Piebald Matley, soon to celebrate his 6th anniversary!

We have a couple of important anniversaries coming up at our place next week.

The first is November 20, which is, coincidentally, my mother’s birthday. But there’s another reason to celebrate that day, too. Ten years ago, November 20, 2007, we adopted a beagle-dachshund mix known as Doc Holliday, aka “the deagle”, a word invented to encompass his canine heritage.

Doc was nearly a year old when he came to our home. We were his fourth family. Some households didn’t have the energy to handle him; in the last one, he was downright abused. Beatings, locked up with pit bulls, the works. A very brave man entered the yard of these abusers, told them they could shoot him if they wanted to but he was taking the dog. Fortunately, no shots were fired. Doc was taken in by Black Dog Rescue in Waitsburg, WA. That’s where we met him. After a few visits, we paid the adoption fee and took him home.

It took him weeks to get acclimated. The abusive owner must have worn a bill cap, because Doc cowered from Bruce whenever he saw him wearing one. Eventually Doc got over that- -with Bruce. Visitors who come to our door are still strongly advised to doff hats of any description; now that Doc is more confident, he’s very likely to snarl and snap.

With other animals, he’s the best citizen at (all two of) Matley Acres. This is fortunate as he is surrounded by (wait for it!) CATS! At first it was just one grumpy cat many years his senior, our beloved Arial who went to her reward in 2010. Now there are three indoor cats and one outdoor cat. We didn’t have to go to the animal rescue folks to adopt the indoor cats because each one of them was abandoned at the crossroads by people who should roast in Hell for eternity. Grizelda, Friday (June the Sixth) and Hoosegow are the indoor denizens. The outdoor chap, Piebald, will celebrate his sixth official year with us on November 21.

While Grizzy, Friday and Hoosegow were abandoned, Piebald is a true feral. He showed up in stages. We first spotted him in early 2011, taunting Friday through the back yard fence. Somehow, they became friends, probably when Piebald figured out Friday’s feeding schedule. He started sneaking in to the back yard, then on to the laundry porch where Friday’s vittles reside. But when we tried to touch him. . . . Humans were definitely on Piebald’s predator radar. He and Friday, however, are feline peas in a pod. Both are “tuxedo” cats, mostly black with white chests and paws, though Friday’s markings are symmetrical and Piebald’s somewhat irregular. Sometimes we catch them sitting side by side in an identical pose.

What was the November 21, 2011 triggering event that made Piebald an official part of the family? That was the day he came home from his first (perhaps only) vet appointment. The Havahart Trap worked once on this cautious and suspicious animal. Without a can of Teriyaki oysters, it might not have worked at all.

It’s amazing that Piebald has survived to the ripe old age of approximately eight. Uncontainable, he easily scales our five-foot fence and hunts when he chooses in the surrounding wheat fields, an environment also frequented by coyotes and birds of prey. Of all our cats, he’s the strongest, the most athletic and the glossiest, probably because he supplements the meals we provide him with items off the “fresh” list. As a result, he’s been wormed several times (hint: put the medicine in canned mackerel or poultry-based baby food).

Piebald remains a “hands off” kind of guy, even though we sing to him and talk to him and feed him a yummy diet. The other cats get two meals a day; Piebald gets three. This is part of Bruce’s recruiting plan, to make Piebald an indoor/outdoor cat who lets himself be petted and brushed every year or so. The best way to get close to Piebald is to offer dried shrimp. Sometimes his nose bumps your hand when these morsels are set before him, but the wild look in his huge yellow eyes never fully fades.

Happy Anniversary to Doc Holliday and Piebald! We are honored to have you in the family. Oh, and Mom, Happy Birthday to you, too.


Marge Abraham, aka Mom, dancing in uptown Port Townsend, late 1990s.

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