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Thursday, February 12, 2009

air borne
organizing V,
chatty winged
heads South.

One flies contrary,
mate and tribe
lost, alone
but still
ancient lays
to North

B.0.B. Cat

Bob, yes, that’s an acronym. He arrived as a skinny youth, a gray striped tiger with two enormous boy accoutrements carried proudly beneath his tail. He had a very loud, deep voice and a head and chest that were thick, out of proportion to the rest of him. Clearly, here was a young tomcat -- on the lam! I, of course, petted him. He was very friendly. I fervently hoped he had a home.

Then, one day as winter approached, I offered him food. At first he turned it down. He had on a tight, much weathered collar. He began to show up daily for petting, and also to eat what I offered. He drooled as he gobbled down a bowl of dry kibble, and I imagined he’d been recently abandoned—or that whoever had been feeding him had stopped. One day he came to me and put a paw on his collar, clawing. I removed it, and scratched his neck, which obviously felt good. It had been on the verge of choking. Again, I hoped that if he did belong to someone, even marginally, they’d replace the collar, but no one did.

We began to call him B.B., in honor of his sizeable boy parts, ever more notable as he grew. He began to appear, calling loudly, morning and evening, to get his handout. He liked to sit on my lap, too, so I began to huddle on the porch, sitting on the car’s silver sunscreen to keep my butt warm. I started to take my flea comb out and groom him a bit, pinching out the ones I caught, and cleaning his scarred up head. He seemed to like it. Because he was so big and such a tomcat, I was hesitant about handling him—I just let him do what he wanted, which was to curl up on lap and knead for a few minutes after he ate.

We already had 3 indulged indoor cats, and my husband was adamant about “no more,” so B.B. and I got through the winter as well as we could. (Chris keeps my cat collection under control.) I worried about B.B. when it was very cold, and offered water along with the food now, which he would lap thirstily. Still, he walked off every day as though he had places to go and things to do. (The song “Tomcat Strut” came to mind.) As long as he was fed, everything seemed OK, although I did worry when he showed up covered in blood from fighting during the autumn Yy-eowly season. In the depths of the winter, too, he’d show up covered in blood, but with no new wounds I could locate. Then his ribs and belly stuck out and he had no appetite. When I found squirrel tails in the yard, I understood that alone among 40 years of cats, I had concrete proof that B.B. wasn’t afraid to take on our thuggish local “tree rats.”

Cute, squirrels—and don’t get me wrong, there’s almost nothing more adorable than a litter? of babies, practicing their acrobatics, rejoicing in spring and the abundance of food. Yes, and they are smart, too, but just hell on my birdfeeders! I’ve never lived anywhere with such aggressive squirrels. These guys have a look in their eyes that makes me fear they’re planning a mugging. Perhaps it’s that we live in too urban an area for the men to plug them, like they would in the sticks, but we do seem in need of a predator for them.

Well, to return to B.0.B., a dear friend of mine who loves animals kicked in half of the Humane Society’s spay and neuter bill, and we trapped B.B. and took him on the appointed day. He was tested for Feline Leukemia/ peritonitis, given his shots and his life changed—we hoped—when we removed the B.B’s. We brought him home and locked him in a room with box and water, and fed him as he recovered. He seemed happy to be warm and didn’t carry a grudge, as we humans might. What we still didn’t know was if this paws are made for walkin’ guy would stay with us after neutering and gaining entry to our home.

As we suspected, he hasn’t changed his game plan one iota.

We did change his name, though. Now (at least to us,) he’s B. Zero B. or Bob. It seems like a decent name for a large gray cat. Who knows how many other names he has! I put a collar on him with a tag, and that lasted about 2 days, although I did get a phone call from a lady who said she was glad such a nice cat had a home, and that he visited her regularly. I put another collar on him, which lasted even less time, but received a phone call from a second lady who said pretty much the same thing. Who knows how many other benefactors he has?

Oh, B.0.B., you total bum! Even as I write, I’m waiting for you to put in your daily appearance. He’s taken to using our house for a crash pad, appearing when it’s cold, or raining, and calling for “in.” When the door opens, he heads for the food bowl and slams his face into it. Kibble flies in all directions as he eats . The other cats watch him, in awe. Then, after getting some patting—he’s a great leg rubber and has a wonderful purr—he goes to sleep upside down on the couch with his mouth open. He drools, too, especially when he’s happy or getting a chin scratch.