Monday, October 13, 2008

The ASCSA Cats: Pandora, Rusty Pumpkin, and Wallie

As anyone who knows me will be aware, there is a tradition of American archaeologists rescuing animals from Greece and taking them back home to the States. The main reason this happens is because cats and dogs roam freely in Athens but, as strays, do not receive the best of care. Greece does not have the state and private-sponsored system of shelters, nor the laws protecting animals, exhibited most dramatically in hypnotic shows like Animal Cops. For years Agora excavators have been finding stray animals in the excavation trenches, fallen in love, and taken them home. The School’s current Director, Jack Davis, had his own rescued Greek pet for a number of years. Ron Stroud just told me at dinner about the Momma and Son cat duo that he and his wife took to the States in the 90s. And then there is Beast Cat, whom I rescued from Nafplio about three years ago, complete with her unborn children. (Beast Cat, incidentally, is currently chilling with my Grandma and Aunt in Atlanta while I am here.)

Sleepy time: Beast Cat and Son.

But the School itself has had to be wary of adopting pets. Really, there are just too many animals about to adopt, and once you take one, it becomes harder to say no to others. It’s a hard thing to see the cats about with their dripping eyes and the dogs with their bone-y flanks. But it turns out sometimes we have been too sappy to refuse them. Molly Richardson, a wonderful resource for School stories, said that just before she came to Athens, there had been a School dog named Exo (always trying to get inside the buildings and always needing to be shooed out, thus his name – ‘Out!’). But the current Queen of the School is none other than our own black-and-white mottled ball of goodness, Pandora. According to Molly, Pandora showed up one day and claimed the School as her own. Bob Bridges had been circulating advice to all newcomers to Athens – ‘don’t touch the cats, no matter how cute they are, because you’ll get ringworm!’ When the students at the time saw Pandora, they naturally took to calling her ‘Ringworm.’ But the School policy was to just say no, and Ringworm was told nicely but firmly not to hang around.

Ringworm could care less, of course, and was always lounging about by the Blegen (the main School building), occasionally sneaking into the building when she was able. She was so brazen in fact, that the then-School Director Jim Muhly (not a cat person) found her sitting in his office chair, declaring who it was that truly ran the School. No one knows what happened (or at least I haven’t found out yet), but the Director decided suddenly and to the surprise of all that Ringworm could stay. He posted a contest to name her, offering a bottle of Champagne to the winner. Ann Stewart won that contest, dubbing the cat Pandora, perhaps a sly allusion to the dreaded gift that Pandora might unleash on unsuspecting Members (i.e. ringworm). And so Pandora has remained at the School and is much loved by all, getting her own special dry food, and being cared for by Member’s like Alexis Belis.

Alexis and Pandora in the foyer of the Blegen Library.

And then there is Rusty Pumpkin, who showed up at Loring to claim it as his territory. He is apparently not an official School Cat, but unofficially he his, since he has his own little Cat-House on the porch with well-appointed foodstuffs nearby. Rusty is well-known to the Regular/Associate Members living in Loring as the cat who loves to sit in your lap, but will bite your fricking face off if you touch his belly or mess with him in any way. I have witnessed some close calls of that sort already – Regular Member Jason Harris is lucky to still have eyeballs.

Rusty in the garden of Loring.
Apparently the appearance of kittens is not an unusually phenomenon around the School, with ‘oohhh’ and ‘awwing’ students begging to adopt them, but they are usually reminded that when the students leave for America, someone has to deal with the kitties they’ve left behind. But sometimes it’s hard to remember that. The current reason? Wallie.

Me and Wallie.

Wallie (which is, at least, her/his temporary name) was discovered meowing piteously on top of the wall at the British School several days ago, unable to get down. Getting the cat down seems to have been quite a trial, ending with a bunch of Americans and Greeks standing around, clapping ‘brava!’ But poor little kitty had gooey eyes and when the Rescuing Americans attempted to leave, s/he tried to follow them into traffic. So little Wallie has been nestled away in a back corner of the School grounds and is receiving eye drops and enormous amounts of love from several Members who are quickly becoming smitten. S/he has a wonderful personality and comes running to leap into your lap whenever you visit, is a great fan of being swaddled, and has the most adorably pathetic meow. Spoiled already, s/he is. But everyone knows it is not likely to last, and at some point, someone will have to decide what to do with swiftly fattening Wallie. Finding her a good home is on a lot of people’s minds. But damn she’s cute.


Anonymous said...


Wallie is a cute one. Doesn't "Beast Cat" need a sibling (says the man who has 4 cats in his house)? It looks like stray animals are a serious problem in Greece given the Puppies you found earlier.



Maria P./ said...

Yay for cats! Nobody can resist them. Wallie looks so cute.. something tells me you're going to try and take him/her with you to the States when you go back.

Katie said...

No Way, Maria! Beast Cat is all I need. But your two cats are looking for a new roommate, aren't they?

k said...

hey katie! so glad to see that you've kept Rusty Pumpkin's name alive. he's looking rather svelte these days.

Benjamin said...

*sprinkles catnip on Maria*

Go on Wallie, go see Maria...