By Claudia Costa-Jacobson
Sassy, our little calico cat joined John and me one summer day eight years ago when I was the caretaker of the Beaverkill Valley Inn. We had recently lost our beloved cat Jake, a large yellow gregarious cat who greeted us at the door lying on his back, tummy side up. I had raised Jake from a kitten and brought him with me when I married John. Losing him was hard, but he had Feline HIV and there just was nothing we could do, though we sure tried.
I didn’t really go shopping for another cat, but the Humane Society knew about my loss. They called me, saying they had a sweet cat that had lived there for eight months without adoption. They described her as a small calico with some “middle age baggage.”
John was away working, so I went to sign Sassy’s adoption papers alone. They explained that she would need some time to adjust to new surroundings and new people.
As soon as I opened the crate door in our living room, Sassy came out. She surveyed our tiny apartment in a few minutes. By the time John got home, she was lying on the back of the couch. By the next night she was sleeping with us. Sassy didn’t need the “time for adjustment” clause. She adopted us.
Sassy’s third night with us showed us who we had. There were two open screened windows above our bed. Sassy had been lying on the windowsill watching insects and birds. She made a lunge at something. There was a terrible crash as both screen and cat fell to the ground. Instantly we heard clawing and in seconds Sassy projected herself back through the window. John caught her. John fixed the screen and from then on we open the windows from the top and keep the bottom pane open just enough that our cat can’t escape.
Eight years later, we live on Delaware Avenue. Our living room windows look out on the street and the Tremperskill. Sassy has plenty of birds, butterflies and people to keep track of in her old age. On Sunday evenings Sassy watches the nature and animal shows on PBS TV. Sassy has gotten thinner and moves a little less now than eight years ago. On her last visit to the vet, her record shows that she weighed 5.3 pounds. Still, she makes some extra leaps when she sees lions and tigers on TV.
One night in January, John had some friends over for dinner and music. They sat in a circle in our dining room playing old fiddle tunes. Ed McGee was playing the clawhammer banjo, John VanBenschoten played the guitar, Ginny Scheer played the flute and my husband John was playing his fiddle. In the middle of their circle was Sally, Ginny’s dog. Jean and Roy Goodman were in the living room with Sassy and me eating and listening to the music.
Sally is a well-mannered, middle-aged Chocolate Lab. She probably weighs 80 or 90 pounds. The musicians were intent on their tune when Sally got up and sauntered into the living room. Sally probably never met a bowl of food she didn’t like. She went over to Sassy’s bowl of special cat food and it was gone in an instant.
That was the last straw for Sassy. She sprang down from her perch by the window with a yowl. Hissing and yowling, Sassy marched fearlessly toward that dog. Sally slunk backwards toward the dining room. The music stopped. Ginny grabbed Sally, John scooped up Sassy and the commotion stopped.
Sally was corralled in the dining room once again and the music started back up. Sassy went back to her perch. Since that night it seems that Sassy has been “more of herself,” as my husband John says. I think that she likes living here in Andes as much as I do, surrounded by laughter, warmth, music and friends. ~