2007-05-23 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson

Bella, above, and Silver below, awaiting loving homes at the Oyster Bay 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 COLONYThey come from nowhereat the sound of my car.Gray streaks at first:dappled Puffball,Oyster, flat like pewter,long haired mop of aphilosophical sister called Plato,yellow-eyed and pensive.Then from the bushesa flash of black and white-Kodak and Ilfordshooting pastat a a hundredth of a secondclick, click like fast film.Now the Clones march slowly on parade,black with the same white star on theirchestssporting 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 tigersand at last the Red King.I wait and watch and count and feed,I call them jeweled movements,the time piecesthat regulate my morning hour.LOVE HANDLESCats also have love handles,that wiggle when they walklike a runway modelin a swing coatletting each thrustof her hips revealall the soft longingfor the days beforeshe had her tubes tied.RITUAL MEALThe cats didn't know my mother died.They were simply waiting for the foodI bring them every morning."Momma's here," I called as usual,"Breakfast," as they tripped around my  legskeen for the opening of cans.But my momma wasn't here todayand wouldn't be again for an eternity  to come.Snapping the lids I thought of breakfasts  she had madeand threw myself into the taskof serving up food in my mother's name.THE OLD MASTER(SIX-PACK 1988-2006)It's ThursdaySix-pack is sittingon a chair in the front rowwaiting for classbut no other students have arrived.He has taken Foundationfifteen timesand still is yearningto learn moreabout perspectiveand figure drawingWith polydactyl pawshe has the meansto be creativefar beyond his kind.The human studentswill not come todaybut Six-pack holds his placemeditating on the monumentalplastic formneeded to expressthe shape of feline thought.


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 Oyster Bay Town Shelter (677-5784) Miller Pl Syosset deserve loving homes too. "Bella" #365 is a 7 yr. Italian Greyhound who was turned in by elderly owners along with "Coco" #364- her Min Pin pal. They need not be adopted together. "Silver" #374 in the lobby showcase is an exquisite Maine Coon type. This 1 year old beauty gets along with dogs and other cats.

Dogs: "Sonoto" #314 male Siberian Husky; "Foxy" #353- Wirehaired Fox Terrier puppy that would do well in either a breed experienced or agility home; "Beauford" #287- Coonhound mix pup.

Cats: "Slippers" #331- gorgeous longhaired kitten shown last week; a determined female tabby #341 who sounds like she is saying "Hello".

  • Last Hope-"Dog Walk, BBQ & Fun Night" Sat. 6/2, register at 4:30 at Wantagh Park. Call 516-486-3158 or
  • www.lasthopeanimalrescue.org.

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