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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Spuddy, cat

     In the late 80s, Kathie and I decided to take the plunge—to buy a home. We really wanted to live in an older neighborhood, preferably in Orange's Old Towne area. We loved that part of town.
     Well, to make a long story short, we purchased a wonderful smallish two-story home two blocks from Hart Park, not far from the fabulous downtown area. The "folk Victorian" was built in 1903. Across the street, there stood a more impressive structure, built in 1886 or so.

     Before that, we lived in an apartment in the Anaheim Hills area (near the railroad tracks, along Imperial Highway), where we adopted the marvelous Katy, our first cat. Soon thereafter, we adopted the assertive Buster (Christie), and then Niki, a very neurotic and retiring beast.
     In about 1990, Kathie found a scraggly kitten dashing across a busy street in Redlands. She swooped 'im up and brought him home. As I recall, he was in bad shape, with a kind of crust surrounding his eyes. We kept him in the garage—away from the other beasts—and soon brought 'im to the vet. Kathie really babied him out there in that garage, and he soon got lots better, as these photos reveal.

     We had decided, early on, that we could not take on another cat—we may have added Sunny and Suzie Q to our brood by then (not sure)—and so we already had five or six cats, a motley crew of somewhat incompatible characters. And so the idea was to bring the little, white kitten back to good health and then to find him a new home.
     But the little guy was uncommonly sweet and endearing. Dang!
     I think that, early on, we called him Snowy, but that name gave way to "Spuddy," which really stuck. The name seemed to fit his personality. The fellow was very playful and energetic—a real athlete, inclined randomly to jump straight up into the air, arms and legs akimbo, performing loops and whatnot, and then to land in an explosion of movement in some odd direction. He was a Warner Bros. cartoon cat. Impossible! Hilarious!
     But he also seemed always to be superficially fearful of large or unfamiliar things—including me. He would always maintain that wary/hysterical aspect, freezing with eyes wide open as I entered the room—then running away, unreasonably, into some corner or up the stairs. Increasingly, that behavior seemed more comical and endearing than troubling. It was an expression of his childish and goofy but lovable personality.
     He had, however, no fear at all of Kathie, his "mom." With her, all was well.

     Most of these pictures are from the period before we gave Spuddy to the drunken lady. As you can see, he was quite the character, from Day One.

     The boy had some seriously blue eyes. And if you held him, he'd become as limp as a noodle. We called him the "Noodleman."

     Spuddy was a lover, not a fighter. Here we see him cuddling with Suzie, the world's most peevish cat.

     Observe his wariness—at me, the guy with the dastardly camera. I never gave him a reason to be fearful of me. Far from it. I think it was simply my size that caused him to view me as a threat. I always loved the little guy, but from afar, really, since he tended to stay away from me. Kathie and the Little Man, however, were inseparable.

     Through a friend (Jim), we contacted a woman who lived in a place atop a hill above Laguna Beach. She seemed very nice. We even brought Spuddy to her place once, a couple of weeks prior to the big day, to reduce the little guy's shock upon handing him over to a new mistress.
     The day finally came, and so we left Spuddy at his new home. Everything seemed fine. We were sad to let him go, but we knew it was the right thing to do, and so we headed home.
     A few hours later (it was a Saturday), I got a phone call—it was the woman, who was roaringly drunk. She called to express her appreciation, I think, but she made little sense. I decided to head back to Laguna Beach and to do whatever was necessary to get Spuddy back. I seem to recall promising Kathie that I'd get him back, no matter what.

     When I got to the woman's house, she was drunk, but wary, and so it took considerable blathering to get through the door. Once inside, I found that she had left her balcony door open—and the balcony, on the second floor of a complex, was plainly unsafe for a kitten. So, clearly, the woman was not a fit "mom" to our little guy. So I set about to do what was necessary.
     It took some doing, but after an hour or two, the woman, who was still drunk, let down her guard, and I took the opportunity to grab Spuddy and head out the door. She was pretty pissed, too. She yelled about calling the cops, etc. But I was determined to rescue the little man. I drove straight home and reunited the Spudster with her "mom," who was extremely relieved to find that her baby was safe and sound.
     The next day, the woman called, tearfully pleading for another chance. Nope. Turns out Jim had met her at an AA meeting and they became AA buddies. This misstep obliterated her recent successes staying off booze. In her mind, getting another chance with Spuddy was the key to her bouncing back on the wagon, having briefly, if disastrously, fallen off. But I was not about to allow Spuddy to be a chip in some bad bet on this woman's sobriety.

     Well, there was no question after all that: Spuddy was ours for good. 
     Spuddy would remain the special "baby" cat in his abbreviated life (he later died under unfortunate circumstances after a bout with cancer; at one point, a front leg was amputated, but he seemed not to notice!).  
     He remained a perpetually immature but wonderful boy—always amusing and endearing. Whenever I saw him, he had that comically concerned or perturbed look on his face. But, in truth, he led an endlessly carefree and happy existence, and his expressions to the contrary were plainly his peculiar and endearing way of taking it all in, leaving all observers with a smile or a laugh.
     I remember him fondly and often.

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