Bob, the Wonder Cat

Some people have asked me why my unix workstation is named "bob", or why I have a picture of a cat on my home page. This page answers both questions.

[A photo from Bob's book jacket1]

I got Bob from a neighbor as a tiny, cute kitten. He rapidly grew into a rather large cat with a large appetite and an attitude. He was fond of chasing dogs, chewing up lampshades and getting drinks from my squirtgun (a training method that obviously didn't work out). He even developed a taste for the Frank's Hot Sauce that I tried in an attempt to keep him from chewing on power cables.

I think it was fall of 1985 or '86 that I awoke in the middle of the night to hear loud mewing and scratching. Bob was trying to communicate. Now, we're not talking Lassie here; the only thoughts Bob ever communicated were "more food" and a sort of generalized threat.2  Not that Bob was malevolent towards everyone; many of my neighbors though he was the sweetest kitty on the block. This is a side he kept well hidden from me.

But back to the story. Bob was meowing and howling loud enough to wake me up, which takes a lot of doing; I once slept for 6 hours on a staircase in a busy residence hall. I turned on the light to discover my room was thick with smoke (as I was a smoker back then, this wouldn't normally have bothered me), there were numerous emergency vehicles outside, and I was (it turned out) the last person in the building. I threw on a pair of levis and a sweater, checked the door to the living room (it was cool to the touch), opened it and unlatched the doors that opened onto my front patio. Bob took off like a shot over the railing, a seven foot drop, and I followed quickly after. Soon the fire spread to my apartment proper, and the firemen were pumping in thousands of gallons of water and chopping holes in the walls and ceiling while Bob and I (and most of the neighborhood) watched.Okay, so it was his furry butt, and not mine, that he was primarily interested in saving. But save mine he did indeed.

We were promised that the building would be ready for us to move into again in three months, so not surprisingly (this was a government operation, after all) we moved back in about a year and a half later. Not long after that Bob came limping home one night after a run in with something or someone much bigger than he. His injuries were pretty serious, and I had to have him put to sleep.

That was about 10 years ago3. I haven't had any cats since, as frankly, what cat could follow this performance? But he lives on in his very own web page.

Vale, Bob!

1. The secret of great cat photography: Get down on the floor. Really down.
2. A friend of mine had an ongoing war with Bob, who knew fear when he sensed it. One evening at my apartment Bob heard his voice and slowly poked his head around the corner. "Oh-oh" said my friend. "He's got a little kitty gun."
3. Now 25 years and counting.