JUNIOR JUNEBUG TRUEMAN
His First Adventures
We were living in a house in Kitsilano when Junior joined us. The only cat we had was Muff and she was 10 years old and getting a bit annoyed at Misha, aged 4, and Dana, aged 1. After all, she knew what it was like to live in a child free house and probably regretted that those days wouldn't come again. So when the opportunity to adopt the little grey and white kitten with big yellow eyes came along, I decided that's what was needed; a cat the boys could play with and grow up with.
Misha got to name him. Being only four, he watched those Saturday morning cartoons and lots of young ones were named Junior, so Junior he became. The fact that he grew up to weigh 20 pounds and live to the ripe old age of 20 made the name quite a joke.
Junior first showed up next door. The two children named George and Vera had him given to them in the back lane by some desperate person seeking homes for their kittens. George and Vera's Mother was not so thrilled, but took him on. When they excitedly came over to show him to Misha, I felt a bit sorry for him. Pets for that family were not a priority.
We went away for a long weekend to our cottage and when we came back Vera told us that the kitten had run away. I immediately thought. "what a clever cat.' But I was also rather concerned for the little tyke as it was just past Thanksgiving and the winter was drawing near. It seemed the family was making no attempt to find him. As soon as I could, I popped Dana in his stroller and started looking around and lo and behold, I found the kitten playing three doors down in the family day care. The woman there told me he'd been hanging around and she was trying to find him a home as she did not need a cat. I told her what I knew of his short past and suggested I carry him off. Naturally she didn't object. So after checking with George and Vera and family to make sure they really didn't want him , Junior joined us.
Muff took to him quite well. Usually a kitten fits in with mature cats as it's not a threat, and by the time it's grown up they're all getting along. With Junior in residence, Muff got left alone by the boys. I have a memory of Junior all dressed up in baby clothes and being wheeled around in a buggy. He turned out to be an amazingly laid-back cat. Nothing really bothered him as long as the food was plentiful. So he tolerated these attentions with good grace and when he had had enough he just left. It quickly became apparent that Junior was going to be big. Even before he was full grown he was quite substantial. This extra poundage probably saved his life at least twice and who knows about all the things we don't know about?
Junior had a few adolescent adventures. Once he failed to show up for dinner and I tracked him down to a garage in the back lane. He'd been up in the rafters and got locked in when the car and owner returned from work. Luckily the door wasn't locked and I was able to get him out easily. Another time he got stuck up on a neighboring roof and it took a bit of trouble to get him down. (Miso is the only cat who comes down as well as he goes up. ) The really big exploit took place around the same time. The same scenario. No show for dinner. Much walking up and down the back lane calling and listening but no clue as to where he had gone. Muff was no use either. I've never found cats helpful in retrieving lost companions. So we all went to bed very worried. As soon as I could, I checked around again and again. Nothing. Three days passed with us getting very upset indeed. On the morning after he'd been gone three nights I decided to go a bit further afield. I had Dana in his stroller and Misha at my side and we went across to the next block and as we walked slowly along calling and listening I thought I heard a faint mew. We all froze. Then I called again. Yes, it was definitely a mew, but where was it coming from? We looked around. The house we were near had a very high wooden fence that was impossible to see through or over. Then I looked up a bit more to see the top of an apple tree poking above the fence and there in the very top branches was Junior. We were so thrilled to have found him, but it wasn't over yet. When I hoisted Misha up the fence a nasty growling and snarling came from the other side, in the back garden. It was a very big Doberman who was very annoyed at being disturbed from guarding his own personal, treed cat. To my dismay, there was no one in at the house, so the dog couldn't be dealt with. We were so eager to rescue Junior, who was thrilled to see us, but had no intention of moving from his safe perch. Then I realized I knew the family next door. They often came to the playground and were casually acquainted. So the lady of the house, hearing all the commotion, came out and suggested distracting the dog with a bone while we plucked Junior out of the tree. And so it was done. First a sturdy step ladder was placed against the fence. Then Jenny went to the fence close to the house on her side and called the dog and waved the bone and some other tidbits over the fence. It worked like a charm. He forgot all about Junior. Misha went up the ladder and into the tree and was able to get hold of Junior and pass him to me and then to Dana in the stroller. We were so happy. After thanking Jenny for her assistance we hightailed it back to our house to check Junior out. It was amazing. No food for three days and he looked as plush as ever. Of course Junior always believed in having a bit tucked away for a rainy day.
After the big adventure in the apple tree, Junior sort of settled down. At least we didn't have any more scares. He and Muff got on very well. Muff was the licking, grooming kind of cat so she took on Junior. Whether he had a bit of an attention deficit in the grooming line prior to this I don't know, but he certainly had one once Muff took on the grooming. In return Junior allowed her to sleep on top of him. As he was getting bigger all the time it was easy. Also Muff was the usual, always cold Siamese. (They don't have the under fur like other cats.) Muff was also getting on age wise, so this the perfect arrangement. We stayed in the house, called the Pink House, Dana's name for it for about five years and then moved out to Burnaby. The two cats adjusted well. There was lots more room and it was a bit more sheltered. Perfect for the cats.
Life in the Burnaby House
Junior had a talent for getting extra food. One day I was talking to my next door neighbours, who also had cats. They informed me that Junior always came to their place for breakfast. I realized that putting him on a diet would only goad him on to freeload off other people. He was very loyal, but where food was concerned, he felt that he was definitely entitled to more.
One of our memories of Junior concerns the food drive. It was very hot and Misha and Dana decided to sleep out on the sundeck. Junior also was out there with them. This must have been before the advent of the cat door. Anyway, in the early morning, I heard a bit of scratching and scrabbling at our screened window in our bedroom; the bedrooms were on ground level. I sat up in bed to see Junior squeezing through the little screen over the window latch. He somehow had pushed it out and then became entangled in the frilly sheer that covered the window. It is kind of hard to describe, but if you could see this enormous cat coming through the window like that you would join in the giggles. Junior wanted breakfast!
Misha and Dana have some stories that credit Junior with telepathy. It seems they often dreamed of him and then woke up to find Junior wanting something. He had figured out that door handles open doors, but try as he might, the paw was not the right instrument for the turning. But he would often sit on a sofa arm and reach with paw and try to turn the knob. I definitely felt that he could exert mind control when the food scene wasn't to his liking.
One summer, we had a house sitter while we went off on a holiday sans cats. My mother in Law dropped by to see how the sitter was doing and found her eating dinner standing i n the middle of the kitchen. Leona asked about this and was told that if she sat down to eat Junior practically ripped it off her plate. How we laughed. I frequently would banish Junior to the sundeck and lock the cat door so we could eat in peace. Apparently the sitter took her responsibilities to the cats seriously.
I would love coming home in the afternoon and find Junior and Muff waiting out on the lawn under the willow tree. They both knew the sound of our cars and bicycles and would be ready and waiting.
Adventures at the Cottage
The mousing was terrific at the land. Junior had a favorite rock that he would sit on and when a mouse happened by, Bam. When young, his favorite little trick was to sit under the front porch deck and poke his paw through a knot hole and grab an ankle. I think I have a photo of that paw. He liked to come on the walk to the beach, but would stop a little before the beach in a nice shady location and nap until we returned. Often we were on the beach for hours and would still find him waiting for us.
Getting Old and Sleepy
Although older and slower, he still could terrify his enemies. His general strategy was to waddle slowly towards the erring cat, yowling, but relying on his large appearance to do the trick. As he drew nearer, steadily tromping along, the other cat would just disappear with out any argument. I think he did fight a bit but this was his main tactic and it worked like a charm.
Junior managed to outlive Muff of course. She was elderly when he came along. But there was Shadow, Daisy, Tika, and Basil as his later companions. I think the policy of staying near the food bowl was his secret to longevity.
He got on well with the girls but he couldn't abide our male cat Shadow. He spent a lot of time sitting in strategic locations that would make it difficult for Shadow to get to the food bowl. But Shadow was a more an outdoorsy fellow and although it was a bit stressful, they rarely fought.
After Muff died, I had to take over the Junior grooming as he didn't do it and could get quite dirty. He had nice white patches that needed freshening up so I would give him the occasional bath and blow dry him. When older, he got deaf and the noise of the hair drier did not bother him. Generally he was not spooked by things like vacuum cleaners and car trips. He was most relaxed when traveling and we rarely put him in a cat carrier. When we moved to Refuge Cove, and had to travel by boat, of course even Junior would let out a yowl of protest.
Funny Event on Savary Island
We had a neighbour called Thelma, who had a cat. This cat was not very sociable, even by cat standards, but it was loved by Thelma. Their cottage was quite a walk from where we were staying. But there were little paths through the meadow and woods used by the deer and other animals of this location. As we were almost at the end of the summer, I ran out of canned cat food and didn't bother to get anymore. I felt the cats could manage on dry food for a couple of days. When I next talked to Thelma, she told me about this huge cat that came into the house at night, and although Pusscat growled and fussed, the big strange cat took no notice and proceeded to eat all the cat food that was out. Thelma was amused and just let the incident take place without interfering. I asked what the cat looked like. It was grey and white. Well I was perplexed. It sounded like Junior, but how on earth had that couch potato of a cat found his way through the meadow and over the sand dune to Thelma's house for a meal? I walked back and picked up Junior and took him over to her house. "Is this the cat who came last night ?" I asked. Yes, it was, said Thelma. We were quite impressed at Junior's determination not to lower his culinary standards. Just because we were in the country doesn't mean one has to suffer. We thought about Shadow giving Junior the coordinates to the place, after all, Shadow went everywhere and no doubt dropped in on Thelma and Pusscat too.
Junior went on to have some four summers at Savary and at least one at Refuge Cove. He got very careful as he got more frail. We made sure he had an indoor Kitty box so that he didn't have to go out. But generally, he was careful to have a good hideout, close by, if he was outside, so no dog could sneak up on him.
When we sold our Burnaby house and moved to the Townhouse. He didn't miss going out as by then he was 20 and spent most of his days by the gas fireplace or by the food bowl. We had the carpets shampooed and he didn't budge off the sheepskin rug he had by the fire. The carpet men were amazed at how calm he was.
We like to think he passed on his philosophy of "Stay close to the food bowl" to Miso who was Junior's last companion. We remember him as a gentle bully about food and just about the smartest, and sweetest, we have ever had to share our homes with.