Firehouse Kitties

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: While firemen are frequently depicted rescuing our feline friends from trees, and Dalmatians get all the credit for being the canine kingpins of firehouse life, it is a fact that many cats actually rule the roost at our local firehouses. I grew up with a volunteer fire department, an impressively splendid thing in its own right with our local men training and risking their lives to rescue folks and put out fires. There was a firehouse of course, but to my knowledge no resident animals. However, here in Manhattan I assume traditional resident firedogs probably exist, but are not known to me. Our firehouses seem especially well suited to independently minded cats who require nominal care, and have the added bonus of tending to the rodent population.

From the firehouse cats stories I have read (and which abound on the internet, should you be interested) cats generally seem to find their way to the fold after being rescued, either from fires or other sticky situations. I assume it was probably ever thus and that this photo of our fire fighting friends from the early 20th century probably acquired their two cats the same way. If you ask me, these two scrappy kits look like they are ready to get off laps and mix it up a little, especially the one on the left. I was hoping that these photos would have a little more information in person, but sadly they remain a bit duped looking and I wonder if it wasn’t actually a primitive reprint process of the day – allowing everyone to have copies of the group photos.

I assumed that these two photos were of the same firemen, casual and formal portraits, but no. If you look carefully they are not the same men – the mustaches were the first give away. Still, I present even our cat-less firemen since these photos have remained together all this time, seems fair to keep them paired here. They are early photo postcards, highly solarized over time. Both have 1904 written in pencil on the back in the same hand, there is no other information.

It probably will not surprise any of my Pictorama readers that I keep gentle tabs and a tally of cats in my greater Yorkville, New York neighborhood. One of my regrets about no longer walking across the Eastside to work every morning to work is that I no longer maintain my regular nodding acquaintance with a number of cat friends along the way. One such feline lives in the Yorkville firehouse on 85th between Lexington and Third. This fellow with marmalade spots does not generally come out to mingle, but I have spotted him, clearly in charge, keeping an eye on the interior of the firehouse and presumably its inhabitants. I did a quick search today and his name is Carlow and I uncovered an interview he gave at Interview with Carlow the Cat. I have tried to get a good photo of him for years and have failed. However, thanks to the internet and my fellow blogger, here he is shown below.

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Butch

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: By now readers know that it is hard for me to pass up a photo of a puss with a spotty nose and this guy had the ultimate in spotted-kitty face decoration. Not only does he have a big black nose spot, but that black spot on his chin is very deftly placed and makes him a pretty handsome gentleman.

This dignified fellow is identified as the mascot of the Oregon Humane Society in Portland – Portland is a place I have often mentioned as a El Dorado of superb early photos. (Some Portland posts include, Felix on Parade and most recently, Cat’s Eye on Parade.) This one appears to date a bit later than most of my pics, but has that good Portland photo spirit nonetheless. I have always enjoyed stories about the felines in the work force and those working kits (and their kissin’ cousins the mascots) make up a sub-genre of cat photos and tales. From Old Tom the Post Office Cat to Tom the Fire Boat Cat I have uncovered great stories of kitties in the working world.

Then there are those cats we all know, who reside in shops, vet’s offices and like Butch, make a permanent home of a place that is meant to be a way station for animals. Those employed to catch mice (and, um, larger rodents) in the bodegas and deli’s of New York City, are acquired for self-evident reasons like the more glorified working friends mentioned above. While I have no doubt that they perform this service admirably they do not seem to enjoy an especially notable status. (I have been tempted to ask if I could adopt one or another at times if I felt they were particularly unloved, but that will be another story.) Other workaday cats, however, are clearly beloved – I think of an especially lovely if aloof calico who presided over the Alabaster bookstore in Union Square for many years. Perhaps it won’t surprise readers that a great cat is enough to entice me into repeated visits to an establishment. There is a lovely striped cat who flies below the radar in a health food store I frequent who I often catch snoozing by a space heater behind the counter.

The stories of Butch and those like him who somehow either endear themselves so thoroughly to the staff of an adoption agency, or in some cases are special, but not easily adoptable for some reason, are on my mind today. How strange it must be for them to be the resident kitty in a place where endless cats and other animals come and go, or stay briefly. Years ago my vet had several permanent residents – one I remember was a sweet, fat fellow, who had a respiratory issue that made him sound as if he was constantly saying, “Peep!” Another one I remember coming to sit with me and Otto or Zippy, whoever was screaming bloody murder in the cat carrier at the moment, as if to both investigate and offer a paw in comradeship to the visiting kitty. (Understandably, this didn’t go over so well with my guys.) The current vet has a few residents who all seem to be of sound body, but seem to keep mostly to themselves – although they might demand a chin rub or two while I am paying the bill.  I wonder about each of their stories. For now we’ll salute Butch and his comrades, as well as the fine work of the generations of human folk, who find homes for our footloose feline friends.