The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 5, 2013

MICHELE BENDER | Cat-titude creates cat-tastrophes

Michele M. Bender
For The Tribune-Democrat

— I often receive feedback from readers. In 2011, my friend Rick said he read my Christmas column to his kids, and they were concerned about the fate of Miss Kitty.

I’ll have to bring you up to speed. My dad loved the classic Western “Gunsmoke.” A flashy gal named Miss Kitty ran the local saloon, The Long Branch.

One day, Dad arrived home holding a scruffy yellow tabby cat. Our Miss Kitty had arrived.

Many felines are agile, grace­ful and mysterious creatures. Miss Kitty apparently stood in the wrong line when elegance and dignity were passed out. Loaded with “cat-titude,” she was a “cat-tastrophe.”

Christmas approached. I came home from kindergarten to discover a live blue spruce in our living room. Mom had strung it with old-fashioned, multicolored lights and decorated it with fragile antique ornaments.

That night, we heard a crash. Miss Kitty, red-pawed, climbed the tree, leaving destruction in her wake.

The following week, Miss Kitty mysteriously ran away. Oddly, she took her bed and supper dish with her.

After relentless questioning, Dad admitted that he’d given Miss Kitty to a farmer.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2011.

 “What are you writing for Christmas?” my galpal Cathy asked.

Christmas trees, I explained, but Miss Kitty was my opener.

“Ooooh, that farm,” she mumbled ominously. “My friends and I had dogs and chicks and cats and bunnies all sent to that farm.”

“No!” I exclaimed, tickled to tell the rest of the story.

My dad, a doctor, spent most of his Sunday afternoons making house calls to homebound patients.

One old gentleman, Mikey, had a farm. In his youth, his hobby was carving. His property was adorned with rabbits and lizards and deer and dinosaurs that he’d created from fallen trees and logs. I loved to visit there. It was like economy Disneyland.

When we drove in, Mikey was all smiles and hugs. “Doc! How are ya? And Michele! Didja come to check on your kitty cat?”

I gasped. “Is Miss Kitty here?”

“Here?” said Mikey, laughing. “She runs the place!”

I found her in the barn. We cuddled a few minutes, but she clearly had supervisory chores to tend to. She found her niche in life.

I’m in sort of “fur withdrawal” lately. My precious friend, Licorice, a Scottish terrier, and her pet human, Joe, have moved on.

But my friend Denise, a singer, adopted a snow-white kitten and brings her along to visit when she comes to rehearse with her band, the Johnstown Classic Rockers. She named the kitten Pearl, after Janis Joplin.

Pearl has already confided to me that she can read and write. She “home schools” herself on Denise’s computer.

Also, I got new neighbors. Our backyards touch. These lovely folks have three delightful furry family members: Chloe, an Airedale terrier; Willow, a giant schnauzer; and Tori, a Welsh corgi (We’re gettin’ a little tone in the ’hood). Maybe Queen Elizabeth will pop by.

I haven’t spent enough time with the girls to recognize which one is the “talker,” but we’ll figure it out soon. Spring’s coming!

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johns­town resident and a member of The Tribune-Democrat’s Readership Advisory Committee.

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