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2007-05-23 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson

Cali, 1-year tortie in top photo, and Beach Boy, below delightful Lab mix, waiting for homes at Babylon Town Shelter. Cali, 1-year tortie in top photo, and Beach Boy, below delightful Lab mix, waiting for homes at Babylon Town Shelter. Throughout history cats have sparked social conscience and creativity in the greatest of minds. To DaVinci "the smallest feline was a masterpiece"; to Schweitzer "music and cats were the two means of refuge from the misery of life"; to Hemingway "a cat had absolute honesty." Edgar Allan Poe and Sir Walter Scott envied the cat's mystery. Even an unknown feline philosopher, no relation to Descartes, once joked: "I purr, therefore I am."

For Dr. Joan Digby, LI University Humanities professor, compassion and cats complement curriculum. An advocate of TNR (Trap Neuter Return), Dr. Digby, along with her colleagues, manages an inconspicuous yet content colony of campus cats. Her Honors students design cat shelters that blend with college architecture. The ferals in her care inspire Dr. Digby to compose picturesque poetry. The following are selected from her collection- A Clowder of Cats:

FERAL COLONY They come from nowhere at the sound of my car.

Gray streaks at first: dappled Puffball, Oyster, flat like pewter, long haired mop of a philosophical sister called Plato, yellow-eyed and pensive. Then from the bushes a flash of black and white- Kodak and Ilford shooting past at a a hundredth of a second click, click like fast film. Now the Clones march slowly on parade, black with the same white star on their chests sporting the mark of a long family line. Delicate maidens take their time: she with the white nose, the shy aunt who lost her tail, Cleopatra fringed with a golden face, two hungry tigers and at last the Red King. I wait and watch and count and feed, I call them jeweled movements, the time pieces that regulate my morning hour. LOVE HANDLES Cats also have love handles, that wiggle when they walk like a runway model in a swing coat letting each thrust of her hips reveal all the soft longing for the days before she had her tubes tied.

RITUAL MEAL The cats didn't know my mother died. They were simply waiting for the food I bring them every morning. "Momma's here," I called as usual, "Breakfast," as they tripped around my  legs keen for the opening of cans. But my momma wasn't here today and wouldn't be again for an eternity  to come. Snapping the lids I thought of breakfasts  she had made and threw myself into the task of serving up food in my mother's name.

THE OLD MASTER (SIX-PACK 1988-2006) It's Thursday Six-pack is sitting on a chair in the front row waiting for class but no other students have arrived. He has taken Foundation fifteen times and still is yearning to learn more about perspective and figure drawing With polydactyl paws he has the means to be creative far beyond his kind. The human students will not come today but Six-pack holds his place meditating on the monumental plastic form needed to express the shape of feline thought.

PAW NOTE: A huge portrait of Six-pack leaning on an art pedestal hangs above Dr. Digby's desk. This majestic tabby lived to be 18, and spent his final years in a loving home off campus.

Poster Pets

Our poster pets at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon deserve loving homes too. "Beach Boy" in Cage 69 is a delightful Lab mix, about 1 yr., probably abandoned at Oak Beach. He doesn't belong to anyone there. The shelter thought they'd need to trap him but after several days he jumped right into the truck. He licked us while we removed tons of ticks. "Beach Boy" sits and gives his paw. Also waiting: "Cali", # 18682 a pathetically thin, 1 yr. tortie, who came into the shelter nursing 6 kittens, some still available. She lived with other cats. "Cali" desperately needs a caring person to put some meat on her bones.

Dogs: Husky trio- "Shadow" a purebred male Cage 41, "Rusty" Cage 35, a young female Cage 67; "Moppet"- Beardie mix Cage 91; "Noah"- Chow type Cage 9; "Casper"- cute Jack Russell in the Puppy Room; "Alex"- Shep mix Cage 39.

Cats: "MJ" #18633- super-loving tabby- now appearing in her Spiderman costume; "Ms. Peabody" #18624 -dainty gray uses her paw as a spoon to scoop out one morsel at a time. `+Last Hope-"Dog Walk, BBQ & Fun Night" Sat. 6/2, register at 4:30 at Wantagh Park. Call 516-486-3158 or visit us online at

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