Madame Paint

I wondered about the delicately dappled white calico that studied me all the time. Then I began to receive mysterious “gifts” at my doorstep. Miscellaneous socks, underwear, panties, etc. The mystery continued day after day. I mentioned this to my neighbor Connie. “That’s Paint, the white calico, doing that,” said Connie. “She’s telling you she loves you!”

Sure enough I caught her red handed, or clawed if you will. At the doorstep looking up at me with a brazier clutched in her jaws. Offering to me what I surely most wanted in the world. I discovered she routinely raided the laundry room at an apartment building next door.

When I went for walks I had the strange feeling I wasn’t alone. I turned around to look about. Nothing. But then out of the corner of my eye a white feline figure moving in the bushes. There was Paint. She had been following me for some time on all my walks. Darting from bush to bush. And unknown to me at first even across busy streets. “You crazy little cat,” I told her.

I never knew such bravado from a creature as dainty and delicate as she was.

There was no doubt I had been adopted. Such persistence was irresistible.

Connie’s husband Mil was a veterinarian. They had been caring for Paint and her great big son Tiger. But Connie has rather severe allergies to cat dander. Otherwise Paint and Tiger would have had a good home. However, they made sure the cats had access to water and excellent food at a sheltered window sill of their place. Mil took Paint and Tiger into the clinic. Gave them shots. Spayed and neutered as well. Paint required antibiotics and medicine because of internal injuries she suffered.

Paint’s early life was at a house where two men lived. Two miserable examples of human existence that routinely kicked Paint about for entertainment and laughs. The men were away frequently. Paint had to fend for herself in the alley ways. Though barely past being a kitten herself, a big nasty tom cat had his way with her. She then had kittens of her own. The “men” reacted by throwing Paint and her litter out onto Riviera Drive. It is a busy street in Pacific Beach notorious for speeding vehicles. Paint managed to save herself and only one kitten, Tiger. Her litter was crushed by rushing cars.

For weeks Paint roamed the alleys for whatever scraps of food she could find. So skinny and weak she could barely walk and carry kitten Tiger by the nap of his neck. As she searched for the next bit of garbage food.

Connie and Mil discovered Paint much the same way I did. Offerings left on their doorstep and window sill. Rags and gardening gloves belonging to the lady owning the house I lived at. Connie showed her the gloves. “So that’s what happened to my rags and and gardening gloves.” It was all Paint’s doing.

Connie and Mil nursed the cats back to full health. Tiger grew up to be seemingly twice the size of Paint. She decided however that he was big enough to be on his own. Paint constantly sought to push him out of the nest. But Paint was all Tiger ever knew. He wasn’t about to leave no matter how much punishment she dished out in the form of hissing, spitting, swiping and batting. He just took it like a punching bag. Not that Tiger’s experience with Mom and nasty humans hadn’t affected him. He grew up to be afraid of his own shadow.

Connie loved Tiger dearly. She and Mil found a home for him in Mission Hills. Paint adopted me. They all lived happily ever after.

Paint was certainly resilient. Somehow not losing an instinct that there was a human out there she could trust. But she was going to chose carefully. Finding a veterinarian was good instinct on her part. And then how she knew I would succumb to her charms, I don’t know.

Most people never saw the charming Paint. For understandable reasons she had no interest in people at all beyond her chosen one. But she wasn’t the kind of cat to run and hide under a bed. She stood her ground under all circumstances. Some saw her as aloof. Others thought she was rather regal. Queen like. She kept her mostly white coat of fur spotless. Her gate was light and dainty. Almost ballet like. And perhaps because of her early life encounter with that old alley cat, she did not tolerate any other cat whatsoever. She patrolled her turf and took on intruders no matter how much larger they were.

When I moved to Normal Heights Dad installed a cat door at the front of the house. I was afraid with so many creatures of all sorts in the neighborhood some would find their way through that door. Paint was always on guard though. Once a cat managed to stick its head through. Paint responded immediately and dished out a severe penalty to the intruder. As always she cleaned up thoroughly after dirtying her paws on the riff raff.

It was never done better on Leave It To Beaver, or Father Knows Best. She knew the sound of my VW at the curb. Without fail charged out her little door to greet me. To side rub my legs and escort me in. And yes, most likely over to the food dish.

She was a bird lover. She easily caught them. Or if she saw them through the window she clicked and clattered her jaws while observing. She ran to the television at the sight of any animal or bird shown. Sometimes taking a few bats or swipes at the screen.

Paint liked being on the bed at night, kneading out her selected location. That’s unless she suspected trespassers might be lurking about. Then she’d guard the door. Otherwise she’d jump on the bed, circle her spot, turn on the purr machine and get cozy. Invariably I woke up to the sound of her cleaning duties. The licking and chewing. Occasionally if she felt I hadn’t passed inspection, she licked and chewed on me as well until I met standards.

Since Paint has gone on to Heaven, I haven’t sought a new pet. Maybe a beta fish or two. But not a furry four leg variety. Her legacy of tragedy, triumph, heart, determination, loyalty and personality is unique. And quite irreplaceable it seems to me.

I am Dan Soderberg, award winning documentary film maker and phototgrapher specializing in architecture, historic preservation and nature.
  • Dan Lobash

    This is like to visiting the past………..I lived at the same home where Dan met Paint. She was a fine cat and Dan caught her attitude very nicely in this series. Keep up the good work Dan

  • Zack

    I never knew the story of the kitty. Thanks.

  • ruby

    What a great story!
    You are such a writer, and I enjoy very much reading and looking at the pictures.

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