Thursday, August 3, 2017

About Jake, who roamed the East Village these past 11 years


[Photo by Josh Rogosin]

EVG reader thomkat, an East Village resident since 1980, shared this piece about Jake, who roamed the neighborhood for the past 11 years. "He made a lot of friends all over the East Village from Tompkins Square Park to Avenue D, mainly between 10th and 4th streets — and possibly a few enemies."

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Out the door to work one morning on 7th Street in the fall of 2006, I noticed a young and healthy looking tuxedo cat pawing at the black plastic trash bags next to the curb.

Obviously hungry and lost (?), he willingly accepted my offer of food. After he gobbled that down, I snapped his picture and later posted “Is This Your Cat?” flyers all over the East Village. After two weeks, when no claims had surfaced, he was mine. The vet estimated his age to be a year and a half. He also pronounced, “That cat’s going to dominate you!” That seemed preposterous at the time, but little did I know.

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At first, Jake was constantly trying to find a way to get outside. We tried a leash – not a good idea. You’ve never seen the likes of such thrashing, clawing and biting. So I let him out into the garden adjoining our building — and over the wall he went and across the street.

Finally, realizing how street savvy he was, I installed a flap door in the bathroom window and built an 8’ wooden plank down into the garden so he had 24/7 access to come and go at will.


And come and go he did, for more than 11 years. With an implanted chip, a red stretch collar with three bells (warning to birds, etc.), a tag engraved with my cell and the explanation “I can jump over the wall and go inside by myself” — and of course, regular visits to the vet (usually the result of cat fights), he survived many a close scrape.

That first summer, he came home with a long cut on this tail. The vet took pains to save it and Jake was confined to the apartment sporting an Elizabethan collar and a heavy cast on his tail for 30 days. But alas, the tail could not be revived so he lost a little over half its length. (My son who lives down on 1st Street called him “Stumpy”).

He truly lived up to the reputation of his namesake — Jake, the handsome and rowdy lady killer from the book I was currently reading, "Lonesome Dove," a cowboy who was always riding off, being chased and getting into trouble.

Jake’s regular hangouts were the many East Village Gardens gardens and parks, Tompkins Square Park being the first. Other favorites were 6BC, the Fireman’s Garden and Green Oasis on 8th Street (where the gardeners squirted him with water for pestering the resident feral cats), La Plaza on 9th Street (where he had a girlfriend named Ruby and also bothered irate gardeners who were fearful for their chickens), the Generation X, 4th Street Garden, and the LES Ecology Garden on 7th Street.


At times he would frequent the same garden for an entire summer as the "resident cat."

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Jake did not suffer fools – when certain people approached him he would move away. Dogs didn’t faze him; most gave him a wide berth. He seemed to be able to judge them from afar and was always close enough to a parked car or a fenced-in tree pit for a quick escape.

More often he wouldn’t budge and gave them a quick swat if they came too close. Sometimes he would even go after dogs if they were close to his size.

But he could charm most people — he knew how to work the block, lying on our stoop or stretched out in the middle of the sidewalk during rush hours, morning and evening, being greeted and patted by passersby — especially young girls who would sit on the stoop and leisurely pet and fawn over him.


Neighbors would often comment, “I never liked cats, but he’s great,” and “I know the woman who takes care of him over on 9th Street” (when we live on 7th ).

A few times he came home reeking of perfume. Traitor! And he was obviously overweight, fed by well-meaning neighbors or scouting out the regular offerings by the always-dependable feral cat feeders. (I confess to extra treats of low-salt turkey slices from Sunny & Annie’s in addition to his regular diet.)

Most days after work when I reached the corner of 7th and B, three short blasts on a dog whistle would bring him bounding up the street to walk home with me for dinner. And if he still hadn’t come home after the dinner hour, I would go searching for him, making the rounds of his usual haunts with the dog whistle.

One evening after about an hour I gave up and was walking back home on Avenue C and heard his meow. He was trapped on a fire escape on the second floor of a building and must have heard me whistle on 6th Street, then spotted me walking below. No buzzer system, so I waited for someone to open the door, and went up to the front apartment – they had let him in as well as out the window and were so absorbed in TV, had forgotten him. Finally I had to realize that, nocturnal in nature, he would usually stay out all night, still always a concern.


Over the last few years Jake became much more domesticated and affectionate, and actually once in a while would rub against my legs (!) – and he loved having his stomach massaged. He would jump up on the bed, lie flat on his stomach like a sphinx with his head down and I would massage under his stomach in time with his breath and extremely loud purring. And late nights we might go for walks, one following the other, taking our time. He also acquired a fascination for car license tags – would sniff one after the other – I always wondered what he learned from those sniffs. And often he would “mark” the tags — embarrassing when the owner was there and fuming.

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However, 11 years later, in February of this year, Jake began to seem off his game and would go through spells of not being able to keep his food down. After several visits to the vet, he was diagnosed with an inoperable, malignant, abdominal tumor and given only a few weeks to live back in April.

I inquired if there was any way to make him more comfortable and the vet said steroids would help, so he began to receive house calls for steroid shots at home. It worked like magic for over a couple of months. And we tried to make the best of it – he mostly stayed outside, we took lots of walks and he had all the favorite foods and stomach massages he wanted.


But he was definitely slowing down, and last week he slept almost all of the time in our garden, moving and eating very little, to the point that it became obvious he was not at all happy and most certainly in pain. So the vet came and we eased him out of this life at home on Saturday, July 29.

I — and I think some others — will miss him terribly.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

So sad!!! But he had a good life and caring people around him! And thank you for that!

Lauramknyc said...

Your story really touched my heart. I adore the cat and have been fortunate enough to share and enjoy the unconditional love they reciprocate. I'm so sorry for your loss because Jake was one of those special relationships you had the pleasure of experiencing. He had a terrific life thanks to you! There's a special place in my heart for both you and Jake. Be well and thanks for sharing your story.

Gojira said...

What a lovely, touching tribute to a neighborhood character. I was never privileged to meet or pet Jake, but he was obviously a true original. Thomkat, as a fellow feline lover with cherished moggies of my own, I offer you my deepest sympathies and sincerest condolences from the bottom of my heart. Yours was a true love story, and I know all too well the emptiness now in your life and heart. But you afforded Jake a good, long, happy life, and who could ask for more than that, on either end? God bless you both.

afbp said...

very sweet.....

Anonymous said...

What a lovely, humane story. Thank you EVG for sharing this special piece here. xo

Anonymous said...

Oh no. :(

This is so sad. I live on 7th Street and have passed this amazing cat numerous times since I moved down here in 2010. He always seemed so happy and welcoming. Talkative too. I am heartbroken to hear of this.

I happen to have a cat as well. He is three. And let me tell you something. Cats, just like any other animal become part of your family. They are the best. Enjoy every moment with them as they offer conditional love. My condolences to his owners. RIP sweet kitty.

darbi said...

Godspeed, Jake! I loved seeing you on East 7th as I pedaled off to work early in the morning. We were often the only two on the block. I will miss you.

Anonymous said...

Jake should have been interviewed for the Out and About column. He was more of an East Villager than most of us.
As all humans who live with cats and dogs know, they are waiting for us on the other side. You will be hanging out with Jake again one day.

Laurie Olinder said...

R.I.P. Jake <3 <3 Awww Sorry to hear. He was a neighborhood institution.
we called him Jakey. and got to know him a little bit when our cat Gene was lost for a couple of weeks.
Gene mostly resides in the 9C Garden. and when we were looking for him- (a dark gray tuxedo cat) people often said- oh the one with no tail? Noooo! Thats Jake! I like to think Gene and Jake crossed paths and were cautious friends . maybe... sorry for your loss.

paddy7812 said...

Sorry for your loss. But I have to say it sounds like Jake had a better life than some people I know. Nice to know that with the ever changing dynamic in this neighborhood that folks still watch out for cats and dogs. My girlfriend saved a cat that had been dumped in the park and I told her we would foster her but we can't keep her.................that was 3 years ago and Minnie is still here. RIP Jake.

Anonymous said...

Miss you Thomcat..sweet story..he was an EV regular.

Raff said...

That was beautiful, thank you.

Kitty Allen said...

Jake had a wonderful life & you certainly made it happen for him. My condolences. Enjoy his memories. Wonderful & inspirational writing!

Anonymous said...

RIP Mr. Jake. You will always be greatly missed and beloved. :(

Rachel said...

Your writing is superb. And what a moving tribute. Sorry for your loss and THANK YOU for your care of such a magnificent animal!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story and so nicely written, anyone who has had and lost a beloved critter can identify.

Kali said...

I used to walk down 7th Street every day around that time and I remember the first posters and then the subsequent posters telling people he wasn't lost, just living the cat-dream. I lost my own amazing companions a few years ago, but the feeling of loss stays with you forever. It's nice that so many people knew Jake and can share that with you.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to learn of Jake's passing and will miss him, sweet and tough -occasionally he'd accept some pets and I always encouraged him to chase off the rats in the block! This is a beautiful tribute. Glad to hear of his life and that you were able to say farewell at home.

afbp said...

i will never call ev griever's 'curmudgeons' again (wait--not so.......)

Joel Potischman said...

So sorry for your loss. We live in downtown Brooklyn and our cat, Bob, sounds very similar. We found him on the street as a tiny speck of fluff and he's been desperate to spend as much time outdoors as possible ever since. We tried a leash once and it was like I stuck my arms in a lawnmower so he is completely free range. He basks on our stoop, explores the block, visits back yards to serenade the lady cats he spies on fire escapes, etc.

I'm happy Jake got to live such a good life, shared with so many people. I wish all who knew and loved him strength and peace.

Anonymous said...

Wow, how incredibly sad and moving. R.I.P.

Sarah said...

R.I.P., Jake. Hope you're menacing chickens in heaven.

Morgan Tsvangirai said...

RIP Jake

I don't think I ever saw him but he was lovely to read about.

I'll give my two cats some extra belly rubs tonight in his honor.

Jared said...

We were wondering where Jake was. Thank you for this eulogy.

Alphabet City was Jake's.

Amy Sheridan said...

I walk my brown toy poodles all over the EV for the last 8 years. I have run into Jake many times. He gives my dogs a wide birth...you are so right. I've seen him in the 4th Street garden. My dogs are 14 and I involuntarily shed a tear when I read this. I love all the neighborhood animals in the EV. I'm so sorry for your loss ♡

Anonymous said...

Cats are the best! RIP Jake.

Anonymous said...

It sounds as if Jake had a wonderful life. So sorry for your loss.

dmh said...

Very moving. Jake was a lucky guy.

Never thought of using a dog whistle. My voice works, but I feel silly.

Anonymous said...

Cool cat. Lived life to the fullest.

marjorie said...

What a beautiful eulogy for a singular kitty. I'm so sorry for your loss; may Jake's memory be a blessing.

Anonymous said...

I am so sad to hear this. I have seen him almost every day for years. And now he is gone :(

My condolences to his owners

RIP Jakie

You were loved....

Anonymous said...

My deepest most heartfelt condolences for the loss of your beautiful, amazing, one of a kind cat!


SS1979 said...

Great story! I had a similar cat who lived to be twenty two!! He was always on the move and to this day I'm sure he had other homes he went to. I miss him and still dream of being in his company, as you will of Jake. Sleep well knowing you gave him a life of freedom. Cats don't always show affection but I'm sure he appreciated you letting him come and go.

Margarita said...

Such a beautiful piece but such a sad loss. I loved reading about Jake. Wish I'd known the lil dude... what a character! We have two little characters of our own, such purrsonalities. I'd never had cats before these two clowns and now I can never imagine life without 'em. Much like Jake, we built these guys a ramp, wrapped it in sisal and set it up between my closet and the bed so they could go up and down as they please cos we got tired of carrying them up and bringing them down upon their varied and loud commands. The things you do for the ones you love! RIP lil Jake, thank you for the memories and wonderful impression you left on everyone, even someone who never met you. xo