Squeaky is our neighborhood cat. Actually, she belongs to Mr. Solomon, the 95-year-old Latvian who owns the property next door, renting out the front to Debbie and Tina while living upstairs in the back. He has survived cancer but is pretty much wheelchair bound except for when he is propped up out on the porch, attended to by a live-in, also from Latvia. He loves his cat.
Squeaky is an outdoor cat, roams the neighborhood at will and is loved by all, fed and frequently invited in for a chat when she comes a-calling. Mr. Solomon leaves the downstairs garage door ajar for sheltering as needed.
Squeaky is small but fearless. Loves people, solicits back scratches from strangers, and boldly walks right up to dogs. When Tina and Debbie walk Bella or Diego, Squeaky follows them around the block. And while she doesn’t approach Tzuri, Squeaky doesn’t run from Tzuri either, although Tzuri wishes she would try.
Adjacent to Mr. Solomon’s is a small house that has been rented out to a succession of tenants over the past few years. It may be a corporate rental or B&B type place. A kid lives there now who I’ve said hello to once or twice. He’s 20-something, vibrant, talkative, confident. I’m told he’s a salesman. He leaves his blinds open day and night and the inside of his place is minimally furnished, distinguished only by a large sports banner on the wall and a constantly running big-screen TV. He drives a car with Indiana tags and leaves in the morning wearing a power suit – but, incongruously, sporting a baseball cap turned around like a rap star, and a school-kid’s backpack slung over his shoulder. He likes to whistle and sing to himself.
Odd people drop by his place every so often and stay a few days. Recently a pockmarked truck-driving Russian Spetnaz-looking guy, big and gloomy, with a wife and kid. The wife and kid didn’t say much; they seemed intimidated by their husband’s presence. Seemingly out of character, however, Mr. Spetnaz kindly mowed the yard one day – the weeds were knee high – although certainly he didn’t begrudge the opportunity to remove his shirt and flaunt his bulging muscles.
And then for a few days Kid Salesman had another visitor, a body-builder from Indiana named Joe. Through the window I could see that he was short and squat, and animated. (Later his mother would tell us that her son – barely out of his teens, if that – was on steroids.) And Steroid Joe took a liking to Squeaky. Or perhaps he just felt he was her savior, since to Steroid Joe’s distorted imagination she seemed homeless and neglected. He began keeping her inside Kid Salesman’s house, longer and longer each time. Once, Steroid Joe looked out and saw that Squeaky had escaped from the house and I’m told he jumped out the bedroom window to quickly snatch and bring her back inside again. Steroid Joe was acting strange.
Tina knew something wasn’t quite right, and tried to keep Squeaky away from Steroid Joe’s clutches as much as possible. But she was an outside cat, and couldn’t be locked up 24/7.
And then one day Steroid Joe was gone, and the whole neighborhood sensed immediately that our beloved cat was gone, too.
Tina immediately went into high gear. She got Steroid Joe’s phone number from Kid Salesman and called him in Indiana. He was unrepentant and eventually blocked her calls. She called the police and filed a report, but nothing could be done. (Squeaky was licensed, had ID tags, and was microchipped.) She paid a service that finds email addresses, sent messages, and it was, surprisingly, Steroid Joe’s mother who finally responded. Apparently her son has done this before and his mother ends up with the cats, six of them now in her large, upscale home. Nice digs but Squeaky was depressed and kept to herself, hissing at the other cats.
I was furious, so much so that I seriously contemplated swift vigilante retribution for the Body Builder if he ever returned to this area without Squeaky. To steal a cat from a 95-year-old dying man, to whisk her away from the only home she has ever known, to turn her life upside down and subject her to unbearable stress – well, that was like a death sentence to Squeaky and I was outraged enough to seek justice on my own terms.
Fortunately, the mother was not happy with her son’s behavior, either, and worked with Tina to make things right. Commercially flying Squeaky back was out of the question, money-wise. A couple of pet shuttle services were investigated, and one was eventually agreed upon. A driver was finally going to bring Squeaky home!
But not so fast . . . He picked up Squeaky in Indiana but first had to drive to New York. From there he swung back by Michigan. Then he drove straight through to Florida. Poor Squeaky could not have anticipated that she was heading home, and a week-long experience on the road in a cat carrier must have been endless torture.
It was dark out but several of us were waiting on the sidewalk when Squeaky arrived. She was pissed, and had lost significant weight. Tina bought her some special fattening-up food and kept her inside long enough to calm down and re-acclimate.
Now she is back in the neighborhood where she belongs but more often than before seems to want to sleep inside at night.
I would guess she was gone for about a month, and has been back now for about a week. Whether she can forget about the past and regain her equilibrium remains to be seen.
Many thanks to Tina and Debbie for their stellar efforts to rescue Squeaky. And Joe’s mother, obviously ashamed of her son, sent Tina a check for 500 dollars to cover expenses!
🙂 🙂 🙂