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A Cat Named Rover

January 31, 2013

I am not really a cat person. When I grew up we were raising German Shepherds and cats did not stick around for long. Understandably, I suppose. I am also an ornithologist who recognizes that cats are a major factor in the decline of our remaining song birds. I once experienced cats wiping out the nests of my study Eastern Meadowlarks over night.

And cats tend to make me sneeze.

However, I have lived with a great cat. I did not make the first overture in this relationship, but I gather that is often the way with cats.

Cat with an agenda

Cat with an agenda

I used to run regularly up Rover Creek Road with my German Shepherd Miska. One late fall day, I heard a meowing from a slash pile where I had parked the truck. A small cat face peeked out at me. My first thoughts were “great, a cat out here preying on the birds” and then we left on our run. Well, the cat was still there when Miska and I returned in two days. I picked the cat up (apparently that was the moment when our future together was sealed) and put him in the cab of the truck with me and the dog. Well, Rover (great cat name, eh?), was with me for the next 16 years.

Rover meets Miska

Rover meets Miska

Admittedly, the start of our relationship was a bit rocky. A visitor let the cat out – who promptly disappeared. I wandered around calling him and after two days heard a soft meowing from the top of a 60 foot Douglas Fir. For future reference, cans of kippers do not bring cats down trees, and fire fighters do not rescue cats. As a matter of fact, a fire fighter I consulted reasoned “he’ll come down – how many dead cats do you see in trees?” I did not ask him how he had conducted his survey. I borrowed a pair of pole cleats and a belt to climb the tree myself. My room mate stood at the bottom pointing out that I really needed tree-climbing cleats and that I was very likely going to kill myself.  But I don’t  always find it easy to let go of a great idea.  There does come a time, however, to  admit that you are way out of your depth.  I called the “tree dude”.

The “tree dude” came out, armed with the proper equipment and my laundry bag on a rope. Rover was efficiently bagged, lowered and officially rescued. He was a very thirsty, very hungry cat.

Cat with an agenda

Cat with an agenda

Rover moved with me from home to home and lived to train my current German Shepherd, Max, in the ways of cats. I “trained” Rover to come in by banging a can of wet cat food with a spoon – and I made sure he was fed when he came in. I kept him indoors when I wasn’t around to watch him. In his later years he was solely an indoor cat. Roads, coyotes, bobcats and dogs take their toll on cats around here and besides, I did not want to be responsible for his “bird-icidal” tendencies.

He definitely exhibited bird-killing tendencies. I once snuck up behind Rover (in some misguided attempt at negative reinforcement) when he was stalking a Robin. I honestly thought he knew I was there. When I shouted – I swear – he leaped straight up, and turned to face me mid air with all claws extended. That image is frozen in my memory. I thought I was dead. Rover, thankfully took off the in the other direction. The Robin was long gone.

Rover watching birds from behind a wooden goose.  a duck blind.

Rover watching birds from behind a wooden goose. a duck blind.

I miss Rover. I still would not call myself a cat person. My life, however,  was definitely richer for having found that abandoned kitten on a logging road.

photos and writing copyright Joanne A. Siderius

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