Urban blight and condemned houses are a modern reality. The buildings themselves are usually not the only thing abandoned. People all too often leave behind animals to fend for themselves.
Such was the case approximately six years ago when the City of Utica condemned a property. Animal control was called to remove a few kittens from the premises, all of them very ill. The animals were taken to Stevens-Swan Humane Society for shelter and care. As happens more than anyone involved with animal welfare would like, most of the felines succumbed to disease that they were too malnourished to fight. One medium haired grey kitten survived. He was named Rudy.
Up until this point, Rudy clearly had not had the best life. There was suspicion that he was a product of inbreeding, and he always had runny eyes and a sneeze. He has never had a proper “meow,” only a squeak. He was not the best candidate for adoption, so he became one of the shelter’s house cats.
Rudy embraced his role fully. He greeted guests and made his rounds in the offices (surely to supervise and be sure that the work was being done to his standards). Rudy also demonstrated an unparalleled love for dogs. He was fearless. He became the official dog-tester for the humane society.
Rudy would be introduced to dogs under supervision and with the dog leashed, to gauge the canine’s reaction to him. The dogs’ reaction to Rudy helped shelter staff place them in appropriate homes – some could go to homes with cats, others could not.
There were a handful of times that a dog caught Rudy by his ruff, but staff was always present to ensure he was not injured. That changed one day. A dog was behind the front desk, and when Rudy jumped onto the counter, the dog grabbed him by the neck. Rudy was rescued immediately by an adoption counselor, but for the first time in his history at the shelter, he was frightened.
Kathy Contino-Turner, the shelter’s executive director at the time, decided then that this close call would be Rudy’s last and he would come home with her. When the day came to bring Rudy home, he celebrated by knocking over salad dressing and rolling in it! His new family was not deterred by this stunt and he has been with them for two years.
Rudy has adjusted marvelously to his new life. He has other cats in the home, as well as two dogs. Rudy often spends the night sleeping next to his friend Sally the black laborador retriever, and when his eyes run, he gets them cleaned with a warm wash cloth.
Contino-Turner had suspected that Rudy had an issue with his hearing, and this was confirmed after he went missing in the house. She was having a door replaced and shut the cats in on the third floor. Once it was safe for them to come back downstairs with no danger of getting outside, she opened the interior door. All of the cats except Rudy came out. The family spent hours calling and looking for him. Finally, they heard scratching coming from the ceiling – he had gotten himself stuck between floors somehow. Contino-Turner pulled up the floorboards in one of the rooms, and got Rudy’s attention with a can of tuna since he was not responding to being called. As it turned out, Rudy was deaf and had been for perhaps his entire life.
There are really no special challenges to having a deaf cat, said Contino-Turner. She just has to get his attention with touch or visual cues. He is known for sleeping through housecleaning sessions with the vacuum and the occasional smoke detector buzz.
Rudy has had his share of adventures, but is enjoying retirement from his job as shelter mascot. He is perfectly happy to be the ruler of his own little kingdom, which is as it should be.