It was already a bad situation for me. I had been forced by the Connecticut Court to move again and sell another house to keep current with the horrendous alimony and support the court had levied against me. I had just opened a new business in an effort to stem the outflow of cash and I just didn’t need any more problems.

Once again the kids had refused to return to their mothers home and I just knew within a few days I’d be back in court explaining to a judge who wouldn’t listen how the decision not to return to their mothers home was the kids choice and not mine.

I loved my kids and I fought for their custody so long as they maintained they wanted to live with me. If just once during the five-year court fight they had said they wanted to live with their mother, I would have dropped the issue.

The store I had opened was a small grocery store in an isolated community of summer type homes, only recently converted for year round use. The only hope I had for success was in the wintertime. I was the only game in town. The hill leading up to the community iced over and no one could get in our out of the place for days on end.

My first day open I sold one newspaper for twenty-five cents. Big deal! However, it was a start. The longest trip starts with the first step. Things had to get better. After all, they couldn’t get much worse at this point.

On the second day of business, I opened the door to the store only to find a large gray and white spotted cat sitting there waiting for me. I had owned the store for over a year, at this point, but never had I seen this cat before. Of course, this was only my second day open after buying the place but the cat was new to me. Previous to this there had been a tenant running the store.

The cat and I looked each other over a moment or so. Then before, I could close the door; the cat marched inside and vanished around the counter into the kitchen. Finding the cat was easy, it was sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor obviously waiting to be fed. It was obviously very hungry.

Picking the cat up, I marched straight back to the front door. I put the cat back outside. It stepped a few feet from the door and sat down to wait all the while staring intently at me. A little while later a customer arrived for another newspaper and with him the cat returned to the store and immediately made its way past me to the kitchen.

I put the cat outside again but this time through a different door. I figured the cat would become disoriented and go away. No such luck. A second customer arrived later in the day and I once again had a cat sitting in my kitchen waiting to be fed.

I realized if I fed the cat it would become a permanent fixture in my home and I tried my best to step around it and ignore its gaze, which followed me everywhere I went. It was hungry and it wanted me to know it. It wasn’t a vocal cat and remained mute the whole time. It just sat and watched my every move.

It was hopeless to try to get rid of the unwelcome feline again. I liked cats and this one had my number down pat. It had adopted me and it seemed determined to assert its ownership of me and the household. It was a nice old cat. Obviously several years along in age but with a mild temperament. Every time I picked the cat up and showed it any affection at all, it drooled all over me as it purred contentedly. The only problem seemed to be a trail of shed hair where ever it went. This was easily resolved with a few quick swipes with the broom or vacuum cleaner.

I believe the breed was a Himalayan mix but with the Allycatus Nonspecificus, who really knows. It was a large cat with a good thick covering of gray and white-patched hair. Close inspection revealed it to be a neutered male or Nedercat. Someone had loved this cat at one time and for some unknown reason had become separated from it. Now it needed a home and had selected mine.

When the kids arrived home from school, they immediately fell in love with our new houseguest. They fed the cat and kitty became a permanent member of the household. The cat had obviously been well house trained as after eating it marched over to the door and waited to be let outside.

Next morning over breakfast, we chose a name for our new guest. Butch seemed appropriate and the cat seemed to recognize it. Butch found himself a cardboard box and curled up in it for the day. Little happened to disturb it, although we did have four customers and actually sold a gallon of milk.

Over the next two years the Connecticut Court system seemed determined to shove me back into a situation of total destitution. I was forced to sell the store. The kids now lived with me and absolutely refused to return to their mother’s home. I was forced by the court to move from one house to another as I sold off my assets. Butch moved right along with us.

At last I had nothing left to sell and the kids and I made up our collective minds to move away as quickly as possible. As soon as school was out in June of 1984, we packed the car with what little we had left and hit the road. Butch was not about to be left behind. As we started packing the car, Butch climbed inside and made him self at home. He remained inside or close to the car until the time we left, never venturing more than a few feet away.

The first few hundred miles were kind of hard on the cat. Butch got sick, had several panic attacks and pooped on the floor in the back seat. However, after this, Butch seemed to settle down and go along for the ride.

So as not to become separated, we had bought a “Puppy Harness” and a dog’s leash to keep Butch with us during calls of nature along the way. Butch didn’t care much for this but like a good sport, tried his best to go with the flow. At night Butch slept in the motel room with us and never once made a “mistake”.

On arrival in Florida, we found a home we liked and moved into it. Butch made him self right at home with us. There was all sorts of new stuff in this location, a pond, a whole selection of critters a Yankee cat had never seen before and lots of nice soft sand to dig in. Butch was in “Seventh Heaven”.

It was one day during the first year when our neighbor walked over to introduce himself. I had been working out in the front yard when I looked up and saw him coming. The only problem was he had brought his full-grown German shepherd dog with him.

As we talked I noticed his dog’s attention was focused on something behind me. I turned to find Butch approaching us. Butch stopped at my side and sat down facing the dog. Both the dog and the cat sat motionless for a moment or so. The neighbor and I held our breath waiting for a fight to develop.

Nothing happened. Then the dog kind of leaned forward and the cat stretched out to sniff his nose. There seemed to be a moment of understanding between the two. Slowly Butch and the dog stood up and walked side by side to the gate, which separated our two properties.

At the gate, Butch stopped and the dog went on through with only a short backward glance. The dog never came on our property again and to the best of my knowledge Butch never strayed beyond the fence line.

In time we collected a great variety of birds, other cats, snakes and a few stray dogs. All of which Butch tolerated without complaint. We had been in Florida for about 8 years when Butch died. He had been with us for a total of 10 years. As a family, we mourned the loss of our cat, as we would have done for any other family member.

Copyright ©2001 Robert P. Herbst. All rights reserved.


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