“Some day soon, perhaps in forty years, there will be no one alive who has ever known me. That’s when I will be truly dead – when I exist in no one’s memory.” – Irvin D. Yalom
I think writing about my cats helps keep their memory alive, perhaps indefinitely, which makes me feel good, but there is another cat, one who belonged to someone else, who I feel deserves to be remembered. I thought about Casper while reading a post on Rumpydog called The Damage That Ignorance Can Do. Part of the story was about people moving and abandoning their cat. It reminded me of how Casper was abandoned, not physically but emotionally. He had no home where people cared about him. I suppose I should start from the beginning.
The year was 2004, long before Chris was born. We had three cats at the time; Princess, Sneakers and Vinny. That summer a white and black cat started coming around. I think he saw our cats on the patio and thought this would be a good home for him. He would stand by the patio door and ask to come in.
I started going outside to pet him. He was very friendly and loved the attention. At first I thought he might be homeless so I would feed him when he came around. Sometimes he ate a little but mostly he was just there for the attention. A couple of times I let him on our patio when no other cat was around. We had no idea if he was sick or not so we didn’t want to risk exposing our other cats to him.
Pay no attention to my haircut. This was the first and last time my wife attempted to cut my hair.
We lived in a nice, quiet neighborhood. Our house was on the east side of the street. Across the street and one house to the south was where Casper lived. Next door to me on the north side lived a couple just a little older than Rose and I named Nancy and Dutch. Nancy was very nice but very quiet and soft-spoken. When our cat Vinny first came around as a stray, we started feeding him and soon discovered Nancy was feeding him too. Dutch was a big, burly ex-biker with an outspoken personality. He had a bit of a short fuse but he also had a big heart and would do anything for people he cared about.
We were affected by a few hurricanes that year. Two of them passed almost directly over us but their strength was diminished because they had hit Florida from the east coast and moved across the state before hitting us on the west coast. Even so, we were still confronted with very powerful winds. During one of the hurricanes, I looked out the window and noticed Casper huddled against the front window of his home. His owners had evacuated and left him outside. I called Dutch, grabbed a towel and the two of us went over to retrieve him. We wrapped him in the towel and brought him to Dutch’s garage where he rode out the storm.
Some time in October, Rose and I were out for dinner when we got a phone call from Dutch. He said a pit bull was loose and had torn up the screen on our patio trying to get at Vinny, who happened to spend a lot of time out there. Fortunately Dutch chased the dog away and I fixed the screen the next day.
By then Casper was a regular visitor although I hadn’t learned his name yet. We had a trampoline in the back yard and sometimes he would have a nap on the perimeter of it (it had a safety net) while he waited for someone to come out and pay attention to him. Unknown to me, he was on the trampoline one afternoon while I was taking a shower. I heard a lot of barking in the back yard and since this was about four days after the attempted attack on Vinny I was a bit concerned. I hurried out of the shower, quickly put on a pair of shorts and went to see what all the commotion was about.
It was a pit bull, probably the same one that tore up our screens. This time he wanted Casper. He couldn’t reach him on the trampoline but Casper didn’t know that. He panicked, jumped down and made a run for it. He made it to Dutch’s yard and the dog pounced on him.
I ran out the patio door as quickly as possible but I was not exactly dressed to fight a pit bull. I was screaming at the dog the entire time but he was singularly focused on killing the cat. Dutch had his trash cans nearby so I grabbed a lid and threw it at the dog. It caught the wind and turned, causing me to either miss or just graze him but it did distract him long enough for Casper to scramble up a tree. Unknown to me, Vinny had followed me out the door and now became the new focus of the crazy pit bull. He lunged for Vinny who, thankfully, dodged the attack and scrambled up the same tree as Casper.
With both cats out of reach and me still yelling at the dog, he ran off. Just then Dutch came outside with a baseball bat and helped me retrieve Vinny from the tree. While we were doing that, Casper was climbing higher into the tree and would not come down.
I left Casper there and went back inside to get dressed. Together, Dutch and I walked north between the houses looking for the dog. We almost reached the end of the block when we saw, on the street behind our houses, the reunion of dog and owner. I noticed their back patio had screens that were completely shredded and the fence around the yard was broken so any dog that made it to the patio had unrestricted access to the rest of the neighborhood.
We walked over to him and Dutch got in his face and said, “If I ever see that F*%#in dog again I’ll kill him!” Amazingly, the man seemed unfazed and proceeded to argue with Dutch. I could tell Dutch wanted to punch the guy but he restrained himself with much effort. I know if Dutch was in my face yelling at me I would be very cooperative. I chimed in that the dog tore up my screens a few days earlier while he was trying to get my cat but he didn’t seem to care about that.
After several minutes of arguing, we left to see if we could get Casper out of the tree. He had climbed pretty high and seemed content to stay put. I walked across the street, I believe with Rose who was home by then, to see if Casper’s owner could help. A girl, perhaps ten years old, answered the door. We told her what happened and she followed us to Casper’s tree. It was then that we learned his name as she called him to try to coax him down. It didn’t work. Casper was safe in that tree and he was not coming down. I did get some information out of her though. She told us that they had a dog that would harass Casper so he rarely went inside the house.
About 7:30 that evening I got a flashlight and went back to the tree. This time I was able to talk him down. I noticed that Casper had some cuts from the attack but he seemed okay otherwise. I carried him home and give him to the little girl, hoping someone there would take care of him.
Later, I called animal control. I was hoping to prevent the dog from doing something like this again to Casper, Vinny or anyone’s pet. It surprised me to find out that unless the dog attacked a human there was not much they could do. The woman I spoke to was nice though and she did file a report. A few weeks later she called me and said those people had moved out, which was a relief.
Not long after that indecent our kids were witness to the aftermath of a horrible accident on the way to the bus stop. Apparently, the male member of the Casper household had struck and killed a woman who stepped out in front of his truck. I don’t know if that contributed to relationship problems but soon after that the woman and daughter moved out leaving him alone to take care of Casper. The poor cat got very little attention before this and now he was virtually a stray.
By early to mid December the weather had become cold and Casper had developed a limp. I felt bad for him because he was stuck in the cold and I knew his owner would not take him to the vet.
I propped my garage door open enough for Casper to get in and then closed the screen sliders almost all the way so a would-be criminal would not easily notice my garage was not locked. Inside I put a warm blanket along with food and water. I also had a chair out there and I would sometimes sit and pet him while he laid on my lap. Rose and I tried to contact Casper’s owner about his condition a couple of times but got no answer at the door. We then left him a note that went unanswered.
I wanted to adopt him but we felt like we couldn’t just steal our neighbor’s cat. Don’t get me wrong, taking a cat from a neglectful owner was not the problem. The problem was the first time Casper looked out our front window his owner would see that we had him. We needed to find someone willing to take in a cat in need and eventually talked Rose’s mother’s boyfriend into taking him. The only thing left to do was bring Casper to the vet.
We made an appointment for the following Monday and Rose took him while I was at work. The vet said that Casper was suffering from advanced Feline leukemia and recommended he be put to sleep. So on December 27, 2004 a beautiful life ended because of neglect. I felt as sad as if he were my cat. I felt even worse because he was on the verge of finally having a good life with a human that would give him the attention he deserved.
There are many other Caspers out there. My hope is that anyone who reads this will do just a little to help them. Just one thing. Adopt a pet if you can. If you can’t, you can volunteer at a shelter or at least give to a local shelter or TNR program. If you have outside cats, let them in, better yet, keep them in. At the very least get them vaccinated and don’t forget to to pay attention to your pets. Food and water is just not enough.
If you know a pet that deserves their own story I would be happy to read it. Please leave a comment or a link. I also want to know what you think about Casper.