Declared Dead and Prematurely Interred, Gus Gets the Last Laugh for Now but the Next Time Around He May Not Be Quite So Lucky, Especially if His Inattentive Owner Does Not Start Taking Better Care of Him
"I thought I was hallucinating when I saw Gus in the kitchen. I had to pinch myself."
-- Matt Strong
Gus was a victim of the worst kind of mistaken identity imaginable but both he and his owner are eternally grateful that the blunder was one that was easily rectified. The confusion began at around 10:30 a.m. on January 25th when thirty-five-year-old Matt Strong, who represents the ward of Chorlton as a Laborite councilor in Manchester City, left his house and set out on Barlow Moor Road.
"I was walking along the main road outside my house on my way to get my hair cut and there was this woman with what looked like Gus," he later told The Telegraph on that same date. (See "'Well This Is Awkward': Labor Councilor Realizes He Has Buried Someone Else's Cat.") "I just cried: 'Oh my God, that's my cat.' I was hysterical. We both were."
As he was soon to learn, the cat had been mowed down a scant ten yards or so outside of his house and the unidentified woman had compassionately collected it from the street before other motorists could have had another go at it. Her intervention, sadly, came too late however.
"I sat with the cat until its days had ended and it looked exactly like Gus, right down to the bits of fur it had missing from fighting," Strong averred to The Telegraph. "I was absolutely distraught in the morning and clearly convinced that it was Gus who had been run over."
He then took the cat's corpse home and buried it in his garden. After that he took to Twitter in order to first eulogize Gus and then to justifiably excoriate his killer. "And if you drove a silver (Volkswagen) Golf along Barlow Moor Road and didn't bother to stop after hitting him then you really are a scumbag," he tweeted according to the account rendered in The Telegraph.
He next left home once again to, presumably, keep his appointment at the barber shop before returning several hours later. It was then that he received the shock of his life when the three-year-old brown rescue cat, accompanied by his brother Ralph, miraculously turned up for lunch.
"I thought I was hallucinating when I saw Gus in the kitchen," he told The Telegraph. "I had to pinch myself."
Although he was delighted that Gus was still amongst the living, the incident did give Strong pause to bemoan the spontaneity afforded by modern-day forms of communication. In particular, he was forced to return to Twitter in order to alert his followers to this startling, albeit joyous, turn of events.
"Well this is awkward, the cat buried in the garden isn't mine," he tweeted with a red-face. "Looks exactly like him but Gus is alive and well."
Besides being publicly embarrassed by his colossal blunder, the event left Strong duly chastened. "I made an honest mistake," he told The Telegraph. "I'm a bit upset by it all."
Since press reports have failed to divulge the nature of the injuries sustained by the cat, it is difficult to know how that Strong could have made such a glaring mistake. For instance, if the dead cat's head had been severely disfigured that certainly would have extenuated the difficulty of making a positive identification.
If that were not the case, that leads to speculation that Strong is not an attentive caretaker because under such circumstances he should have been capable of recognizing his own cat. Although it is not known how many cats that he owns, guardians of multiple felines are by necessity unable to devote quite as much attention to each of them as owners who only care for one animal and that could have been another factor that contributed to his faux pas.
He additionally could have been too distraught to have thought the matter through clearly. In that respect there cannot be any denying that retrieving and burying the mangled and often bloody corpse of a cat is not only a traumatic but gruesome task as well.
Most individuals who find themselves saddled with such an unpleasant job accordingly only want to get it over and done with as quickly as possible and therefore are unwilling to devote the time and due diligence necessary examining the corpse in order to make a positive identification. The fact that Strong is a busy local politician with a considerable amount on his plate doubtlessly contributed to his error in judgment.
Most inexcusably of all, he may have been guilty of halfway expecting that Gus one day would be run down and killed. That is especially the case considering the volume of speeding motorists that Barlow Moor Road attracts. He therefore took those two factors and combined them with the close proximity of the accident to his house and came up with the most probable, albeit erroneous, conclusion that first occurred to him.
In his defense, he is far from being the only cat owner in recent memory to have done likewise. For example in May of 2013, forty-eight-year-old Karen Jones of Mardol Road in Ashford, Kent, scooped up the lifeless body of a black cat on Beecholme Drive in the Kensington section of Kent that she believed to have belonged to her two-year-old resident feline, Norman.
She based that reasoning upon the observation that the cat not only was the same size and color as Norman but also had the same facial features and length of fur. The fact that it was found only three kilometers from her house cinched the matter as far as she was concerned.
As Strong was destined to later do with the remains of what he believed to have been Gus, Jones took the cat home and buried it in her garden. Imagine then the shock that she received when Norman nonchalantly showed up for breakfast the very next morning!
"I said 'Is that you, Norman?' and he meowed back," she later revealed. "At first I thought he had been resurrected from the dead but he didn't know what all the fuss was about. Then I realized we must have had the wrong cat."
Even then she was unable to completely believe what her eyes and ears were telling her until a quick trip to her garden finally convinced her that Norman had not revived and crawled out of his tomb. (See Cat Defender post of June 12, 2013 entitled "Pronounced Dead, Eulogized, and Then Relegated to the Underworld, Norman Astounds His Guardian by Turning Up Hungry and Grumpy for Breakfast the Very Next Morning.")
Both Jones and Strong are indeed fortunate that Norman and Gus bailed them out by returning home safe and sound. That undoubtedly is not always the case, however, and that raises at least two troubling conundrums.
The first of which concerns the fate of those cats that vanish unbeknownst to their owners under such confusing circumstances. Secondly, by confiscating and burying the corpses of cats that do not belong to them individuals are foreclosing any and all opportunities for their legitimate owners to reclaim their remains and therefore to ever gain any measure of closure.
On the other hand, such behavior is far preferable to allowing them to be either torn apart by scavengers, left to rot in the sun, or collected and disrespectfully disposed of by garbagemen. Doing so also precludes any mischief on the part of dissectors, devil-worshipers, and misguided and ignorant lads such as Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
To his credit, however, Strong did not forget about the anonymous feline mistakenly buried in his garden. Rather, he went to the trouble of exhuming it and taking it to the Ashleigh Veterinary Centre in Chorlton so as to give its owner a chance to reclaim its remains.
"I feel really bad for whoever it belongs to," he told the Manchester Evening News on January 25th. (See "'This Is Awkward': Councilor Accidentally Buries the Wrong Cat.") "I know exactly how they will feel."
Unfortunately, it has not proven possible to ascertain what became of that cat. The only two things known for certain are that its killer is still at large and that the authorities, both the gendarmes and local do-nothing animal protection groups, never so much as bothered to even open an investigation into its senseless killing.
Strong it would appear is a man who cares deeply about Gus and considering how shaken up he was when he thought that he had lost him forever, it would be only logical to assume that he would be willing to take far better care of him henceforth but that has not turned out to be the case. Au contraire, the only proactive measure that he has undertaken to date was to ground him for a few days.
That is totally inexcusable in light of the myriad of dangers that he faces every time that he ventures anywhere near motorists. "It (the killing of the cat) goes to show how fast cars go along Barlow Moor Road," he fully acknowledged to the Manchester Evening News.
He accordingly knows only too well that the dead cat easily could have been Gus. "There was every chance Gus could have been out playing near the road at that time," he theorized to The Telegraph. "There's a cemetery across the road and they (Gus and Ralph) get attracted by the long grass."
If that is indeed the case, a far more prudent course of action would be for him to either cage or put them on leashes and then carry them across the street to the graveyard. He then could set them free to roam for a while provided that he kept a close eye on them.
Following that, he would need to capture and restrain them once again before transporting them back across the street and home. Under no circumstances should he allow them to cross Barlow Moor Road on their own.
As a member of the city council, there is much that he could be doing in order to not only better protect the lives of his own cats but all cats as well in Manchester City. First of all, he could introduce legislation that would significantly reduce the speed limits in all residential neighborhoods throughout the city.
For instance, petition drives to do likewise in sections of Sheffield in South Yorkshire and the ward of Deighton in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, are currently under consideration. (See the Sheffield Telegraph, April 17, 2012, "'Speeding Motorist Killed Our Pet Cat,' Says Sheffield Man" and The Huddersfield Daily Examiner, February 11, 2013, "Deighton Sisters' Anti-Speeding Campaign After Kitten's Tragic Death.")
The installation of "Cat Crossing" signs is another idea worth exploring. (See Cat Defender posts of January 26, 2007 and November 27, 2006 entitled, respectfully, "Cat Activists Succeed in Getting Connecticut Town to Erect a Cat Crossing Sign" and "After Surviving on Its Own for at Least Two Million Years, Rare Japanese Wildcat Faces Its Toughest Battle Yet.")
The only real solution, however, would be for the world at large to do what it should have done long ago and that would be to enact an across-the-board ban on the public use of all automobiles by private individuals. The petrol that is required in order to power them is the cause of simply too many wars, environmental degradation, and pollution as to any longer make them a sustainable option; buses, trains, and street cars are a far better solution.
Trumping all of those concerns, the vast majority of motorists no longer have any regard whatsoever for the lives and safety of cats, other animals, pedestrians, and bicyclists and taking away their lethal killing machines is the only conceivable way that innocent lives ever can be spared. If they were in any way worthy of continuing to enjoy the convenience and freedom afforded by passenger vehicles, they at the very least would be willing to obey the rules of the road but that quite obviously is not the case and, tant pis, the thoroughly worthless and murderous law enforcement community, a tool no less of entrenched economic interests itself, is not about to force them to do so in a million years.
As far as Gus is concerned, the only hope that he has for a long life rests with Strong quickly coming to his senses and taking far better care of him before it is tragically too late. If not, the only purpose that the events of January 25th will have served was to have acted as a dress rehearsal for Gus's eventual death and burial and next time around it most definitely will not be another case of mistaken identity.
Photos: the London Metro.