“On top of spaghetti,
All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball,
When somebody sneezed.
It rolled off the table,
And on to the floor,
And then my poor meatball,
Rolled out of the door.
It rolled in the garden,
And under a bush,
And then my poor meatball,
Was nothing but mush.”
Rudy was sure there was more to the song, but she couldn’t remember it. Oh well, it just figured. She was alone here, again, and she couldn’t even remember the lyrics to stupid songs. LT was with Ginger, David was at work, and here was Rudy, alone again, naturally. Come to think of it that was a song too, and fit her current mood. She didn’t remember the words, but this one was close –
“Nobody loves me
Everybody hates me
I’m gonna eat some worms
Fat ones, skinny ones
Little itty bitty ones
I’m gonna eat some worms.
First you bite the head off
Then you suck the guts out
Then you throw the rest away
Fat ones, skinny ones
Little itty bitty ones
I’m gonna eat some worms.”
Rudy was just finishing up the second verse, singing with all her soul, eyes closed to better enjoy her misery when she was rudely grabbed around the middle and shoved in a cage. Sheesh, she thought. My singing isn’t that bad.
She clawed at the door of the cage, but it was firmly latched. Was she being catnapped? She looked at the guy who’d grabbed her. He was wearing a police uniform and very heavy gloves. What an odd combination. He turned to the woman next to him and said, “This is the cat you heard wailing, correct?” Rudy was offended. She hadn’t been wailing, she had been singing. Couldn’t these people tell the difference?
“Yes officer. My children and I were over at the hand-dug well and heard a crying cat. We weren’t sure if it was being tortured or perhaps was injured, so we called the police. Thank you for showing up so quickly. She’s quiet now, and doesn’t seem to be hurt.” The children came closer and one tried to put his fingers through the cage bars.
“Keep your distance, sonny. We don’t know if this cat is rabid or what. It doesn’t have a collar and there doesn’t seem to be anyone around. I’m sure someone owns this big RV, but they sure aren’t here now. We’ll take the cat down to the pound and quarantine it just to be sure.” The police officer picked up the cage and stowed it in the back of a van. Rudy protested loudly that she was right where she belonged, had all her shots, and would they just please let her out. The humans ignored her.
She heard the van start and then felt it move as it drove away. This was worse than being all alone in Kansas. At least at the RV Park she’d be there when David and LT came back. Now they’d come back and she wouldn’t be there. She’d be at some dog pound. She was a cat, for goodness sakes. Cats don’t go to the pound. They are taken to someone’s home and given fluffy pillows and fresh salmon! David would never find her, she never see the Mommy and Daddy and Peep again. She’d have to spend the rest of her life at the pound and be the slave to a bunch of Kansas coon hounds who chewed tobacco and played country music at full volume.
The van drove for over half an hour with Rudy becoming more and more frantic as the minutes ticked away. Finally it stopped and the policeman opened the back and lifted the cage out. He walked into a cinderblock building labeled, ‘Wamego Pound’. This was it, she was sent to the pound. The end of the line for Rudy. The policeman had a brief argument with someone at the desk. “I don’t care if you’re full with cats. You take any strays we find and take care of them. I don’t give a darn what you do with it, that’s your job. You can put it to sleep for all I care. Just get it off my hands!” With that, the policeman left, slamming the door behind him.
Rudy just sat huddled on the floor of the cage, shaking. Put to sleep? Just for singing? That was cruel and unusual punishment, wasn’t it? The man behind the desk came out, grumbling. “I told that dang man we don’t have any more room for cats. I told him he needed to take you to the vet in Westmoreland, and they’d board you until they could figure it out. But did he listen? No! And anyways, we don’t put no animals to sleep any more. We are a no-kill organization, unless they’s sick. You don’t look sick, kitty. You look lost. I’m gonna put your cage in the back with the other kitties we got for now, but I’ll get that man to come get you and take you to that vet. Gonna have to call his boss and let him give that policeman what for. Hmmph.” With that, Rudy was placed on the floor in a cinderblock room with a wall filled with large cages, each with one or more cats in them. Well, at least she wasn’t in with the dogs, and they didn’t kill the cats. The man came back in a few minutes with a water bowl and a food dish, and he placed them in the cage with her. Since it was a rather small cage, there was just room for her, the food and the water. Rudy took a good long drink, figuring she’d probably knock over the water dish the first time she moved. She wasn’t hungry, so she ignored the food.
“So, what are you in for?” A voice asked this question from a cage way up high. Rudy couldn’t see the questioner.
“Um. Singing. I was singing and the policeman grabbed me, put me in the cage and brought me here. Is singing illegal in Kansas?” Rudy spoke quietly and politely. She’d heard about prisons and this was like an animal prisons. She’d need to behave nicely, or she’d get beaten up.
“Nah, but folks think we’re yowling, not singing. And if you don’t have a collar, that’s illegal, unless your human’s around to explain that you’re just an indoor cat that got out. You got people?” The voice wasn’t unkind, maybe she’d be okay.
“Well, yes, but my people are in New Jersey. I’m traveling with a human who’s not mine, but we’re keeping him company. There’s another cat, but he wasn’t around when the policeman came. My name is Rudy. Is this place really the dog pound?”
“Yeah, it is, but it’s also an animal shelter now. Used to be, all the animals were killed after ten days if they weren’t claimed, but they started the Pottawatomie County Caring Hearts Humane Society a few years ago. Now they find us foster homes or forever homes to stay in. They don’t keep many cats here. Just this one wall of cages, and they swap us in and out of foster homes so we don’t stay cooped up. We’re full now, so they shouldn’t have brought you here at all.”
Rudy thought this was like talking over the phone. She had no idea who the cat was who was talking to her. She could see some cats, but they just looked at her silently. “The man at the desk said he was going to call someone and the policeman would come pick me up. If they put me in a foster home how will the human I’m traveling with ever find me?” Rudy started to cry softly. She didn’t want to be stuck in Kansas, even it was a no-kill shelter with lots of foster homes. She wanted her Daddy, who’d brush her and give her cat treats and never ever put her in a cage.
One of the silent cats spoke up, “Don’t cry. They’ll try to figure out who your people are and let them know. They have ways to do this. My name is Cherie, Rudy. My humans moved away, but they didn’t take me. When the shelter found them, they said they didn’t want me, so now the shelter people are trying to find me a new home.” Her face looked sad as she said this.
Another said, “I was taken from my humans because they didn’t take good care of us. There was never enough food, and the litter never got changed. I like it better here, even if I do have to stay in a cage sometimes. I like it better at the foster homes, though….” This was a skinny male cat, right across from where Rudy’s cage had been placed.
A third cat spoke up. “I never had a home. I ate scraps from the restaurant on Rt. 99 in Westmoreland. The owners put out scraps at night after they close, even though they’re not supposed to. Then one of them caught me and brought me here, saying I needed a home, and not be to running the streets. It’s not bad here, and I get fed more than once a day.” This cat looked like he’d been in a lot of fights. In fact he looked like Fuzzy, kind of raggedy.
Rudy stopped crying. Her life had been a lot better than these cats. Maybe life in Pottawatomie wasn’t so good for cats, after all. Hesitantly, she told them the stories she and the other cats had heard about Pottawatomie, and that she and LT had come here to find those lucky cats. By the time she was done every cat was staring at her in disbelief.
The voice from the top row said, “Fairy tales, Rudy. Fairy tales. A lot of folks around here are having a hard time, and can barely afford to house and feed themselves. They sure aren’t building houses for their cats and cooking them filet mignon. And beauty salons for cats? Right. When pigs fly.”
Rudy shook her head. She’d seen those things, and she’d met those ritzy pure-breeds. She told the pound cats about those things. Now the cats weren’t staring in disbelief, they were laughing. That voice from above said, “Kitty is the name of a lady who has a beauty shop. For humans. Not for cats. And from what I heard, she’s nearly out of business, since no one can afford her hairdos anymore. That little house was a kids’ playhouse. I know that property. And those fancy-pants cats? Well, those folks have more money than they know what to do with. One of those cats ran away once and ended up here for a few hours. She told us about her pure-breed cat commune. Not one of us would trade places with a cat who is treated like that. Our foster families treat us right – like cats. The folks here at the shelter treat us right. Yeah, we don’t have fancy climbing trees here yet, but Caring Hearts is saving up to build us a cat room where any cats who aren’t out being fostered can run around and play and just be ourselves, not what some rich human wants us to be. Stop dreaming those little kitten dreams, Rudy. Grow up.” The cats in the cages turned their backs on her and Rudy huddled on the floor of her cage, miserable.
Before the silence could become deafening, the door to the cat room opened and the policeman stomped in muttering. “Take the cat here. Take the cat there. Make up your minds.” He picked up the cage and headed through the door. Rudy heard a voice from near the ceiling say, “Good luck” as they left.
The cage was reloaded into the van and Rudy had another long miserable ride. When they stopped again the policeman grabbed the cage and carried it up to a door, which opened into what looked like a waiting room at Tibet. He placed the cage on the floor and spoke to the woman at the desk. “This is the cat I mentioned. They told me to bring it here, as the pound is full, at least for cats. What should I do with it? I’m not sure it isn’t sick. It was caterwauling something fierce when I picked it up.”
The woman sighed and said that someone would be out in a minute to take the cat, unless he could just leave the cage and pick it up later. The policeman smiled thinly, and said he needed to take it with him. Rudy, meanwhile was explaining to anyone who’d listen that she was a SHE and not an IT. A bull mastiff sitting with his owner snorted and told her that the policeman wasn’t an animal person, but Tibet was really nice. Rudy sighed. Small towns. Everyone knew everyone’s business. Well, at least the policeman didn’t hate animals. He hadn’t stunned her or shot her, if she had to find a bright side to this situation.
A tech came out a few moments later and knelt down in front of the cage. “So, who are you, little cat and how did you come to be wandering Westmoreland on your own without a collar. Well, let’s just hope you’re chipped.” She opened the cage and lifted Rudy out, ignoring the protests from the policeman that she might be rabid. She looked him up and down and said, “I’ve had my shots. This kitty just looks scared to me.” Thank the Great Cat, thought Rudy. Someone who understands me!
The tech brought Rudy into the back and placed her on a carpeted table. Holding her lightly with one hand she grabbed what looked like a fancy calculator and waved it around Rudy’s body. It beeped, and the tech said, “Oh, thank goodness. You have a microchip. We’ll figure out who your owner is and give him a call. We’ll have you reunited in…well, this can’t be right. It’s an address in New Jersey. Hmmm, let me find out where you were caught.” She left Rudy on the table and walked back towards the front of the building.
She returned in a few minutes, still looking a bit worried. “Well Rudy, since I know that’s your name now, the receptionist is calling your owners. Are they staying at the RV Park?” She ruffled Rudy’s fur. “Don’t worry, we’ll work it out.” She left the room, promising to be back. When the door opened next, it was someone different. A woman in a blue lab coat explained to Rudy that she needed to examine her and make sure there was nothing wrong. She poked, prodded and even took her temperature. She pronounced Rudy to be in excellent condition. The tech returned laughing. “You’re not going to believe this. Rudy here is traveling with a gentleman who is staying at the RV Park. He’s been leaving the cats there while working at Fort Riley. There’s a cat door in the RV and he leaves the AC on for them. He figures this one got lonely or something. Oh, and Rudy, your owner says you better not cause any more trouble. The guy will be here in an hour or so to pick the cat up, Doc. I said we’d just leave her here and not cage her up again. She isn’t crated much, and we’re about done for the day with patients.”
Rudy sighed gratefully. They’d figured it out. The Daddy must have called David. She wasn’t going to have to live at the pound, or in foster homes, or even stay in Kansas for the rest of her life. The tech and the vet left her and Rudy groomed herself so that she’d look beautiful when David arrived. That way he might not be so mad at her. When she finished she jumped down to explore a bit. The door wasn’t latched, so she nudged it open and went into the hallway. She made her way into the now empty reception area and watched while the receptionist finished her paperwork. She’d arranged herself on a comfy chair when the tech burst in say, “Rudy’s missing! Have you seen…oh.” She spotted Rudy on the chair.
The receptionist laughed and said, “She came in a few minutes ago. I figured, why keep her cooped up. I figured you’d find her eventually.” They two laughed. Rudy liked these folks. They didn’t seem like the kind who’d abandon cats or starve them.
Rudy was graciously accepting love and adoration when David burst through the door. “Where’s Rudy? Is she okay?” He stopped and gave a sigh of relief. “You had me worried, Miss Rudy.” She jumped down and walked over to him. She was ready to leave now. David settled the bill for the exam and the two got into David’s rental car.
“I stopped and talked to the policeman who picked you since it was on my way here. I was thinking that I’d have to take you to Fort Riley for the few days until I’m done, but the guy said you were just sitting right outside the RV caterwauling. I told him you were singing, and that you had an excellent voice. That man doesn’t know cats, obviously. Well, he’s going to tell the other folks in the police department that as long as you two are around the RV that you’re fine. I sent him photos of you and LT from my phone and left my cell phone number in case there are any more problems. Are you okay, Miss Rudy?” He reached over and ruffled her fur.
Rudy replied that she was fine, and could they please go back to the RV now. She promised she wouldn’t sing anymore while they were on the trip, and that she’d avoid any and all policemen.
LT was pacing back and forth in front of the RV when Rudy and David returned. David opened the door and pulled food from the fridge for the cats while Rudy explained her horrible adventure to LT, who was properly horrified. LT immediately began grooming Rudy, washing off the taint of the pound and Tibet and stopped only when the warm food was placed in front of them. Both cats looked up at David and said, “Thank you” and began to eat, happy to be with someone who cared so much about them.
Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/kattebelletje/3852802001