a daily basis by her many admirers, none of them can reportedly get within ten feet of her.
Even though she has been able to avoid the coyotes so far, there can be no denying that her continued well-being rests upon a hair that is even thinner than the one which supported the sword that Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, dangled above Damocles's head. She recently was befriended by a male named Tommy who visits her during the daytime and that, hopefully, makes her lonely existence a little more bearable.
Since it does not appear that her caretakers are going to be able to bring her in from the cold, the best that her many supporters around the world can do is to hope for the best. The only conceivable alternative for Brydges and his colleagues would be to provide her with around-the-clock protection but that, no matter how worthy an objective, does not appear to be in the cards.
In addition to the ominous threat posed by the coyotes, Toronto Animal Services and other ailurophobes have previously targeted cats living in Bluffers Park and could do so again in the future. A few years back, for example, someone baited the coyotes into attacking the cats by stacking roast beef, cold cuts, frankfurters, and dog food near their winterized shelters.
Should Half Mask ultimately succumb to the inevitable it would be, as Lakey so poignantly put it, "a sorry end for a group of cats that have lived peacefully in the park for many years and bothered nobody, except a few feline haters." (See Cat Defender post of September 15, 2011 entitled "Ravenous Coyotes, Cat-Haters, and Old Man Winter All Want Her Dead, Buried, and Gone but Brave Little Half Mask Is Defying All the Odds.")
3.) Molly Brown. Intrepid Castaway Makes Landfall on Governors Island.
Since cats are not permitted on Governors Island, it came as quite a surprise to security guards on April 17th when, in the course of making their rounds, they discovered Molly Brown near Soissons dock at the north end of the remote enclave. "We don't know where she came from," Leslie Koch of the Trust for Governors Island (TGI), which administer all but twenty-two acres of the island, said shortly thereafter.
Most amazing of all, Molly came through her hair-raising ordeal unscathed. "Her fur was a little matted," Koch continued. "There was salt in her fur. There was a piece of seaweed around her foot."
Based upon those tidbits of evidence, it has been theorized that she was swept into Buttermilk Channel from either Manhattan, Brooklyn Heights, or New Jersey by the torrential rains that pelted the area that weekend. She then either swam or hooked a ride on a piece of flotsam to the island.
"Exactly how far a cat can swim is hard to say," Manhattan veterinarian Arnold Plotnick later said. "I suppose if your life depended upon it...Cats are pretty athletic. It's not totally incredulous. Cats can survive amazing things."
Nevertheless, there are several considerably more plausible explanations. For example, she could have been smuggled aboard one of the ferries that operate between Manhattan and the island and later abandoned.
She also could have arrived as a stowaway in one of the delivery trucks that use the ferries in order to resupply the island. It even is conceivable that she could have been tossed overboard by a boater sailing near the island.
Regardless of how she arrived on the forbidden island, it did not take Molly long in order to make her presence felt in a big way. "She likes to be petted. She visits all the offices," Koch related. "She has a very sweet personality. She's a total joy to be around."
Appropriately enough, she was named in honor of the heroine of the Titanic,
the Unsinkable Maggie "Molly" Tobin Brown, who lived between 1867 and 1932. "Molly Brown is a great name," Koch's colleague, Elizabeth Rapuano, commented. "It captures the spirit of adventure, bravery and perseverance that she has brought to the island."
Every bit as perplexing as her abrupt arrival on the island, is her current whereabouts. On June 28th the Trust stated that she had been adopted by one of the ferrymen only to turn around on July 21st and contradict that assertion by reporting on its web site that she was still living on the island.
Hopefully, TGI will come clean one of these days and inform the public as to Molly's whereabouts but as for how she arrived on the island in the first place, that is a secret that she likely will take with her to her grave. (See Cat Defender post of July 25, 2011 entitled "The Unsinkable Molly Brown Rides the Waves of Outrageous Fortune to a Safe Harbor on Governors Island but It Is Unclear What Has Happened to Her.")
4.) Marvin. Sixteen-Year-Old Tom Is Betrayed by a Journalist and Killed.
For most of his short and tragic life, sixteen-year-old Marvin eked out a meager living in a parking lot on Stone Pine Road in Half Moon Bay, California. It was hard life to be sure but individuals occasionally left food for him and he had a companion, Mocha, for the last decade of his existence.
The chances are good that this handsome black, reddish-brown, and white tom still would be alive today if he had suffered the bad luck to have crossed paths with journalist and author Jane Ganahl back in 2010. Although there is not anything in press reports to suggest that she ever lifted so much as a finger in order to relieve his plight, such as by providing him with food, water, shelter, and veterinary care, she unilaterally decided sometime last summer that he should not be allowed to go on living for another minute.
In particular, she claimed that he was emaciated, his face shrunken, his fur in tatters, and that he had a mangled ear. From all of that she deduced that he was too old to hunt.
Not having the guts to commit the foul deed herself, she hightailed it to France for a holiday in August and entrusted the killing to the ever obliging Ken White of the Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo and a woman identified only as Barbara. Consequently, they made quick work of Marvin by trapping him and killing him a few hours later.
"Others knew him, I did not," White later wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle.
"I was just there to help see him off, something I've done more times than I can count."
Those certainly are revealing admissions, especially coming as they do from a confessed mass murderer. White, quite obviously, does not recognize any discernible difference between snuffing out innocent lives and seeing off someone at the nearest railway yard. He additionally is such a megalomaniac that he firmly believes that his victims owe him a debt of gratitude.
Ganahl, who is co-founder of San Francisco's annual literary (or what passes for literature) festival known as Litquake, is every bit as morally warped. "Animals have so much to teach us about acceptance and forgiveness," she wrote in the Half Moon Bay Review.
"I'd like to think I helped make Marvin's life a bit more joyful in the end, but the truth is that is just how he made mine."
That certainly is the truth in that she got a newspaper column out of her brief association with him and has announced plans for a tome
about him and Mocha. As for Marvin, the only thing that he received in return was to be robbed of his life.
To top it all off, both Ganahl and White had the unmitigated gall to invoke religion in order to excuse their crime. (See Cat Defender post of September 28, 2011 entitled "Marvin Is Betrayed, Abducted, and Murdered by a Journalist and a Shelter Who Preposterously Maintain That They Were Doing Him a Favor.")
5.) Big Bob. Russian Blue Survives Attacks by a Gunman and a Motorist.
If there ever was a poster cat for feline abuse, Big Bob would be it. After all the abuse and neglect that he suffered during his first four years on this earth it is truly amazing that he is still alive.
Despite being a prized Russian Blue, Big Bob either was abandoned or became lost and as a consequence wound up eking out out an existence in a colony on the north side of Indianapolis that is maintained by Indyferal. His first brush with misfortune came when he was divested of his tail. That was followed shortly thereafter by his contracting of FIV.
All of that was merely an apéritif
when compared to the evil that befell him in December of 2010. That was when he was first shot in the thigh by an assailant armed with a gun. As if that were not misery enough for him to endure, he shortly thereafter was deliberately run down and left for dead by a hit-and-run motorist.
One of his caregivers noticed that he was limping and brought him to the Humane Society of Indianapolis (HSI) on either December 11th or 12th where one of his legs was amputated. It is unclear from press reports if the veterinarians were able to remove the shrapnel from his thigh.
In spite of all the hell that he has been put through, the good news is that his future is looking considerably brighter. "Once he's all healed up, he's going to be just like a normal kitty," Kristi Herr, HSI's veterinarian who treated him, later said. "He's just going to look a little different as he moves."
In stark contrast to what many of her unscrupulous and disreputable colleagues within the veterinary medical profession think and do, Herr appears to be an exception to the rule. "We believe once they get here the animals have value and we're going to do everything that we can to take care of the ones we have," she pledged.
HSI shelter director Christine Jeschke has been impressed by Big Bob's stoicism and forgiving nature. "He's purring, he's content. He is seeking attention and he deserves to be cranky and mean after all of that," she marveled. "He's so grateful to be here and alive."
Not too many cat stories have happy endings but this one breaks the mold in that Big Bob not only eventually recovered from his injuries but has been adopted by a family who is said to simply adore him. (See Cat Defender post of January 5, 2011 entitled "Gunned Down by an Assassin and Then Mowed Down by a Hit-and-Run Driver, Big Bob Loses a Leg but Survives and Now Is Looking for a Home.")
6.) Churchill. Homeless Tom Is Nearly Cut in Half by a Kill Trap.
The indiscriminate use of kill traps continues to take a heavy toll on cats. That was the gruesome and almost fatal lesson foisted upon an eight to twelve month old marmalade-colored tom named Churchill from Moncton in New Brunswick.
During the first week of December, the homeless kitten stumbled into what is believed to have been a body-gripper trap. Snared right behind his front legs, the trap sliced through the muscle right down to his abdominal cavity.
Despite the unbearable pain and extensive blood loss, Churchill somehow was able to extricate himself from the device. Then, to talk about going from the frying pan into the fire, he unwittingly stumbled into another trap.
This time around it was a humane one belonging to the Moncton chapter of Cat Rescue Maritimes (CA-R-MA) who, as luck would have it, was out trapping cats due to the unseasonably warm weather. Discovered by volunteer Madi Legere, Churchill was rushed to Vet Care Pet Hospital in nearby Riverview where Miro Drmac removed a significant amount of fur and dead muscle, sutured the wound shut, and placed him on antibiotics.
Perhaps most amazing of all, none of Churchill's vital organs were damaged and he is expected to make a complete recovery. "He's just as exceptional fighter," Drmac later commented. "He's a sweet cat."
Nonetheless, it was an awfully close call. "It would have been a matter of days (before he died)," Drmac added. "It was really bad."
Legere could not have agreed more with that dire assessment of Churchill's injuries. "Never an injury like that," she related. "The cat was almost cut in two."
Following treatment, Churchill was transferred to the residence of CA-R-MA's co-director Marlah Hoganson where he was expected to have remained until spring. The game plan then called for him to be offered to the public. In the unlikely event that no takers can be found for this beautiful cat, Hoganson plans on keeping him on as one of her many barn cats. (See Cat Defender post of February 1, 2012 entitled "Sliced Nearly in Half by a Kill Trap, Churchill Unwittingly Stumbles into a Live Trap and That Faux Pas Ultimately Saves His Life.")
7.) Almond. Wisconsin Cat Lives in a Tree House that Comes with Private Catering.
|Almond and Ron Venden|
A gray and white cat named Almond has taken up residence in a maple tree in retired carpenter Ron Venden's yard on Highway X in rural Green County, Wisconsin. Most amazing of all, he refuses to come down.
Born in the tree in June of 2010, Almond for some unexplained reason was left behind when his mother and littermates departed. Since then he appears to have developed some sort of phobia because Venden insists that he never so much as once has left the security of his arboreal home.
As soon as he learned of Almond's misfortune, Venden took it upon himself to supply all of his needs. Using a twelve-foot ladder, he installed an automatic kibble dispenser and twice a day he treats Almond to a bowl of salami, meatloaf, and fresh milk.
Since winters in Wisconsin are nothing short of brutal, he cut a hole in the hollow of the tree and fitted in an all-weather straw bed. In order to keep the elements at bay, he also fashioned a combination tin and tarpaper roof above the bed and feeding station.
Best of all as far as Almond is concerned, Venden is totally committed to his long-term welfare. "I'm not going to stop (feeding him), no. If I'm gone there will be someone here to take care of the cat," he promised. "I'm not going to leave her (sic).
I want to see how long it stays here. (There is considerable confusion as to Almond's gender.)
By taking this waif underneath his wing Venden has unwittingly left himself vulnerable to a certain amount of derision from ailurophobes. "I kind of enjoy it (taking care of Almond)," he confided. "The neighbors think I'm goofy."
Aware of Almond's need for exercise, Venden has attempted on several occasions to coax him out of the tree house without success. "I tried to bring it down a couple of times and it starts scratching," he related.
All of that likely changed as soon as Almond became sexually mature and started looking around for the companionship of a member of the opposite sex. (See Cat Defender post of February 5, 2011 entitled "Left Stranded by His Mother, Almond Finds a Home in the Hollow of a Maple Tree That Comes with Private Catering.")
8.) Olivia. Beautiful Cat Has Toughed It Out in a Parking Lot for Thirteen Years.
Olivia arrived in the parking lot that separates the Stanislaus County Men's Jail from Stanislaus County Superior Court in downtown Modesto in 1999 and has been a fixture there ever since. For the first five years of her tenure she was cared for by the current district attorney of Stanislaus County, Birgit Fladager, who shot to fame in 2004 with her successful prosecution of convicted murderer Scott Peterson.
When Fladager's success in the courtroom took her away from Modesto for a while, law clerks Kathy Fortune, Nancy Phillips, and others took over caring for Olivia. Since her culinary desires reportedly are limited to Meow Mix Original
, that is far from being a complicated.task.
Nevertheless, her precious life is in constant peril from, inter alia,
motorists, deadly auto emissions, and ailurophobes. Plus, winters in Modesto are rather cold while summers are blazing hot. Due to the city's totally inadequate storm drainage system, street flooding is another concern.
She also is getting on and therefore desperately needs a permanent home and topnotch veterinary care. Tragically, it does not look like anyone in Modesto is the least bit interested in providing this very special cat with a loving home.
The logical choice to adopt her is Fladager. "She still recognizes my car when I stop by some weekends to check on her and she comes running," she confessed last year. Nevertheless, even she has not expressed any desire to provide her old friend with a home. (See Cat Defender post of January 29, 2011 entitled "After Scrimping By in a Polluted Parking Lot for Eleven Years, Olivia Is Ready for a Loving and Permanent Home.")
9.) Freddie. Former Stray Is Now the Town's de facto Mayor.
In an American success story that rivals anything Horatio Alger ever had to offer, an orange and white former stray named Freddie has made quite a name for himself in the tiny village of Sharon, Wisconsin. "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," his benefactress, deputy town clerk and treasurer Jaymie Kunkel, related last year.
In addition to feeding him, she also allows him to sleep and hang out at Village Hall and in return his presence has boosted the morale of not only the employees but those who have business there as well. "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 confided. "He spreads cheer. He's just loving. He wants attention."
He has become so popular in fact that Kunkel and others now refer to him as the town'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."
His four-year tenure in Sharon has not always been a bed of roses, however. For instance, in April of 2010 he was trapped by an unidentified party and as a result wound up spending the next four months on death row at a local shelter. He likely would have died there if a local resident had not recognized his photograph on an online adoption service and in turn contacted Kunkel who bailed him out of jail.
Motorists are another deadly hazard that he faces every day. "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," according to postmaster Scott Vinke. "They know he's got the right-of-way. So this is pretty much his town." (See Cat Defender post of February 1, 2011 entitled "Lovable Freddie Puts Tiny Wisconsin Village on the Map but His Affection and Good Works Are Unappreciated.")
10.) Gracie. Long-Term Resident Weathers an Attack from the Snug Harbor Cultural Center.
As far as it is known, Gracie has lived her entire seventeen years on the grounds of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Gardens on Staten Island. Sterilized, vaccinated, fed, and watered by local volunteers, she stays out of sight most of the time and wisely avoids people.
Her stellar conduct has not proven to be sufficient, however, in order to keep her on the good side of the virulent cat-haters who operate the cultural mecca. For example, early last year an unidentified employee flooded her sleeping quarters underneath the stairs of Building G in an effort to drown her. That incident was followed by the theft of her food and water bowls.
Last summer, Snug Harbor finally took off the gloves in an all-out push to get rid of Gracie once and for all time. "We would like to make an appeal to the no-kill animal rescue and adoption organizations to help Gracie find a loving home, rather than leaving her in the unprotected outdoors," the organization's head honcho, Lynn Kelly, declared on July 21st.
There even was talk that Kelly was so desperate to get shed of Gracie that she was planning on having her trapped and handed over to the knackers at Animal Care and Control. The cat's supporters rallied to her cause and an online petition demanding that she be allowed to remain in the only home that she ever has known collected more than six-hundred signatures in four days.
That petition along with all the negative, albeit richly deserved, publicity that Snug Harbor engendered was sufficient, at least for the time being, in order to stay Kelly's machine gun hand. "I have confirmation that Gracie will be allowed to stay at Snug Harbor," Lila Levey of the Staten Island Council for Animal Welfare (SICAW) proudly announced July 31st on the organization's Facebook page. "Please know that Gracie is being closely monitored and any change will not be acceptable and we'll be sure to let you all know."
That certainly came as welcome news to Diane Figur of nearby Randall Manor who helps to feed Gracie. "She is like an icon there. Think of all the children and people that have passed her by; there really is something special about that cat," she said.
The leadership of SICAW is in total agreement with those sentiments. "She is a much-loved golden gal, and will enjoy her little porch because we gave her a voice when she so desperately needed one," the organization stated in the aftermath of the epic battle.
Nevertheless, Gracie's life remains in jeopardy because she is living in a perilous environment where she is not wanted. Even more worrisome, the Snug Harbor Cultural Center is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington which hired and protected serial cat abuser, killer, and poisoner Nico Dauphiné.
The latest word from SICAW is that Gracie came through the winter in pretty good shape but she has lost weight and is having difficulties using her rear legs. In spite of that, she is said to be eating and purring.
Although any decision to uproot an elderly cat never should be undertaken lightly, it nevertheless is a shame that none of Gracie's supporters is willing to provide her with a secure and loving home. That is all the more paramount now that she needs to be placed on a special diet and under the care of a compassionate and skilled veterinarian.
On the other hand, it is perhaps just as well that she remain where she is considering the eagerness of rescue groups, veterinarians, and individuals to kill off elderly cats. Still, it is disturbing to contemplate that she is destined to die without ever knowing how good it feels to stretch out in front of a roaring fireplace on a cold winter's night, the pleasing taste of salmon accompanied by a saucer of milk, the softness of a warm lap, and the tender caresses of a guardian who adores and loves her with all of his heart. (See Cat Defender post of August 11, 2011 entitled "Gracie's Life Is Placed in Grave Danger after the Snug Harbor Cultural Center Attempts to Drown Her and Steals Her Food Bowls.")
11.) Dodger. Adventurous Cat Rides the Bus by His Lonesome.
The English dearly love their peripatetic cats and the latest in a long line of them to ride mass transit by themselves is a fifteen-year-old orange and white male known as Dodger. Named in honor of the Artful Dodger from out of the pages of Charles Dickens' novel, Oliver Twist
, he makes ten-mile roundtrips between his home on West Street in Bridport to Charmouth, both in Dorset, aboard First Bus. He also occasionally has been spotted taking excursions along the Jurassic Coast aboard the number fifty-three bus.
"We moved here nineteen months ago and our house backs on to the bus station," his guardian, Fee James, explained last December. "He is an old boy and is very friendly. Sometimes he just sits in the middle of the road and waits for the bus to turn up before he gets on."
The bus station's siren call likely is the sandwiches and other edible tidbits that are left behind by commuters. The attraction of the buses is a little bit more complicated.
Although the warm laps of obliging commuters and the tins of tuna fed him by the drivers are sans doute
thoroughly appreciated, he also may suffer from Wanderlust
. It also is conceivable that he is lonesome and seeking attention that is denied to him at home.
"He comes home and sleeps at the end of my bed and spends the rest of the day at the bus station," James readily admits. "He's absolutely fine."
Nevertheless, there can be no denying that James is taking an awful chance in allowing Dodger to roam the busy streets. Back in 2010, for example, another famous cat who liked to ride the buses, Casper, was killed by a hit-and-run motorist while crossing the street to the bus stop in nearby Plymouth.
In addition to cat-hating motorists, Dodger easily could be either poisoned or sickened while scrounging around for his next meal. It also would be rather easy for him to either get lost or to be stolen.
The only positive thing that he has going for himself is that First Bus has an impressive record of being compassionate toward cats. "The drivers have been asked not to feed it because we recognize that cat has an owner and we do not want to discourage it from returning home for food and shelter," a spokesman for the company said. "But in principle we do not have a problem with it being around the station."
The company also is remarkably forgiving when it comes to Dodger's persistent neglect of the farebox. "Given this cat is elderly we suspect it would be eligible for free travel, perhaps a bus puss, if such a thing existed," the spokesman added tongue in cheek.
A far more sensible approach would be for James to take Dodger to the bus station and put him on the bus and to be there in order to collect him when he returns home. During the interim his safety would be the responsibility of First Bus. If she somehow could be prevailed upon to do a far better job of feeding and entertaining him at home, that might perhaps put a damper on his perilous roaming.
Cats are entitled to their freedom but, considering the myriad of dangers that they face, caution needs to be exercised as well. (See Cat Defender post of January 25, 2012 entitled "The Innocence of Lambs: Unaware of the Dangers That Threaten His Very Existence, Dodger Charms Commuters on the Bridport to Charmouth Line.")
12.) Snowball. The Doyenne of Atlantic City's Boardwalk Cats Dies at Age Twenty.
It was a sad day for all cat-lovers in Atlantic City when Snowball died in August. Affectionately known as Grandmom to some, the gray and white female had lived beneath the pines at the gambling resort's infamous Underwood Hotel for two decades.
"When it was her time to pass, she went back to her original colony and curled up in one of the houses there," Amanda Casazza of Alley Cat Allies (ACA) announced in the charity's September newsletter.
Not a great deal is known about her other than that she early on carved out a reputation for herself as being a difficult cat to trap. Otherwise, she could be spotted either strolling down the pines near the Taj Mahal Casino or sleeping on the beach during the warm summer months.
Although ACA's dedicated volunteers made certain that she always had plenty of food, water, and a shelter to sleep in during the wintertime, none of that obviates the fact that the Underwood is a dangerous place for cats. Flooding from storms and high tides, fires, the loud, nauseating music pumped out twenty-four hours a day by the gambling dens, dredging on the beach, and the replacement of planking on the Boardwalk all combined to make Snowball's existence far from ideal.
She also was forced to share her quarters with Atlantic City's large homeless contingent as well as with murderers, drunks, dope addicts, fornicators, and other undesirables. Considering all that she was forced to put up with, it is truly amazing that she persevered for so long.
"Grandmom's nearly twenty-year life at the Boardwalk proves that feral cats can live long, healthy lives outdoors and that there is nothing humane or necessary about killing them in shelters," is how ACA eulogized her. "While she will be deeply missed, Grandmom's long life continues to inspire us to advocate for policies and programs like the Boardwalk Cat Project nationwide, humane programs that allow feral cats to live out their lives in the outdoor homes they love."
In a dump that is world renown for crooks, hustlers, gangsters, and bums, Snowball was perhaps its only truly genuine article. The city therefore is all the poorer with her now gone. (See Cat Defender post of December 10, 2011 entitled "Snowball Succumbs to the Inevitable after Toughing It Out for Two Decades at Atlantic City's Dangerous Underwood Hotel.")
13.) Larry. 10 Downing Street's New Cat Is Facing Unstinting Criticism.
Rescued from the rough and tumble streets of London in January of 2011 by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Larry arrived with much fanfare at 10 Downing Street on February 16th. Malheuresement
, it has all been down hill ever since for the handsome brown and white sterilized tom.
Instead of giving him time in order to adjust to both his new digs and the demands that come with being First Cat of the realm, Prime Minister David Cameron demonstrated his gross ignorance and callousness by immediately throwing him to the wolves that howl on Fleet Street. No surprisingly, when ITV news reporter Lucy Manning attempted to force him into posing for her he retaliated by scratching her arm.
In June, a peeler stationed outside the most famous black door in the world was photographed abusing Larry by kicking him in the rear end. That was followed by a torrent of totally unjustified whining from members of Cameron's staff that Larry had scratched them after they idiotically had sat down on top of him.
The most stinging and lasting criticism leveled against him pertains to his alleged lack of progress in getting the rodent infestation that plagues the prime minister's residence under control. In fact, some members of the irresponsible press have gone so far as to accuse him of sleeping on the job.
"I'm a big Larry fan," Cameron came to his defense by declaring in April of last year. "We have a big mouse infestation in Downing Street and Larry has caught some mice."
The lively, confident, and social cat with a strong predatory drive also has received a vote of confidence from Battersea. "I can definitely see Larry holding his own," the rescue group's Kristy Walker predicted upon his arrival.
Nevertheless, getting the mice under control is a big job that extends far beyond Downing Street and even to the Palace of Westminster, where both houses of Parliament meet. London is, after all, not only an old city but a large one as well so there always is plenty of food for the mice to eat. None of that in any way precludes the possibility that the politicians simply are wasteful and have sloppy table manners.
Despite his public espousal of support, Cameron in December banished Larry from the private living quarters of his newly-refurbished flat.That totally uncalled for act has provoked sharp criticism from Labor MP Kerry McCarthy.
"Poor Larry is being treated like some servant from Downton Abbey
(a television series)," he told the Daily Mail
on December 28th. (See "The One Who Hasn't Got the Cream: Larry the Downing Street Cat Banned from Cameron's New Apartment.")
"It is shocking that after all the publicity he is not even allowed to set paw inside the prime minister's flat."
That is not even half of the story! If press reports are to be believed, the filthy rich Cameron is so cheap that he steadfastly refuses to pay for Larry's food and veterinary care.
That in turn has forced members of his staff to foot the bill for Larry's upkeep. Adding insult to injury, a public fundraiser had to be held for him on September 7th and Angels of Shaftesbury Avenue has pledged to donate a certain percentage of the proceeds from the rental of its feline costumes to his care.
Even if Larry somehow should be able to retain Cameron's patronage, he faces an uncertain future because the prime minister's coalition government could fall apart anytime between now and the next round of scheduled national elections in 2015. Should that come to pass, Larry is likely to lose both his home and guardian.
With so much trouble and controversy swirling all about him, it is not surprising that Larry has turned to Maisy, who lives with Mark Wasil-ewski in nearby St. James Park, for comfort. "The two appear to be content with each other's company, sometimes enjoying meals together," a spokeswoman for the Royal Parks revealed last year. "An occasional mouse has been left on the doorstep, perhaps as a thank you."
Therein lies a clue as to Larry's alleged lack of productivity at home. That is to say, Wasil-ewski's gain might very well be coming at the expense of 10 Downing Street.
On October 13th, James Robinson published The Larry Diaries: Downing Street -- the First 100 Days
which, sans doute
, is destined to become the first of many tomes
devoted to chronicling the life and times of the most famous cat in the world. (See Cat Defender posts of July 21, 2011 and November 28, 2011 entitled, respectively, "Larry Faces Many Challenges and Dangers in His New Rôle as 10 Downing Street's Resident Feline" and "Larry Is Persevering as Best He Can Despite Being Constantly Maligned by Both Fleet Street and the Prime Minister's Duplicitous Staff.")
14.) Deuce. Oklahoma Cat Loses Both Rear Legs and Part of His Tail but Lives.
On August 15th, a group of children at a trailer park located in the 13500 block of Southeast Twenty-Ninth Street in Choctaw, Oklahoma, found a black and white male cat named Deuce with both of his rear legs and part of his tail missing. They contacted the Central Oklahoma City Humane Society which in turn brought him to Quail Creek Veterinary Clinic in Oklahoma City for treatment.
Thanks to the emergency veterinary care that he received, he was back up and balancing on his front legs within forty-eight hours. "He seemed to have figured it out. He's compensating much better than we ever thought he would," veterinarian Beth Ruby said afterwards. "He's kind of a motivator out here. We figured if he can do it anybody can."
While examining Deuce, Ruby made an ever more startling discovery. Specifically, it appears that he had suffered his horrific injuries four to six weeks before he was discovered by the youngsters.
It accordingly is nothing short of amazing that he did not die immediately from the pain and trauma. In addition to those concerns, he easily could have succumbed to either an infection or predation.
On top of all of that, there was the persistent problem of securing food, water, and shelter from the blistering Oklahoma sun. He also had to somehow summon both the strength and will just to even drag around his badly injured rear torso.
"He's a total miracle," Ruby added. "To think a cat could survive an injury to that degree and then be able to live out in the environment without any kind of food or protection or any kind of health care for four to six weeks."
Although it is suspected that Deuce was the victim of a heinous act of animal cruelty, no arrests have been made in this case. It also is conceivable that he was deliberately run down by a farmer operating a combine.
The important thing, however, is that he survived. "I think it definitely pulls on your heartstrings," Ruby admitted. "I'm proud of him, I'm very proud of him. I think he's a major survivor."
He later was adopted by an unidentified volunteer with the Central Oklahoma Humane Society and is said to have adapted as well as can be expected to his disability although he initially did experience some difficulties using the litter box and getting along with the other cats in his new home. Artificial limbs were considered but rejected owing to his dislike of having anything attached to his stumps.
Even without them he is able to get on and off of furniture and to climb a cat tree. (See Cat Defender post of September 6, 2011 entitled "Deuce Is Divested of Both His Rear Legs and Part of His Tail but Somehow Manages to Survive on His Own for More Than a Month.")¹
15.) Chabot-Matrix. Abandoned Kitten Is Rescued from a Stream by Hardhats.
On December 30, 2010, tiny Chabot-Matrix found himself marooned on an ice floe in the Pennesseewassee Stream just off Main Street in Norway, Maine. More than likely he had been cruelly and heartlessly dumped there by his guardian sometime after Christmas Day.
Being at about the end of his rope, the black and white kitten was pacing up and down and crying piteously for help when he was spotted by crane operator Paul Champagne of Chabot Construction Company. "I looked over and said, 'Do I see a cat?' We've to to save that cat!" Champagne later recalled thinking to himself.
Luckily, his boss, Tom Kelsey, agreed. "Just get him!" he ordered his crew.
At first the hardworking men considered using Champagne's crane in order to mount a rescue, but ultimately they elected to have John Schnopps wade out into the frigid water and bring Chabot-Matrix safely to shore.
Although the kitten, who amazingly was unharmed, wanted to remain with his rescuers, he ultimately was adopted by Chris Ryan who owns a beauty parlor at 426 Main Street. He now has joined two other kittens and a beagle who share her home.
His unusual moniker combines the name of the construction company with that of a certain hair product that Ryan uses in her business. (See Cat Defender post of March 25, 2011 entitled "Compassionate Construction Workers Interrupt Their Busy Day in Order to Rescue Chabot-Matrix from a Stream in Maine.")
16.) Blizzard. Tiny Kitten Survives Being Abandoned in a Snowstorm.
On February 1, 2011, Natasha Schroeder was motoring down Pawnee Street in Cleveland, Oklahoma, when she spotted two-month-old Blizzard buried in eight inches of snow. Meowing piteously, he was near death due to the cumulative effects of exposure and starvation. Plus, his tiny paws were cracked and bleeding and he had sustained an unspecified injury to one of his rear legs.
"It was shaking uncontrollably," Schroeder later recalled. "He could barely hold his head up."
Without hesitation, she scooped him up and wrapped him in a blanket before rushing him to Pound Pals. Upon arrival, he was wrapped in a towel and placed in a carrier.
Unfortunately, it has not been possible to determine what happened to him after that and the monster who so cruelly abandoned him is still at large. (See Cat Defender post of March 25, 2011 entitled "Compassionate Construction Workers Interrupt Their Busy Day in Order to Rescue Chabot-Matrix from a Stream in Maine.")
17.) Lucky. Kitten Survives Having Her Mouth Glued Shut.
The diabolical lengths that some individuals are prepared to go in order to kill cats and, especially, kittens continues to be an education in and of itself. For example, over last year's long Fourth of July weekend an unknown assailant glued shut the mouth of a nine-week-old kitten named Lucky in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Unable to either eat or drink for an undetermined period of time, the tiny kitten was so emaciated that it weighed less than two pounds and had a swollen eye to boot. She surely would not have been long for this world if her plight had not been discovered by an unidentified Good Samaritan who removed the glue and took her to Mary's Kitty Korner in nearby Granby.
"She (the Good Samaritan) was able, with a little bit of warm water and a towel...to pry it open gently," Lisa Shackett of the rescue group later disclosed. "And I think she was the one that really saved Lucky's life, because if she wasn't able to do that, who knows how long she would have lasted out there."
After being treated, Lucky was placed in foster care for a while before eventually being adopted. Her assailant never was apprehended. (See Cat Defender post of September 10, 2011 entitled "Lucky Is Saved from Starvation by a Kindhearted Woman after Her Mouth Is Glued Shut by an Assailant in West Hartford.")
¹Google has removed this post from the cache on the right but it still can be accessed by entering its title into most any search engine.
Photos: CAWS (Andrea), Scarborough Bluffs Feral Cats on Facebook (Half Mask), Trust for Governors Island (Molly Brown), Half Moon Bay Review (Marvin), Reed Parker of WIBC Radio (Big Bob), CA-R-MA (Churchill), Gina Kittner of the Wisconsin State Journal (Almond and Venden), Debbie Nada of The Modesto Bee (Olivia), Seer Press News (Freddie), Jay Somma-Hammel of The Staten Island Advance (Gracie), BNPS and the Daily Mail (Dodger), ACA (Snowball), BBC (Larry), KFOR-TV (Deuce), Chris Ryan (Chabot-Matrix), Natasha Schroeder (Blizzard), and, Cathleen E. Gonyer of Mary's Kitty Korner (Lucky).