When Glen and I first looked at our snugalow in East Trenton, there was a black cat who sat on our laps and walked all over the papers, as we sat on the side steps and signed our lives away that fateful day in July 2004. Every time we came back to look at the house, or to work on it, that cat was there. He did not belong to the former owner, or, according to the neighbors, anyone else. The cat was making it clear that he was adopting us. We came to Trenton with two cats, Monkey (female calico) and Simon (black male), and a dog, Lacey, in tow.
We didn't know what to do about this friendly black cat, who was gargantuan, compared to our two existing cats, and even though he was extremely affectionate with us, we weren't convinced that he'd treat the other animals the same way. So, for awhile, he stayed outside. We had enough animals, anyway, or so we thought.
He was our near constant companion, though. He'd follow me when I'd walk Lacey. He'd sit with us on the porch. And he spent a decent amount of time figuring how to get in the house.
The former owner had left behind a whole mess of shit in the house, including a king-sized mattress and two smaller box springs, and while the former owner seemed a fastidious sort of guy, we weren't interested (at all) in keeping his bed. It went out back, and we called the city for a special pick-up.
I wrote about this particular creature in one of my very first posts, so there is a tiny bit of duplication, and I apologize for that, but figured for the sake of the story, I'll just include it all here (details are included in the post called
In the short time the mattress was propped against the fence, with Angus perched atop it, Glen's car was creamed on our side street by one of our neighbors who possibly fell asleep at the wheel and/or just went temporarily insane on a beautiful Sunday morning. And a short time later, our garage was tagged with gang graffiti. Trenton sure knows how to roll out the welcome wagon, and we appreciated it!! So we quickly became acquainted with the police department. The day we reported the gang graffiti, a couple of rank-and-file officers came by, along with an officer from the gang unit (note: it was not Barry Colicelli, but rather, a Herculean, silent type with a camera). I was chatting with the regular patrol officers, when one of them noticed Angus on the mattress behind/above the fence. The officer was tall, and of course, absolutely unsurprised by anything in Trenton, and raised his arm and rubbed Angus under the chin, which the cat just loved. Most folks who passed Angus on his perch either taunted him (there's a special place in hell for those people, and I hope it's filled with giant, hungry, playful, demented cats), or crossed to the other side of the street, out of superstition, as they usually mentioned, as a way to let us know they weren't avoiding us...just the black cat.
"Nice cat," the officer said, as Angus relished the affection.
"Yeah," I said, "He came with the house."
"Go figure," the officer said.
"We're thinking about cleaning him up and bringing him inside." I said. We were; the nights it rained and/or was chilly made us sick with worry.
"Do you have other animals inside?" he asked.
"Yeah, a dog and two cats."
"You do not want to bring this cat inside. He's a Trenton stray, and will attack your pets and rip your house apart," he said, his voice full of wisdom and experience.
"Huh," I said, conflicted, because I loved Angus, but didn't need chaos inside.
Over the next few weeks of warm weather, we did a lot of work around the house and yard, and we had taken to putting food out for Angus. One day, I was trying to convince him to sit in the backyard with us, but a punk had just tossed a pizza crust on our lawn, and Angus made a bee-line for it, and took off to eat it in the privacy of our yew. We're right in between two schools, and get LOADS of litter, mostly half-eaten bags of chips and other similar snacks, plus chicken bones, remnants of cheesesteaks, take-out boxes of Chinese food, usually filled significantly with food, pizza crusts, and the oh-so-thoughtful bottles of piss.
Angus loved all of it, except (as far as we knew) the bottles of urine.
Another time, I tried to lure him back into the yard with some canned food, but our neighbor across the street had fired up his barrel BBQ thing, and tossed in some pork ribs. Angus sat on their porch, staring at the BBQ thing. We were dead to him.
A short time later, we were working in the yard, and Glen ran out to get cheesesteaks for lunch. Angus came right over for that, and begged like a dog. He even ate the bread. Freak.
The weeks wore on, and it got colder. I called my vet, and made plans to have Angus neutered, if nothing else. And when the big day came, he enjoyed the car ride, much like a dog would. He handled the surgery well, and we decided to put him in the spare room overnight to recover. He felt better the next day, but of course, we couldn't stand to let him go -- he was so comfy in a pile of blankets, looking out the window. Instant house cat. However, my vet warned me that cat diseases were nasty (I had NO idea until the next autumn, but that's a story for another time), and urged me to keep him in isolation for at least one month -- she had tested him for deadly, contagious cat diseases, and he was negative, but he would need to be retested in a month, because of the incubation period of some of the deadlies. Plus, he it was obvious he had been attacked by another animal recently -- he had large scabs on his neck. So as a precaution, Angus got the luxury suite.
Angus was a very good boy, with a few weird habits. We had no problem with the litter box, but he spent a lot of time looking at the dentil moldings above our doors and windows, and periodically would launch himself up to the molding above the closet door, and then he'd jump to the even higher molding above the windows. And he would sit there, like a damn fool.
The vet makes house calls and so a month after his neutering, she came by to retest him for the nasties, and he came up clean. She said, ever-so-chipperly, "Why don't we open the door and see how things go?"
I was skeptical, and had been planning to bring the other animals in to see Angus, but hey, she's the one with the advanced degrees, so I blindly followed her orders. And within a split second, Angus was on Lacey's back, which enraged the dog, so she attacked Angus, removing a good-sized clump of his hair, but somehow not breaking his skin (her bark was always worse than her bite — she was a wonderful dog, bless her). This whipped Angus into a frenzy, and he climbed the curtains in the living room, which I had ambitiously made for our new house; he ripped them down, and came out of the large puddle of fabric, claws extended, and headed right for Monkey, who is — I hate to say it, because it will just make Glen gloat — a total idiot, even for a cat. Monkey peed on Angus during the assault. Undaunted, Angus hurled himself at Simon, my sweet little pal, who, it seemed, was about half Angus's size. Little Simo-Man did a VERY good job defending himself against the partially bald, pee-covered Angus, and really made me proud, but it still scared the bejesus out of me, so I caught Angus, threw him in the bathtub, hosed him down, and left him there to stew for awhile. The vet sat ashen-faced, silently, on a chair next to the pile of curtains on the floor.
She examined Lacey, Simon, and Monkey, as a courtesy, and went back up to check on Angus, who had a scratch across this eye. She had some eye ointment in her van, which she gave me, gratis; she apologized profusely, and scurried away.
It took nearly 8 more months, and a couple of kittens to act as liaison between Angus and the rest of the animals, but it eventually, kinda-sorta worked out. Except now Monkey's in solitary confinement, since she is, well, the idiot of the bunch, and just refuses to deal with the changes in the house. Plus, she bites, even when you pet her, and while this takes most people off-guard, it doesn't really confront me, since Monkey is missing one of her eye teeth, making her bite pretty ineffective. And good ol' Angus has calmed WAY down, and unlike the other cats, has zero interest in sneaking outside. He knows what's out there. His mattress is gone, and nothing else is worth it.
He still has a thing for junk food though. I know it's wrong to feed your animals human food, but don't label me, okay? They get great pet chow and lots of love, and just a few nibbles of our food here and there. Angus sits on the stool in the kitchen through every meal, no matter what we're eating, and while his manners are very good, he is always very interested — it would seem — in what we eat. Every now and then, I'll slip him a little bit of cheese, but the higher the quality, the less interested he is in it. He loves plain ole American processed cheese food, which we do eat on occasion. Angus will also eat bits of pizza (though not like he used to), but he's not interested in the more formal Italian entrees. Meatballs are uninteresting to him, and the cheese in lasagna might as well not even exist. But the steak in a cheesesteak is heaven to Mr. Angus. The same is true with chicken: if it's deep-fried, he's on it. Other than that, it might as well be broccoli.
There's been a new development, too. Or maybe it's old news to Angus, but new to me. Dan Tawnie's December post about the kid who left cheese curl residue on his favorite jeans in the QuickChek, after the kid clutched onto his leg, has been on my mind lately. I think this is because we've been finding a large number of partially eaten bags of cheese curls all over our property — more than usual — which is along the main route to and from the Hedgepeth-Williams/Robeson school over here on the east side. And I know it's wrong, but all these bags of cheese curls, which piss me off, also make me very hungry for cheese curls. There's something wrong with me.
So Glen and I were down at Trader Joe's recently, and they had organic, low fat CRUNCHY (my favorite) cheese curls on sale. It sounded wholly unappetizing -- organic junk food? COME ON! And the low fat thing when it comes to junk food is just stupid...eat it or don't, for crying out loud! I refused to put any in the cart; not so much because the whole organic, low fat junk food thing was an affront to my sensibilities, but because know I am completely out of control when it comes to certain foods, like crunchy cheese curls, even when they offend my sensibilities. I can't have that stuff in the house, because I am missing that part of my brain that says "Enough is enough, Jabba!" But Glen put two bags in the cart while I wasn't looking. I immediately took one to my sister's house, where my nephew, Michael, asked, "Mom, can I have this whole bag?" To which she replied, understandably, "No." But it's good to know I'm not alone in my gluttony.
Glen went out to play hockey earlier this week, and the bag was just too tempting. I made a grilled cheese sandwich (with processed cheese food slices...awful, I know, and yet, so damn good) and had a nice hearty garlic pickle on the side, and a handful (or so) of the Trader Joe's low fat organic crunchy cheese curls. Angus sat with me, as he always does, but that evening, he entered an altered state. Eyes huge, pupils dialated, despite the very bright overhead lights. Very alert, very aware of everything. I gave him a tiny taste of cheese, which he devoured. But he practically quivered each time he heard the crunch of a cheese curl. I broke off the tiniest piece and he gobbled it up. I broke off another. Same thing: gone. And another. I wouldn't give him any more, but I catch him eyeing up the bag, on the shelf, wondering if he'd dare rip into it. That wise cop was sort of right about Angus, at least at first, but now, with cheese curls in the house, he might revert to his old ways.