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Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Friday, August 04, 2017

Mayor Stubbs, 1997-2017: A Melancholic Remembrance, an Appreciation, and a Tearful au Revoir

The Unforgettable Stubbs

"He was a trooper (sic) until the very last day of his life. Meowing at us throughout the day to pet him or to come sit on the bed with him and let him snuggle and purr for hours in our lap (sic)."
-- Stephanie Enders

Even though it cannot be said that his quietus was not altogether unexpected, that has not made the recent death of Mayor Stubbs of Talkeetna any less painful. The only positive thing that can be said about it is that he, apparently, was allowed to live out his brief sojourn upon this earth to the very end and then to die a natural death.

"The night of July 20th, we checked on the cats before bed and Stubbs was snuggled up with Aurora in the bed next to his," Stephanie Enders who, along with Kjetil Andre Spone, owns Nagley's Store and the adjacent West Rib Pub and Grill, announced July 22nd in an online article entitled simply, Mayor Stubbs, 1997-2017. "Stubbs went to bed as usual and before we woke the morning of July 21, he was already in heaven."

Although Enders claims that at the time of his passing he was twenty years and three months old, prior press reports maintain that he turned sixteen on March 7, 2012 and that in turn would have made him twenty-one years and four months old. Regardless of who is doing the arithmetic, he had a relatively long life for a cat. Compared to the longevity enjoyed by humans, however, his limited tenure left him with time for little more than a cup of coffee.

It is not much of a consolation given the enormity of the loss that the cat world has suffered, but from all accounts Stubbs was pain-free and in relatively good health right up until the bitter end. "He was a trooper (sic) until the very last day of his life," Enders continued. "Meowing at us throughout the day to pet him or to come sit on the bed with him and let him snuggle and purr for hours in our lap (sic)."

It also would seem that the love he held in his heart for her, Spone, and their two young girls was fully reciprocated. "Thank you, Stubbs, for coming into our lives for the past thirty-one months; you are (sic) a remarkable cat and we will dearly miss you," is how that she chose to eulogize him. "We loved the time we were allowed to spend with you."

Even though he served as mayor of the tiny hamlet located one-hundred-eighty-two kilometers north of Anchorage at the foot of Mount McKinley for twenty years, no other eulogies have appeared online from any of its nine-hundred or so residents. Even press coverage of his death in the United States has been pretty much limited to the Anchorage area. (See KTVA-TV of Anchorage, July 22, 2017, "Stubbs, Talkeetna's Honorary Cat Mayor Dies" and the Alaska Dispatch News of Anchorage, July 24, 2017, "Stubbs, Talkeetna's Honorary 'Mayor' Cat and Beloved Feline Fixture, Dies at Twenty.")

Although the capitalist media in the United States may be comprised of largely an uncaring, unappreciative, and callous lot of rotters who, to crib from Oscar Wilde, "know the price of everything but the value of nothing," the English press certainly was well aware of Stubbs' intrinsic value and duly remembered his passing. (See the Daily Mail, July 24, 2017, "Stubbs, the Honorary Mayor of Alaska (sic) Town That Held the Role Since He Was a Kitten, Dies Aged Twenty" and The Guardian, July 23, 2017, "Feline Sad: Cat Who Was 'Mayor' of Alaskan Town for Twenty Years Dies.")

The press in Deutschland likewise gave extensive coverage to his death. (See the Süddeutsche Zeitung of München, July 24, 2017, "Katzen-Bürgermeister in Alaska ist tot" and the Berliner Morgenpost, July 25, 2017, "Alaska trauert um Katzen-Bürgermeister.")

In announcing the death of her cat, Enders neglected to make any mention whatsoever about holding a memorial service for him. She likewise omitted any reference as to what was to be done with his remains.

At the very least, Stubbs deserved a proper resting place and a tombstone worthy of a cat of his stature. Hopefully, his remains were not either casually tossed out in the trash or burned to ashes.

Stubbs on the Job at Nagley's

Even though the vast majority of his fans, admirers, and supporters had known him far longer than her, she did not even think so much as twice about uncharitably warning them not to telephone either Nagley's or West Rib Pub and Grill. Instead, she has directed that all condolences be sent in his name to Post Office Box 413, Talkeetna, Alaska 99676.

All post cards received are scheduled to be placed in a scrapbook that will be put on display at the store. A photograph album also is planned and those wishing to contribute to it may do so at info@NagleysStore.com.

As is the case with so many cats, Stubbs came from the humblest of beginnings imaginable. Not only did his original owner not want any part of him and his littermates, but that individual was so desperate to get shed of them that either he or she had resorted to the expedient of doling them out for free to the public from a cardboard box in a Talkeetna parking lot.

This world is chock-full of horror stories about what happens to kittens that are fobbed off to the public under the rubric of "free to a good home," but the orange-colored, part-Manx kitten without much of a tail hit the jackpot when he was adopted on that fateful day back in 1997 by Laurie Stec who at that time owned Nagley's. Either she or someone else shortly thereafter came up with the brilliant idea of having him declared to be the town's mayor and the rest of the story is pretty much history.

He soon thereafter settled into a normal routine of whereby he would spend his days at the store greeting visitors and posing with them for photographs. At times when he was not working he enjoyed dining on Alaskan snow crabs at the store and sipping water laced with catnip from a wine glass at the West Rib Pub and Grill.

Word of his meteoric ascendancy soon spread weit und breit and that in turn brought in the tourists and their godly green. "Oh my gosh, we probably have thirty to forty people a day come in who are tourists wanting to see him," Stec declared back in 2012. "He was just in Alaska Magazine (April 2012 edition), and he's been featured in a few different things."

She accordingly was more than justified in singing his praises to the high heavens. "He's good. Probably the best (mayor) we've had," she continued in 2012. "He doesn't raise our taxes (and) we have no sales tax. He doesn't interfere with business."

He even made a half-hearted run for the presidency in 2012 and, given what has transpired since then, the country most definitely would be far better off today if it had had the bon sens to have voted for him as opposed to the bum who ultimately prevailed in that election as well as the blighter who won last year's contest. (See Cat Defender posts of June 23, 2017 and April 28, 2017 entitled, respectively, "For Eight Long and Tortuous Years, Barack Obama and His Bloodthirsty Henchmen Within the Federal Bureaucracy Waged a Ruthless, No-Holds-Barred War on Cats" and "Trump Not Only Exposes Himself for What He Is but Also Disgraces the Office of the President in the Process by Feting Cat Killers Theodore Anthony Nugent and Kid Rock at the White House.")

Being a politician is not all fun and games, however, and that admonition applies to felines as well as to humans. In Stubbs' case, he came under attack from wildlife advocate Peter Mathiesen and his wife as well as Patti Callen of the Mostly Moose Gift Shop at 13594 East Main Street.

"His biggest political rivals would be other local businesses that would hate that he comes over and takes a nap and leaves fur everywhere. They aren't big fans of him," Skye Farrar, an employee of Nagley's, disclosed in 2012. "We usually say, 'You have to deal with it. He runs the town'." (See Cat Defender post of September 25, 2012 entitled "Talkeetna Has Profited Handsomely from Mayor Stubbs' Enlightened Leadership but the Lure of Higher Office Soon Could Be Beckoning Him to Change His Address.")

In addition to fastidious merchants and cat-hating wildlife advocates, Talkeetna is home to a large canine population and on the night of August 31, 2013 one of them almost put an end not only to Stubbs' tenure as mayor but his life as well. He was on his way to the Wildflower Cafe at 13578 East Main Street, which is only a short one-minute walk from Nagley's, when he was attacked by an unleashed dog and subsequently left for dead by its reprehensible owner.

Stubbs and His Longtime Owner Laurie Stec

An unidentified Good Samaritan discovered him bloodied and dying on the ground and telephoned Stec. She rushed right over but it nonetheless took her some time in order to locate him.

Once she had done so she rushed him to Golden Pond Veterinary Services in Talkeetna where practitioner Jennifer Pironis was able to stanch the hemorrhaging and to stabilize his condition. What followed next was a nightmarish, ninety-six kilometer race against the clock to the Big Lake Susitna Veterinary Hospital in Big Lake. Stubbs' condition was so dire in fact that Pironis brought along with her a jab of sodium pentobarbital just in case it worsened en route.

At the hospital veterinarian Amy Lehman diagnosed him to have suffered a long, deep gash in his side that required twelve stitches to close, a punctured lung, a fractured sternum, an unspecified number of broken ribs, and a bruised hip. The repairs and the insertion of a breathing tube consumed three hours of her time.

It all very well could have ended right then and there for Stubbs if Stec had not insisted that Lehman treat, as opposed to kill, him. "I knew who he was when I got the call and so I knew who was coming, but I was never expecting this kind of circus to arise out of his being here," she said afterwards. "But he's a cat, you know, so for me he's a patient and I'm treating him just like everybody else."

It was touch and go for a while as Stubbs lingered somewhere between life and death for days. By September 5th, however, he was back on his feet again and four days later he was well enough to return home with Stec.

The damage already had been done, however, and he was destined never to be quite the same again. In addition to that, he was confronted with a long and difficult recuperation that included the daily administration of painkillers as well as frequent return visits to Lehman's surgery.

Approximately six weeks later, he announced what his many fans and supporters long had feared. "As you have read I don't think I will return to public life in the same manner as before," he wrote October 18th on his Facebook page. "I had a great run and a very exciting life as mayor but it is time for Talkeetna to find a new mayor."

Every bit as gracious in exiting the political stage as he was when he first walked out on it, Stubbs' only concern was, not for himself, but rather his subjects. "I only hope that I have served them (the residents of Talkeetna) with as much love and respect as you (sic) all have shown me," he continued. "I love you all -- meeow!"

Although the dog's owner was belatedly identified and Stec did file a formal complaint against him with the Animal Control officers at the Matanuska-Susitna Animal Shelter, as far as it is known no action ever was taken against either him or his dog. (See Cat Defender post of October 28, 2013 entitled "Slow to Recuperate from Life-Threatening Injuries Sustained in a Savage Mauling by an Unleashed Dog, Stubbs Announces His Intention to Step Down as Mayor of Talkeetna.")

Although that unquestionably was the worst thing that ever happened to him, it was far from being the only calamity to have befallen him during his lifetime. For example, in 2008 teenage hooligans armed with air guns shot him in the rear.

In 2012, he became soaked in oil when he accidentally tumbled into a fryer at a local restaurant. Luckily for him, the pan was turned off and the oil cold.

Stubbs and Some of the Visible Injuries That a Dog Inflicted Upon Him

Earlier, he unwittingly had climbed aboard a garbage truck and was transported out of town. He nevertheless was able to have kept his wits about him and subsequently jumped off at the first opportunity that presented itself to him. He was not harmed but he did have a long walk back to town.

Stubbs pretty much stayed out of the media's spotlight during 2014 and that in turn served only to intensify the jolt that the cat world received in January of 2015 when Stec not only sold Nagley's and West Rib Pub and Grill to Enders and Spone but, inexplicably, ran out on the cat that she had sheltered and cared for over the course of the past eighteen years. "Really, without having him, the deal would have gone a lot differently," was all that Enders was willing to divulge about what transpired to KTVA-TV of Anchorage on January 14, 2015. (See "Talkeetna Store Gets New Owner; Mayor Stubbs the Cat Sticks Around.") "He's a big part of Talkeetna in general."

It simply defies all logic, morality, and common sense that Stec could have given up custody of Stubbs. Although it is often said that dogs belong to people whereas cats belong to places, the latter are far more malleable and adaptable than they are generally given credit for and Stubbs accordingly easily could have adjusted to a new abode with Stec as his caretaker.

Not a great deal is known about the psychological makeup of cats but it would be absurd not to assume that Stec's desertion of him did not adversely affect him. While she possibly could have stayed on in Talkeetna and therefore occasionally put in brief cameo appearances in his life, that somehow does not seem to have been very likely.

From the tidbits of information to be found online, it would appear that it was solely her decision to have abandoned Stubbs. "We knew Stubbs before he really knew us," Enders pointed out in the online posting announcing his death. "Never did we imagine that the mayor of Talkeetna would become our new pet and best friend."

In spite of Stec's simply outrageous and unconscionable act of betrayal, Enders and her family would appear to have done all right by him. "Just over two and one-half years ago, we purchased Nagley's Store and West Rib Pub and Grill and part of the contract was that Stubbs would stay with the store," she related in her online posting. "We couldn't have been happier. The girls were ecstatic that they finally got a friend that could sleep in their beds and romp around the house with."

Even more importantly, the family's commitment to Stubbs was not limited solely to palaver. Rather, Enders started him on a regimen of regular veterinary visits and gave him special foods, medicines, vitamins, and saline. She even improvised a kitty walk so as to help him getting up and down the stairs at their house.

As 2015 played out, he could still be found at Nagley's but not on a regular basis. Instead, he started spending considerably more time at Enders' house located, it is believed, directly in back of the store.

In 2016, his appearances at Nagley's became even less frequent but he still could be occasionally found at the West Rib Pub and Grill enjoying his customary wine glass filled to the brim with water and catnip. It also was along about then that Enders' daughters took to carrying him across the road to a public park so that he could get some fresh air and exercise.

On May 16th of that same year, a posting on Martin McCullough's Facebook page entitled "Stubbs Mayor Cat," which is to be distinguished from the mayor's own page, declared that he had died. Enders, however, quickly refuted that claim.

A Very Old Stubbs During His Twilight Days

"He's alive and well, and we can't get all of the fake pages off Facebook," she told KTVA-TV on May 16th. (See "Mayor Stubbs Is 'Alive and Well' Despite Facebook Rumors of His Death.") "You post on social media about Stubbs, and within minutes there's thousands of people who have commented or shared or liked. So this kind of thing gets out so fast you can't even screech the brakes enough to stop it."

So, as he had done so many times in the past, Stubbs survived in order to live another day. The false report nevertheless served as a harbinger of what was to come. "He's getting older and inevitably (it) will probably happen someday, (sic) but today is not that day and he is super-fine," Enders summed up.

In preparation for that eventuality, she adopted two kittens, a brother and a sister named Denali and Aurora, in August. Their presence also helped somewhat to bolster Stubbs' flagging energy and spirits.

Following the summer of 2016, he rarely left the house. As a consequence, whenever visitors to Nagley's requested an audience with him the girls, if they were about, would fetch him from home and carry him over for a brief interview and photo opportunity.

Earlier this year he appeared on a couple of television shows and did a handful of interviews but that was about the extent of his public appearances. He visited the store a few times this summer in order to say hello and to snuggle with some of the employees but that, in retrospect, turned out to be his swan song.

Despite Stec's cruel abandonment of him and his many injuries and brushes with disaster, it cannot be said by any stretch of the imagination that he had an unhappy life. Yet at the same time it also is indisputable that Nagley's in particular and Talkeetna in general got considerably more out of the relationship than did Stubbs.

He first of all was a cash cow who helped both Stec and Enders to line their pockets. "Over seventy-five per cent of visitors ask 'Where's the mayor?' or come in with this statement: 'I have an appointment with the mayor'," Enders acknowledged in her online article. "I think we heard those two statements over one-hundred times a day during our first year."

Secondly, he put the tiny Census Designated Place on the map. Now, people all over the world have heard of Talkeetna and that is all attributable to him, his personality, and exploits.

Thirdly, and most importantly, he was a faithful friend and companion to Stec, Enders and her family, and the workers at Nagley's. Talkeetna may very well be all about turning a fast and easy buck but it would be absurd to attempt to place a price tag on the fidelity, class, and loyalty that Stubbs dispensed so freely.

Even though his corpse is barely cold, Enders and her family already have moved on to the next chapter in their commercial lives and now it is Denali, not Stubbs, who is the focus of all their attentions and affections. "Amazingly, Denali has the exact personality as Stubbs. He loves the attention, he's like a little puppy when he's around people," she wrote in the online article. "We couldn't have asked for a better understudy than Denali. He really has followed in Stubbs' paw prints in just about everything."

By contrast, Aurora is said to be shy and standoffish. Whereas she may eventually warm to the public, for the present time it would appear that her role is going to be pretty much limited to serving as her brother's companion, that is unless Enders should elect to get rid of her altogether.

Last Call Has Sounded for Stubbs

By stepping into Stubbs' shoes, Denali is following a time-honored tradition at Nagley's that began in the 1970's with a longhaired gray and white cat named Gemini. She was succeeded in the late 1980's by a kitten named Holly who lived at the store until the early 1990's. For unexplained reasons, she was exiled to a ranch in Bend, Oregon, where she later died in 1999.

She was followed by a white and brown tom named Squeeker who was killed in a fire in 1997. A brown and white Persian named Charlie followed in his stead but he did not fare much better than his predecessor in that he succumbed to a sudden, undisclosed illness in 2004.

Nagley's track record in taking care of its resident felines is therefore underwhelming to say the least. Most glaringly, its getting rid of Holly, the death of Squeeker, and Stec's desertion of Stubbs are black marks against the establishment and its naked exploitation of cats.

Enders and her family accordingly have been presented with a golden opportunity not only to rake in some serious moola but, more importantly, to reverse the uncaring and exploitative policies of their predecessors. With human nature being what it is coupled with the talismanical effect that a love of shekels has been known to have on people, it would be naïve to expect very much in the way of improvement from any of them in that regard.

Looking ahead, the tourists are still going to continue to trek to Talkeetna and that in turn is going to make the cash registers at Nagley's hum. Denali is destined to do a good job as Stubbs' replacement and soon is going to have a following of his own.

It often is said that the dead live on both in their writings as well as in the memories of those whose lives that they have touched. In Stubbs' case, however, he not only never put down his thoughts on paper but even the days of those who were fortunate enough to have known him are likewise numbered.

Things change but time keeps marching on and after a while the petit fait that he even once so much as graced the face of the earth will gradually begin to recede from public consciousness. C'est la vie!

It nevertheless is difficult to get around the stubborn feeling that his life was not all that it could have been if only one of the many individuals who walked in and out of it had bestowed upon him the attentions, love, and appreciation that he so richly merited.  In that light, it would be especially interesting to know if on his last day Enders and her family indulged him in his desperate need for attention or were they too busy chasing shekels to have been bothered with honoring the last wishes of a dying cat?

Cats are cognizant of many things that are totally beyond the grasp of their human counterparts and one of them is death. For instance, it is common practice for some of them that are knocking on death's door to hold out against all odds until their owners return home before dying shortly thereafter. Mother cats likewise can readily recognize when something is deathly wrong with their newborns and accordingly will steadfastly refuse all entreaties to nurse them.

Perhaps most amazing of all, at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, a cat named Oscar is able to predict whenever the Grim Reaper is about to strike with far greater accuracy than any of the highly-paid medical professionals on staff. (See Cat Defender posts of July 30, 2007 and May 27, 2010 entitled, respectively, "A Visit from Oscar Means That the Grim Reaper Cannot Be Far Behind for the Terminally Ill at a Rhode Island Nursing Home" and "When Lovers, Friends, Health, and All Hope Have Vanished, Oscar Is There for Those Who Have No One and Nothing Left.")

Stubbs likewise was far more than an inexpensive, four-legged prop that lured in the tourists and their coveted greenbacks. Au contraire, he was a true individual who carried around inside his beautiful soul far more gold than there is to be found in the pocketbooks of a million tourists. The tragedy therefore lies in the abject failure of all those who knew him to have realized that and now it is much, much too late for them to make amends.

Photos: KTUU-TV of Anchorage (Stubbs up close), Bailey Berg of the Alaska Dispatch News (Stubbs at the store), Jim Carlton of the Wall Street Journal (Stubbs and Stec), Laurie Stec (Stubbs and his injuries), KTVA-TV (Stubbs in his twilight days), and Facebook (Stubbs drinking catnip and water).