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Very many thanks to Bob Gordon, Canadian journalist and Junior's owner, of Guelph, Ontario,
Michael Alexander Billiot, Jr, or Junior for short, is a survivor of the disastrous hurricane Katrina of August 2005, and now (2009) lives 1500 miles north of the bayou where he was born. I first met Junior in Golden Meadow, a small town on Bayou Lafourche, south-west of New Orleans, when he was, literally, dropped in my lap. I had travelled to Louisiana after Katrina to volunteer in the relief effort with the organisation Veterans for Peace. A friend in Baton Rouge suggested that rural areas were being sorely neglected, particularly francophone areas, and recommended that I continue to Lafourche and search out some friends of his who were already there volunteering.
Arriving in Golden Meadow I discovered that the accommodation consisted of tents surrounding a school bus that served as kitchen/dining room etc. It also served as the feeding station for a pack of dogs that had been left behind when their owners evacuated. One day a local volunteer called Michael Alexander Billiot, Jr told me that I must really like dogs to be feeding so many. I replied that no, I had never owned a dog but had owned cats all my life and was definitely a 'cat person'.
The next morning Jun. arrived at work with a beautiful marmalade tabby kitten that was only weeks old. It had obviously lost its mother and siblings during the flooding and evacuation and had been hanging around his trailer doing the best it could. Now the four-legged Junior was mine. With so many dogs around, his life was initially quite restricted; he spent his days in the bus and his nights in my sleeping bag in the tent. Gradually he began expanding his boundaries and learned that he could escape the dogs by leaping in through the emergency exit door on the side of the bus.
The Cajun people have a strange attitude towards cats, akin only to what I encountered in Palestine. Nobody owns a cat and they are never let indoors, but the entire community names them and cares for them. So Junior became 'Bob the Canadian's cat' and ate better there than I did. People would show up with the excuse that they were driving home and happened to have an 'extra' pound of shrimp and ask if they could give it to Junior. Needless to say, he became something of a local celebrity and decidedly a 'lie-in-the-sun' housecat. When it was time for me to leave New Orleans after about four months to return to Canada, it was impossible for me to leave without him, so Junior got all the shots necessary to cross the Canadian border in Monroe, Michigan, and we proceeded to his new home in Guelph, Ontario, just days before Christmas 2005. He became le patois.
Interestingly, my apartment is beside the entrance to our condo complex, and Junior has adopted the habit of sitting in the front window and chuffing and yowling as the students from the local university come home. Inevitably they stop to greet him. Once, I think in 2007, I explained to one of them that he was a francophone and a Cajun; the story has persisted through word of mouth ever since. Consequently, I will be sitting in my office working and will hear a student explain to her friend that he is 'Junior, the Louisiana Wonder Cat'.
He is definitely happy, but unfortunately I cannot say he is entirely healthy. He has severe gum disease as a result of nutritional deficiencies in his first weeks, and will prematurely lose teeth. He also has, I am convinced, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Periodically, he grooms and scratches one area obsessively until it is hairless, even bleeding. When the normal treatment, such as steroids, and other treatments were having no effect his veterinarian agreed with a diagnosis of PTSD. Regardless, at the vet's and in our neighbourhood he is popular, in part because he is beautiful but also because everyone knows he's 'Junior, the Louisiana Wonder Cat'.
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Our featured feline at the head of the page: your companion through Feline Fragments is Maggie. She came as a kitten from Powys Cat Rescue. One of their volunteers had seen her wandering around, apparently uncared for, and thought her rather young to be just left to roam. The person 'responsible' for her said she 'didn't care', and so the youngster was taken in for rehoming. Only about 4 months old when I brought her home in 2003, she was a self-assured soul, probably because of her early experience, and was soon climbing all the available trees in the garden. She was a determined hunter in her earlier days, and was usually outside, but now prefers snoozing unless the weather is good. She has superb whiskers and as the photo shows, loves getting into things! (see it here without the puzzle effect)
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