By Stan Stewart.
John Cooper lives by the estuary in Whitianga, in a lovely home. However, he is a man with a mission. You will find him every morning on the seat outside the Thames Coromandel District offices in Monk Street, Whitianga. John comes there to feed a female tabby cat.
Some background information is needed to understand who John is and why he feeds the tabby cat. John came to Whitianga sixty years ago. In 1983, he and his wife, Bernice, owned a house at 2 Monk St, next to the Council Offices. They named the house, ‘Arlingham House’ and used it as a shop and a workshop. Bernice Cooper sold fine China and giftware. John, who is a locksmith by trade, had a workshop in the house. From this, he operated his locksmith and security business. With a hint of pride, he remembers that he installed the first alarm in Whitianga.
Eight years ago, after his wife’s death, John sold the house to the Council. The Council sold the house for removal and only this year was the house moved. Currently the block is vacant. When the house was shifted, the cat, who had slept under that house for most of her life, was now homeless. Clearly, she has found another sleeping pad nearby and has stayed in the vicinity of her former home.
John and the tabby do not have a normal cat- owner relationship. She has never slept in his house (Arlingham House), or anyone’s house. However, clearly the tabby and John are great pals. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that they need each other. Here is how the tabby and John met up. Nine years ago, Whitianga was having a problem with feral cats. John’s friend was employed by the Council to get rid of them. One day he said to John that he had two small spayed female tabby cats from the same litter. He suggested that John take care of these two feline sisters. Somewhat reluctantly, John did this. He began feeding both of them. The cats and John established a routine. Then one of the sisters was shot by a person unknown. This left the one tabby, and she is the one John continues to feed to this day.
Most mornings, John sits on the bench seat. Passersby may think John is by himself, but he is not. He is never alone. Although you may not see his companion, the tabby cat is his company. When John is there the tabby is as always, somewhere close. She sits behind the seat or under the seat. The tabby has no name, but occasionally John calls her ‘Little Girl’. After feeding Little Girl, John continues to sit on the seat for about an hour. “I feel I’d like to give the cat some company,” John says.
Now here is a mystery. Little Girl knows John’s cars and immediately appears when John drives up the street. Many cars drive up Monk St from the Esplanade, but Little Girl only appears when either of John’s cars appear. By the time he pulls into the kerb, his faithful tabby is sitting on the footpath. John drives either of two Toyota cars. Many Toyota cars drive up the street all the time. But Little Girl only appears when it is John’s car. “She comes out as soon as I turn the corner into Monk St.” How is it possible that this tabby knows John’s car from dozens of similar cars. Does she read the number plates?
It's obvious what John does for the tabby. He feeds her and she lets him (only him) pat her. But does the cat do anything for John? John in his ninetieth year says, “She gets me out of the house. After I’ve had my breakfast, it’s time to go up town and feed the cat.” Little Girl” and John are good mates and real mates care for each other. That’s what they do.
Caption: "Little Girl".