Lum: In the days of Lum’s cathouse
I’ve always been a big sucker for animals in need. Of all the cats I’ve had in Aspen, I never went out seeking them — they all dropped in on me and stayed.
The best of the cats got hit by cars or disappeared, while the worst of them lingered on past their due dates. Doodie, the worst of the worst, survived into her 18th year.
Doodie’s real name was Madeline Meow because I already had a Darius Meow, Darius Milhaud being a modernist French composer in residence in Aspen with his wife, Madeline. Darius was one of the good cats who got hit by a car. I don’t remember how Madeline’s name change came about, but Doodie suited her better.
Doodie was a cross-eyed ball of tangled fur brought home from school by my daughter Hillery, then in fifth grade. She was probably planted there by an enterprising parent.
“I couldn’t just leave her there,” Hillery sobbed when I tried to put my foot down. “She’s the best kitty, and I’ll take total care of her.”
Parents, do not be fooled by the promises of 10-year-olds. That cat, dog, turtle or wombat is going to be yours and yours alone, so you’d better take a shine to it. I never did care for Doodie, and Hillery, whose love for her faded within days of her arrival, was almost 30 when Doodie finally bit the dust.
Doodie was a terrified terrorist. She was scared to death of everything and made up for it by chasing Grey Kitty, our oldest feline inhabitant, behind the washing machine. Grey Kitty was twice Doodie’s size but too sweet to give her a claw swat.
In the late ’70s we had an overload of cats. Five to be precise, which is three more than the optimum. In addition to Grey Kitty and Doodie, we had Sugar (who got hit by a car but survived), Darcy Brown (who liked to nurse on startled visitors’ earlobes) and Bob, a 20-something-pounder shipped from Alaska to my daughter Skye (too long a story for this space).
These cats did not like one another to begin with, and the arrival of Bob was the last straw. The result was a massive pissing contest that I was ill-equipped to judge, not being able to ascertain who had done what. “Who peed on the paper towels?” No answer. “Who peed on the bookcase?” Silence.
Instead of getting better, it just got worse. One of the cats was peeing on the stove burners. Burning cat pee starts off emitting a not-unpleasant, nutty aroma quickly followed by a gagging, horrific smell that would send everyone running outside gasping.
I gave away sweet Darcy Brown, the prime suspect, and the next day I caught Doodie squatting on a stove burner. She was the last one I suspected, but I was happy to put an ad in the paper to give her away. Trouble was, nobody wanted this scruffy, cross-eyed cat who was drawing my blood as I held her toward potential new owners, explaining, “She’s a little bit timid at first.”
Grey Kitty died. Sugar disappeared. We were down to Bob and Doodie when my kids gave me Rufus, a young, red dachshund who chased Doodie behind the washing machine until she set up housekeeping in my bedroom closet.
I’d put in a plate of gourmet kitty food, water and litter box, knowing she was still alive when I found a nugget in the cat sand.
Bob got cancer and died. Doodie, having worn out her welcome the very first day she had arrived, stayed on and on and on until she finally faded away.
It’s been at least 20 years now since I’ve had a cat. The traffic in front of my house has gotten much worse, and my dachshund Nicky has an obsession about cats that might mean murder, and I don’t have the strength of mind or body to find out.
I miss the purring. I don’t miss the litter boxes.
Su Lum is a longtime local who remembers the smell of newborn kittens. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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