Lewis, Ann Arbor's Much Celebrated Garden Shop Cat, Departs This World Under Highly Suspicious Circumstances
|Lewis and His Shadow Watch over the Plants|
"I knew something was wrong today (December 27th) when I walked in and he wasn't lying there."
-- Brian Wolfe
Lewis, the longtime resident feline of Downtown Home and Garden at 210 South Ashley Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan, departed this vale of tears on Boxing Day. It is far from clear, however, if he left on his own accord or was deliberately shoved headfirst into the great void.
"Lewis, the orange tabby store cat at Downtown Home and Garden, has died peacefully at about twenty (sic) years of age," seventy-year-old Mark Hodesh, who up until January 1st owned and operated the store, announced in an untitled article posted at 12:53 p.m., December 26th, on the retailer's Facebook page.
The local rag, The Ann Arbor News, likewise demonstrated that it is every bit as adept as Hodesh in obfuscating the truth when it reported on December 27th that Lewis simply had "passed away." (See "Lewis the Cat Mourned at Ann Arbor Downtown Home and Garden.")
The response to his death from those in Ann Arbor who were fortunate enough to have known the eighteen-year-old tom during the fifteen years that he slaved away for peanuts at Hodesh's store was equally callous and uncaring. Although dozens of them took to Facebook in order to proclaim their abiding love for him, none of them questioned the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death.
"I knew something was wrong today (December 27th) when I walked in and he wasn't lying there (on the bench across from the cash register)," Brian Wolfe of Superior Charter Township, eighteen kilometers east of Ann Arbor, casually remarked to The Ann Arbor News.
There is nothing in the public record to suggest, however, that he treated Lewis's death as anything other than a mild curiosity. That in itself speaks volumes for just how little most humans value the sanctity of feline life. If either Hodesh or one of his employees had died suddenly Wolfe most definitely would have demanded to know the particulars.
"Lewis has regular visitors," Hodesh proclaimed to The Ann Arbor News on August 1, 2011 after his resident feline went AWOL for a week. (See "Ann Arbor Store Downtown Home and Garden Still Searching for Lewis the Cat.") "He means a lot to a lot of customers."
Evidently that was not the case. Much more disturbingly, the events surrounding Lewis's death lead to the likely, although by no means substantiated, conclusion that he was deliberately killed off by Hodesh and a local veterinarian.
First of all, there is not any evidence to indicate that Lewis recently had been ill; au contraire, the mere fact that he weighed a robust fifteen pounds would tend to suggest just the exact opposite. Moreover, since some cats have been known to live to be at least thirty-five-years-old, Lewis at eighteen was not really all that old.
Secondly, if Lewis had died of natural causes, Hodesh likely would have promptly divulged that information to the public. Thirdly, Hodesh's glaring lack of both surprise and grief tends to indicate that he ordered Lewis's death with all the sans souci that he does takeout from a chop suey joint.
|Lewis and Mark Hodesh|
Fourthly, Lewis's death on Boxing Day is a dead giveaway in that all-too-many alleged lovers of the species choose that time in order to abandon, dump at shelters, and kill off their faithful companions. Fifthly, even the timeline of events is suspicious.
For example, on its web site Downtown Home and Garden states that it shuttered its doors at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve and did not reopen them again until December 26th. In spite of that, Hodesh posted a Christmas card on the store's Facebook page at 8:18 a.m. on Christmas Day and once again took pen in hand at 6:53 a.m. on Boxing Day in order to announce that every item in the store would be twenty per cent off throughout the remainder of the year.
While it is conceivable that he could have updated his Facebook page from home, that in no way shines any light upon what Lewis was doing between 3 p.m. Christmas Eve and the morning of December 26th when he allegedly died. In particular, was he left all alone during that period?
Hodesh's version of events simply is not plausible because he has not revealed exactly when Lewis died. If he simply had found him dead when he arrived at the store on December 26th it seems that he would have informed the public of that sad occurrence right from the outset.
Sixthly, December 31st was Hodesh's last day as owner and operator of Downtown Home and Garden and that makes it appear that getting rid of Lewis was one of his final acts as ruler of the roost. That analysis of his motivation is somewhat compromised in that he still owns the building and plans on continuing to toil away at the store in some unspecified capacity.
He also intends to continue operating the adjoining Mark's Carts, a summertime outdoor food court, as well as Bill's Beer Garden, which is open for business evenings in the garden shop's parking lot during both the spring and summer. There accordingly was not any obvious reason why he could not have continued to care for Lewis.
The solution to that conundrum in all likelihood lies with the store's new owner, former employee Kelly Vore, who may not have wanted Lewis around and that constitutes the seventh reason for questioning Hodesh's version of events. "The cat is a legendary part of this business," she acknowledged to The Ann Arbor News in the December 27th article cited supra. "That is a vacancy I wouldn't even begin to try to fill."
It thus could be argued that if Lewis had died unexpectedly and she truly had cared about him, she would have found an immediate replacement for him. After all, that would have been the best way in order to both honor him and to keep his memory alive.
Eightly, Hodesh has not explained what was done with Lewis's remains. Even more outrageously, he did not even provide him with a proper funeral. All of that strongly suggests that his corpse was either burned or tossed out in the trash like yesterday's newspapers.
If there is any validity to the foregoing analysis of events, Hodesh's conduct is not only morally repugnant and revolting, but totally unjustified. "I have plenty of money, I don't need much," he bragged to The Ann Arbor News on October 29th of last year. (See "Downtown Home and Garden Owner Mark Hodesh to Sell Business to Employee.") "I have a Ford Escort, not a BMW."
With that being the case, he did not have even a remotely valid excuse for killing off Lewis. For instance, if he had become ill, Hodesh easily could have afforded to pony up for his veterinary treatment no matter how much it cost.
|Lewis Relaxes after a Hard Day's Work|
That is a far different scenario from the gut-wrenching dilemmas faced every day by impecunious cat owners who are unable to pay the exorbitant fees that veterinarians demand in order to treat their ailing cats. There arguably is not any greater benefit to having money than to be able to use it in order to save the lives of sick cats, family members, and valued friends. Money should only be used for doing good, not evil, and that is a lesson that Hodesh, quite obviously, never has taken to heart throughout his many years upon this earth.
Secondly, with his money and contacts within the community, both personal and professional, it would have been a rather easy matter for him to have placed Lewis in either another home or at a sanctuary. He most definitely did not have any right to prematurely snuff out his precious life.
In all likelihood it never will be known how Lewis spent the first two years of his life. All that has come to light so far is that he showed up one day during the spring of 1999 at the residence of Maureen Grady in Scio Township, eight kilometers to the west of Ann Arbor. He remained with her for six months but never was fully accepted by her four cats and trio of canines.
"He was just fierce. He had his own agenda," she claimed to The Ann Arbor News in the December 27th article cited supra. "He was very aggressive. I realized that he needed a different home."
Either later that year or in early 2000 she fobbed him off on Hodesh and the rest in history. "It was an immediate fit," he told The Ann Arbor News on December 27th. "He ended up being very friendly to people."
"It was a marriage made in heaven," Peter Heydon of the Mosiac Foundation added. "He had the freedom of a big place."
None of those testimonies should be construed, however, to imply either that things could not have been worked out at Grady's residence if she had possessed the prerequisite savoir-faire or that Lewis would not have made a simply splendid companion for some other individual or family. As things eventually turned out, residing at Downtown Home and Garden was far from the idyllic paradise that Heydon claims.
Most notably, Lewis was forced to spend all of his nights as well as holidays when the store was closed all by his lonesome. Also, as his misadventures in 2011 vividly demonstrated, Hodesh irresponsibly placed his life in jeopardy by allowing him to roam without the accompaniment of a chaperon.
Although it would be unfair to maintain that Hodesh nakedly exploited him, Lewis most assuredly deserved a far better life than the one that he was forced to forge for himself as a garden shop cat. It also is clear that a lion's share of the benefits derived from the arrangement accrued to Hodesh and his store rather than to Lewis.
In particular, there can be little doubt that his presence drew countless new customers to the store and that in turn made Hodesh's cash register sing like a hallelujah choir. "We walked in after looking from the outside and (Lewis) was lying right there on the bench," Wolfe added to The Ann Arbor News in the December 27th article cited supra. "It was always nice seeing the cat there."
As all clever retailers and marketers know only too well, the path that leads to the wallets of adults often wends its way through the eyes and hearts of small children and that certainly was the case with Lewis and Hodesh's clientele. "A million kids learned how to pet a cat on his head," store employee Sarah Kaufmann told The Ann Arbor News on December 27th. "People in their twenties bring in their kids and say 'my mom used to come bring me to see this cat.' He was really amazing."
|Lewis Holds Court with His Many Young Admirers|
To his credit, that is a fact that Hodesh readily acknowledges. "He enjoyed a brilliant career here over seventeen (sic) years allowing children to maul him with kisses, and gently taught them when enough is enough," he wrote in the December 26th Facebook article cited supra. "He indulged foolish baby talk from some adults while keeping a knowing, dignified relationship with others."
He additionally sans doute kept the store free of rodents and that saved Hodesh a packet in pest control. All of that and much, much more Lewis freely donated to Hodesh and Downtown Home and Garden in exchange for only tuna, kibble, and water. Try as he may, Hodesh never will be able to find another employee willing to work for so long and hard for so very little in return.
In addition to lounging on the bench across from the till, Lewis will be remembered for snoozing near the radiator during the wintertime and for brightening the evenings of patrons at Bill's Beer Garden as he strolled from table to table. The unidentified North Carolinian who stops by the store each year on his drive up to his summer home in Petoskey, four-hundred-five kilometers north of Ann Arbor, also doubtlessly will be saddened to learn of his demise.
If indeed Hodesh had him killed, Lewis thus has joined the ranks of countless millions of cats before him who have been murdered in cold blood by their owners once their presence was no longer desired. Very few of these helpless victims are known to the world at large but, as the deaths of Lewis and numerous other cats like him have more than amply demonstrated, even worldwide acclaim is not any palliative against the perfidy that lurks like a viper in the diseased souls of most cat owners. (See Cat Defender posts of February 9, 2006, December 7, 2006, May 31, 2007, October 28, 2008, March 12, 2009, October 23, 2012, July 17, 2013, August 27, 2014, and October 18, 2014 entitled, respectively, "Newspaper Cat Named Tripod Is Killed Off by Journalists He Befriended in Vermont," "After Nineteen Years of Service and Companionship, Ingrates at Iowa Library Murder Dewey Readmore Books," "Port Taranaki Kills Off Its World Famous Seafaring Feline, Colin's, at Age Seventeen," "Love and Admired All Over the World, Feline Heroine Scarlett Is Killed Off by Her Owner after She Becomes Ill," "Too Cheap and Lazy to Care for Him During His Final Days, Betty Currie Has Socks Killed Off and His Corpse Burned," "A Supposedly No-Kill Shelter in Marblehead Betrays Sally and Snuffs Out Her Life Instead of Providing Her with a Home and Veterinary Care," "Not Satisfied with Merely Whacking Meiko, Garrison Keillor Struts on Stage in Order to Shed a Bucketful of Crocodile Tears and to Denigrate the Entire Species," "After Traveling for So Many Miles on the Bridport to Charmouth Bus, Dodger's Last Ride Is, Ironically, to the Vet Who Unconscionably Snuffs Out His Precious Life at the Urging of His Derelict Owner," and "Hamish McHamish's Derelict Owner Reenters His Life after Fourteen Years of Abject Neglect only to Have Him Killed Off after He Contracts a Preeminently Treatable Common Cold.")
Given that there are so many pressing political, legal, and moral issues affecting the lives of cats, it is difficult to single out any particular one that is of paramount importance. Nevertheless, the abolition of the odious practice of killing off elderly and ailing cats has to be near the top of the list.
In fact, it is difficult to understand how that the status of all abused cats, especially those that are homeless and preyed upon by vivisectors, ever can be upgraded so long as the guardians of domesticated ones are permitted to utilize with impunity the misnomered expedient of euthanasia as a convenient excuse in order to absolve themselves of their moral and custodial obligations to their faithful companions. To put the matter rather bluntly, their patently immoral behavior is only one step removed from the horrific crimes perpetrated against the species by ornithologists, wildlife biologists, PETA, and vivisectors.
As far as their accomplices in crime are concerned, absolutely nothing can be said in their favor; on the contrary, the entire miserable lot of them not only should be stripped of their licenses to practice veterinary medicine but, like Jack Kevorkian, sent to jail to boot. As things now stand, however, these glorified knackers are not even so much as compelled by law to disclose either their kill rates or the number of impecunious cats that they send to their premature graves each year by categorically refusing to treat them.
It additionally is nothing short of disgraceful that not a single known cat advocacy group is willing to so much as condemn this simply outrageous and morally repugnant practice. The reason for their deafening silence is, quite obviously, the petit fait that they are every bit as guilty as guardians and veterinarians of not only killing off cats that have been entrusted to their care but even their very own companions as well! (See Cat Defender post of January 2, 2013 entitled "Alley Cat Allies Demonstrates Its Utter Contempt for the Sanctity of Life by Unconscionably Killing Off Its Office Cat, Jared.")
"He met me at the door every morning," Hodesh declared to The Ann Arbor News on December 27th. "There will never be another cat like Lewis."
On that last point he is deadly correct but, malheureusement, there will be countless more men and women who think and behave just like him and therein lies the gist of the problem. Tant pis, in time even the memory of how Lewis lived and died will fade from the collective consciousness of those who knew him.
The killing, abuse, and exploitation of cats like him is thus destined to continue unabated. In that respect he has lived and died in vain because mankind has learned absolutely nothing from all that he gave so freely to this world and that makes his death all the more tragic, heartbreaking and, above all, totally unforgivable.