[The names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.]
My building. With my bike.
People who follow my scribbling know I live in a senior citizen’s building near downtown Seattle. It was built in the 1980’s to house low-income, old people. Some are not real old – they’re around age 55 — some are in their late 80’s. We had some 90 year olds, but they died. (I’m 66 — today. Ask me in a week; I’ll be 75.) A lot of us acquired some sort of condition which caused us to retire early. In fact, that’s my story. I have glaucoma. — Hey you! Get your eyes checked. That’s an order.
We have a few chronic alcoholics in the place; we definitely have some crazy people in here. And some mean ones. I’ll say hello to everyone; but I avoid getting into conversations with most of my neighbors. Through experience, I’ve found I do better when I just hole up in my unit, where I enjoy my art, my jazz music collection, my guitar, my writing, and especially, the company of a cat.
That would be my five year old Katgrrrl. She’s friendly to me; funny, interesting to watch…. All that and more. Yeah, I’m attached to her; she makes life in this little senior pad worth living. I got her at a cat shelter when she was around six months old. She is the third cat I’ve busted out of a shelter over the last twenty years.
Katgrrrl likes to watch the various and sundry birds and animals that come to our window for visits. You may have read my July 2015 story, “My Inner City Backyard Nature Preserve”….
The view from my window.
Well, here’s the deal. We used to have a visitor whom I have not written about. Until now. I’ve held off on writing this story, because I don’t wanna get anyone in trouble. Including, of course, me. See, I helped someone maybe break the law, in order to do the right thing. I helped someone carry out a senior citizen cat caper. I don’t know many people who would say we did the wrong thing; but there may be some. But this cat was abandoned and clinging to life. And now, it has a home. You have to weigh things in life. Help one, hurt the other….
I’m gonna ask you a favor. If you read this story, I want you to promise you will keep your mouth shut. I’m trusting you with this info.
So, this poor, skinny, (literally) flea-bitten cat, with the most dazzling blue eyes you ever saw, showed up at my apartment window almost two years ago, in the early fall of 2013. And, it proceeded to sit or lie down outside my apartment window, covered with dirt, twigs and leaves, for a year, in every possible kind of weather: rain, snow, hail, freezing cold, scorching heat.
Yeah. I do have a soft spot in my heart for animals. Especially ones in dire straits. I can relate. Katgrrrl and I wouldn’t be living indoors myself, excepting for the “safety net”. So, I made fast friends with this cat. Right away, I saw that it was tame, and that it had a mellow, gentle way about it. It wasn’t feral; it was simply being forced to live as if it were feral. – What a thing for someone to do to a cat!
Yeah, I fascinate her….
There was a hole in my window screen which a raccoon had made one night, trying to get at Katgrrrl. It didn’t get Katgrrrl, ‘cause I slammed the window shut ASAP! But it left a hole behind where it had clawed the screen. The hole was big enough to where I could fit cat treats through it. I developed a habit of feeding the poor, filthy, lost, blue-eyed cat some treats, just trying to keep it alive. And let me tell you: it would eat as many as I would give it. It would start purring, and it would make a funny little sound, as if to show its appreciation. I never heard it let out with a big, robust meow, or growl, or any of the kind of sounds Katgrrrl makes. It just made very quiet, little mews.
After eating as many cat treats as it could coax me to give up, the kitty would position its emaciated, dusty little body next to the screen, in an attempt to get petted. Well, I couldn’t do much. I could stick one finger through the hole, to tickle and scratch it a little. That was about it. And when I did that, I would usually tear up. The cat would purr louder and louder, and I would tear up more. Mainly out of anger.
This went on for months, day in, day out. I knew I needed to save the cat’s life. I just didn’t know how. — I saw it drink water once. You know how it managed to do that? It licked leaves on a bush. Yeah.
The patio bench where I spent many bittersweet times with the abandoned cat.
There’s a back door to our building that spills out onto a little patio no one but me uses. There’s a pathway leading from the patio; if you walk eastward on the path, you’ll eventually wind up at my unit’s windows. I went out back on many occasions, trying to get the cat to come to me. While he (we’re talkin’ about a boy cat here) would come right up to me when there was a window screen separating us, he was real shy about doing so in the open. He kept a lot of ground between us.
It took months, but, by talking to it quietly, and by tossing cat treats to it, I finally got the little guy to get comfy with me. Once he knew it was safe to be near me, he would lay down beside me for hours out on the patio. I could pet him all I wanted — he loved to be petted.
The actual cat, folks.
One time, he looked right into my soul with those haunting blue eyes, and said, telepathically, “Listen, Old Man. You’re all I’ve got. Why won’t you give me a home? I need you. I’m gonna die out here”. [Damn. I am crying as I write this. This is very hard to think back on.] — Well, I told him I would find him a home.
Months went by; summer came and went, then fall; then winter. And it was a cold winter. In February of 2014, the kitty showed up at my window, and I was dumbfounded to see that someone had shaved its fur off, right down to the skin, and then turned it back outside. Its hair had been real matted (which is way-painful for a cat). — Of course it was matted. No one was taking care of it. But when I saw its fur had been shaved, I realized the cat must have an “owner”. Someone who was supposed to be taking care of it. And they were doing the worst possible job. With its fur gone, it was so easy to see how underweight the little critter was. It was, literally, skin and bones.
I called our local animal control agency, the Seattle Animal Shelter, to report this abuse. The woman I talked to basically told me to mind my own business. She said the fact that the cat had been shaved meant that someone was taking care of it. I said, “Yeah, well, I don’t think shaving it in the wintertime, and making it live outside can be called taking care of it”. The woman told me there was nothing she could do. There was no leash law for cats.
At this point, I realized I was going to have to take drastic action. I went crazy trying to figure out what…. I already had my Katgrrrl, and she doesn’t like other cats. Also, one cat per unit is the Seattle Affordable Housing limit. – I even had to get a special “cat waiver”. I had to get my doc to sign a piece of paper saying that Katgrrrl is my “service animal”; otherwise SAH was gonna make me get rid of her! Over my dead body, as the living say….
The dream catcher Alice made for me.
Well, God was watching, I think. A sweet woman named Alice moved into our building. She is a very spiritual human being. She’s a Native American woman who makes dream catchers. Her Social Security retirement is about the lowest I’ve ever heard of. She works very hard to make do. — I realized Alice was someone I could be myself with. Someone I could maybe become friends with. We started spending time, visiting in the building’s community room. We had long talks. During one of these sessions, Alice let on that she was a major cat person. She said she had rescued many cats. Having never been in her unit, I asked her if she presently had a cat. Well, she didn’t. I said, “Alice, you’re who I’ve been looking for. You want a real good cat?”
Over the next few weeks, Alice and I met often in the community room and conversed about the cat. I shared everything about the cat’s situation. We decided we would catch it, then Alice would take it into her unit, and give it a home. I let her know about the cat waiver, and told her she’d need a cat license (another SAH requirement). Alice said she would gladly do that and more. We decided to take action as soon as humanly possible.
Our community room.
The very next time I saw the cat outside my window, I called Alice and asked her to meet me on the back patio. She did; I called the cat, and he came running up to us. Alice took one look at the cat, and pretty much fell for it. — Those beguiling blue eyes. — And he went right up to her to get petted. We sat with him for a few minutes, visiting with him, petting him, talking to him. – But then, something spooked the little fellow, and he ran off toward the trees. — He’s a cat….
My unit is located by those two beautiful pines.
A few days after our first attempt, I was out on the patio, and here he came. I called Alice, and she met us on the patio again. Alice tried to scoop up the kitty, but he got skittish with her and walked away. But then, he came over to me, and I just bent down and picked him up. He didn’t fight at all. He just lay in my arms, purring. I asked, “Alice, do you realize we’re about to maybe break the law?” She just held the patio door open, and said, “Let’s get up to my place, proto!” And we did.
Credit: United States Postal Service
We managed to get the critter into Alice’s without being spotted. I remember sitting in her little apartment, watching the cat, who had stretched himself out on the floor. I said, while gazing down at her brand new, furry housemate, “Gosh, maybe you oughtta call him Frank Sinatra, or Old Blue Eyes. I have never, ever seen such blue eyes.” Alice laughed, and said, “That’s it! Frankie. Frankie it will be.”
I went back to my apartment, with a huge feeling of relief inside of me. But it was mixed with worry. What if someone really did “own” the cat, and what if they came looking for it? I knew we needed to keep the whole thing quiet. I knew we’d regret it if we shared our news with anyone. — However, Alice accidentally let our secret slip out when she happened to find herself in the elevator with one of the meanest people in the building: the dreaded Judy James. (More about this, later.)
I visited with Alice several times over the next couple of weeks. I could see that Frankie the Cat was a very grateful cat. You could see a tremendous difference in him. The forlorn, hopeless look was gone from his eyes, replaced by a twinkle. When I set Frankie on my lap, he would lay there for a half-hour and insist that I pet him.
Alice said Frankie was sleeping in her bedroom every night. At first, he’d been pretty sick. He slept like he had never slept before. He drank water like there was no tomorrow, and sometimes he threw up after eating. But then, he wasn’t used to getting enough to eat or drink, for a very long time….
Doney Animal Clinic.
Alice happens to be a volunteer at Doney Animal Clinic, a low-income person’s pet clinic in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. The next time the clinic was open (they only have the money to be open about two days a month), Alice took Frankie in for an exam. Her friend, the veterinarian, said Frankie was twenty pounds underweight, because it turns out, he is a Maine Coon, and they get huge. But he was able to assure Alice that Frankie had no serious illness, outside of the fact that someone had almost starved him to death. The vet went on to say that Frankie would probably be OK, now that he was getting the food, water, shelter, and love he had been desperately craving and needing for so long.
Doney vet, treating a cat.
After giving him a few vaccine injections, the vet put Frankie back into Alice’s arms, told her to bring him back in a month, and wished them both well.
Let this stock photo represent Judy James.
So, one afternoon, a few weeks after we carried out our senior citizen cat caper, I heard a knock at my door. I’m a private person. Sometimes, I just try to get real quiet, and I don’t go to the door when someone knocks. But this time, I got off the couch and went to the door. I opened it, and damn: it was mean old Judy James, standing there, waving a piece of paper in my face. I did not want to see Judy. She is a real – well, I was not raised to use the b-word to describe a woman, and I will not make an exception here. But, she has a loud mouth. She needs to be in charge at all times. She throws her weight around.
The actual sign and actual cat.
Judy quit waving the paper around, and held it in front of my eyes. It had tape on its edges, and looked like it had maybe been torn from a telephone pole. On it were the words I didn’t want to see, but I saw them anyway, written illiterately: “Are Cat Is Mising”. And then there were two photos of a cat. I didn’t have my specs on, so I couldn’t see the cat very well. But I can add. You know, like two and two…. Judy said, “We’re going up to Alice’s right now, and we’re gonna have a meeting”. So, we took the noisy old elevator up to the next floor.
Judy rapped on Alice’s door, we waited, it opened. There was Alice, with Frankie in her arms. Judy said, “Let us in, Alice, we need to talk”. “What’s this all about?”, Alice asked. Judy just walked in. So Alice motioned to me to come on in, too. I mean, nobody would want to be alone with Judy.
Alice invited us to sit on her old, worn couch, which was adorned with a faded but beautiful star quilt. She sat back in her ancient rocker, with Frankie on her lap. Then she asked again, “What’s this about?” Judy handed Alice the wrinkled-up piece of paper, and said, “I found this about half a block from here, on a pole. I think it’s that cat”, while pointing at Frankie. Alice stared at the piece of paper, looked at the small, color photos on the paper which showed a sickly-looking cat in a basket. And she said, “No, that’s not Frankie. No way.” She handed me the paper, and asked me what I thought. I squinted, held the paper about three inches from my face, looked at the photos, and I gave my opinion: I said I was afraid that it looked quite a bit like Frankie. Those blue eyes and all…. Alice looked pretty sad for a minute. Then, she started to shake a little, and to sweat a little, from her forehead.
And then, Alice and I both freaked. We couldn’t believe someone could actually own this cat. There’s no way anyone would have a cat, and treat it like this. Alice asked Judy what her plans were. Judy replied, “Well, I think, unless you can give me a good reason not to, I’m gonna call the number on the paper, and tell the people that I know where their cat is”. Well, right away, before Alice could even formulate an answer, I said to Judy, “You know, I watched that cat sit three feet from my window for a year, in every kind of weather you can think of. I had to feed it cat treats through a hole in my screen. I saw it try to get a drink of water by licking leaves on a bush. It sat out there and looked at me and Katgrrrl for a year, begging to be let in.” I told Judy about that February day, when the temperature was eighteen degrees outside, when it showed up, shaved almost bald. I asked her if she would call that proper cat care. Well, Judy allowed that maybe that didn’t sound like the best care in the world. Alice exclaimed, “It’s animal abuse! I’m keeping this cat, and I don’t care what anyone says. I don’t care if the police come. No one is taking it from me.”
Judy said she’d think things over, and call another meeting in a few days. Well, we agreed, because we were not about to piss her off. And subsequently, we had another meeting. I am very glad to say that Alice and I talked Judy into letting us handle the matter. She came around to believing our stories of how Frankie was an abused little cat. But Judy ordered Alice to place an anonymous phone call to the people and tell them she had their cat, that it was having regular visits to the vet, that it was happy, and loved. Alice agreed to do that. (Alice later told me that she didn’t really call them….)
After our meeting, I went around the neighborhood and took down two more signs I saw on poles; I wadded them up and threw them away. After that one attempt, the “owners” put up no more signs.
I have to admit to being a rather nervous old guy. Always have been. I got that from my Daddy. But I was extra nervous for the next few days, weeks, and months after Alice and I pulled the cat caper. But Judy got kicked out of the building, and moved away from here. That helped ease my mind. – Well, it did. I mean, I hope she does OK. Just somewhere else. Judy is a survivor. Judy’s not a little cat.
As the weeks and months went by, I started feeling more and more like we got away with it. And whenever I ran into Alice, she would tell me how well Frankie was doing. Then, I didn’t see Alice or Frankie for about six months, because I kind of went back into my hermit mode, hiding out in my apartment even more than usual. Not sure why….
Frankie, all better.
However, in May, I visited Alice and Frankie in their abode. And, Frankie had fur, just like a normal kitty! – It had all grown back. His claws were trimmed; his beautiful blue eyes were bright. He was not plump, but — plumper. Alice said he plays a lot. He loves to sit on the back of the couch and watch the birds out the window (just like Katgrrrl). — I was worried that he wouldn’t remember me. But I think he did. He said his little “mew” to me, and climbed right up onto my lap. Alice said his weight was up to twenty pounds! I believed her. He definitely was heavier. But you know, he still looked a little skinny. Because Maine Coons do grow big.
Alice and Frankie.
Our building is full of people who love to blab and stir up trouble. They have nothing else to do. If this whole thing had-a blown up, we could have been arrested, kicked out of the building or both! It’s been almost a year since we pulled it off. I hope it’s over — history. I did not go into this with malice in my heart – just the opposite.
I prayed for months, asking for forgiveness, in case I had done wrong; but also, I asked that I be allowed to get away with it.
The tuxedo kitty.
A couple of nights ago, I was awakened by the sound of Katgrrrl, yowling in the living room. I heard her hurl herself at the window. I knew immediately she was going at her Mortal Enemy, the raccoon. I jumped out of bed and ran into the living room. For a real old guy, I was like greased lightning. I ran to the window, looked out, and saw a good-sized animal. Dawn was just breaking; there was a glimmer of light. I saw a large black and white creature, with a long tail. The black and white had a very distinctive pattern. What I was looking at was a tuxedo cat. It stared at me. I said, “Cat, go home. If you’ve got one”. [Update: As of 8/11/15, the tuxedo kitty is becoming a regular visitor. Anyone need a really nice, tame, stray cat?]
If cats could sing….
If you want info about the low income vet clinic, just go here. You can even donate, if you’ve got any dough….