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Column: The Cat from Iraq

I just love this job. People call me and stop me on the street to suggest topics for articles. Because of some great leads, I recently interviewed Marian Van Landingham’s Dachshunds and I have been meeting with puppy raisers for Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Look for both of these stories this summer.

I have a great story for you this week. A friend of mine popped into the office one day to tell me about Mickey the traveling cat. I trotted over to Eight Hands Round on Mt. Vernon Avenue in Del Ray to talk to Cindy Gompert about Mickey. Later that afternoon I had a long talk with David, Cindy’s husband, to get some additional details.

Our story opens in the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq in 2006. We are outside the palace at the guard station watching the guards check passes as people arrive for work. There are two teenage cats sitting next to the guard, one has been nicknamed Seven and the other one Garbage. These guys show up every day having appointed themselves feline guards. Some people even bend down to show Seven and Garbage their passes. They are very friendly cats.

Somewhere in the Green Zone is the other character in this story, David Gompert. He lives in one of hundreds of identical trailers and he is one of the lucky ones because he does not have a trailer-mate. The rule is for two to share the 8’X12’ living space but David is by himself. The only problem is that he gets a little lonely so he starts thinking that he might want to share his space with one of the cats roaming the "Zone." David has seen and heard the story of Seven and Garbage. "I am a cat person," he tells me, and "I asked the Aussies to see if they could find me a cat." Soon Seven and David are roommates. The first order of business was a bath. Cindy told me that David called her very early one morning to ask, "How do you wash a cat," "very carefully," she replied.

Under all that dirt was a gorgeous orange and white tabby. Seven was renamed Mickey, after Mickey Mantle (jersey # 7). I asked David about the adjustment for Mickey who had never been inside." "Oh, he took to it quickly, bed was great and he slept with his head on the pillow," David told me. "His diet went from garbage can fare to steak, fish and grilled tuna."

The living arrangement was good for awhile and then came the call of the girls and the fun of the trailer got old. Mickey was alone for up to 18 hours and he began to act up. Down went the curtains, magazines were shredded, everything not nailed down got shoved under the bed, and then, according to Cindy, Mickey peed on David’s pillow. It was time for Mickey to be given his freedom. Off he went.

A month later our wandering boy was back. David told me that he was really surprised that he was able to pick out the trailer as they all looked alike. [So like a person – Mickey knew exactly how to find the right trailer]. All was OK for a few days then the Halliburton folks who run the trailers found out about the contraband feline and told David he had to go. There was only one thing to do. Take him to the palace. There he was outfitted with a litter box of desert sand, all the finest foods and his stuffed camel. It was hard keeping him in the bathroom so there were occasions when a little trashing was going on, and it was remarkable how quickly he learned how behave during meetings, be nice to all the important people and to do a little typing on the computer.

Alas, all things must come to an end and it was time for David to go home. The future would have been pretty bleak for Mickey if he were to remain behind. I heard that the word was out that there were too many cats and that many were to be eradicated. This was not to be the fate of our hero. During the transition between Iraq and home Mickey spent some time at the home of the Italian ambassador where he was seen by Saddam Hussein’s former veterinarian, got his shots, was rendered useless to the female feline population, and obtained a health certificate for travel. On the way out, two final glitches appeared, the Iraqis were not going to let Mickey leave the country and so a few dollars exchanged hands, and David and Mickey had to fly commercial. Once airborne, David and a 17-pound cat stuffed into a small carrier headed to Frankfurt, Germany and then on to Dulles and then to home in Old Town.

Today, Mickey is an indoor/outdoor cat. He sleeps up close to Cindy and is the sweetest cat in the world according to David. Louise, the cat already in residence when Mickey showed up initially gave him what for, but they now have a normal sibling relationship. Mickey has two sides to his personality according to David, "he is rambunctious and almost aggressive with a very serious side, and he is genuinely affectionate and innocent, especially with Cindy." Mickey spends most of the year in Old Town and he summers with the family in Maine. I think that David really summed it up when he told me, "This is the luckiest cat in the world, he drank out of greasy puddles using his paws to get to fresher water, ate scraps, had a death sentence over his head, and now, he has the best, is well fed and clean. He earned it."

What a great story. Do you have a story for me?

Before I go I have a request from Liz Davis who owns the Dairy Godmother on Mt. Vernon Avenue. Liz gets lots of foam material pads that cushion the waffle cones she makes, dozens of them a week. She had an idea to make pet beds for veterinary hospitals and her own pets. She took two pillowcases and put the foam inside. This makes a very comfy warm bed. The foam gets tossed after being used by one animal at the vet’s and the pillow cases get washed. Soooo! If you want to drop off pillow cases she will donate them with the foam to Del Ray Animal Hospital. If you want some foam to make your own pet beds, she will be happy to give you some. "It uses the foam twice and keeps it out of the landfill for a little longer," Liz said. Visit <a href=http://www.dairygodmother.com> www.dairygodmother.com</a> for details.

Well gentle readers it is time for me to close.

<i>Keep your tail high and your feet dry.</i>

<b>— Daisy Mae</b>