In Memory of Mama Dodd-Wiggily; A Short History

by S. J. Stowell

Photo of cat family waiting for foodMama Dodd-Wiggily's hyphenated name derived from her preference for short relationships. There had certainly been previous ones, but we were only aware of the two. Subsequent surgery prevented her name from becoming too long and unwieldy.

Mama Dodd started out nameless. We first met her "sharing" our three cats' food on the tiny back porch. She was clearly homeless: hungry, unkempt and unapproachable. As we put out a little more food, she became a regular.

She was an attractive cat; a long-haired calico with the stocky build of a Persian and just a hint of the flat face. She was not aggressive or hostile, but extremely wary and not to be touched. When we moved to a larger apartment immediately across the street, she followed for meals but seemed to keep her original secret home base. As winter approached we fed our cats inside, but Mama Dodd would not come in.

We met the Dodds at about midnight on Christmas Eve. This was when Mama Dodd got her first name. We heard strange meows, and investigated to find Mama Dodd had brought two kittens to meet us. They were well past six weeks old, and much in need of solid food.

For several weeks the Dodds were fed close to their hidden home, to save them the trip across the busy street. Mama Dodd expected us to take care of them, and we obliged. After some time and coaxing, I was able to pet the male kitten (whom we named Huppy Dodd after a favorite New Yorker cartoon). The female kitten, Rabbit Dodd, was more wary. I was not able to touch her until she appeared to experience a short seizure. Treatment for tape worm, along with vitamins, seemed to eliminate that problem. The Dodds moved in.

The Dodds' father appeared to be a disreputable neighborhood cat named Switchblade. Switchblade was distinctive for his deformed abbreviated tail, and his resemblance to a skinny cow. He was white with black splotches and cow-like hindquarters. The young Dodds' both inherited his tail deformity, and his short hair. Only Huppy inherited the hips; this was ameliorated by his small size and more attractive color markings. Huppy Dodd's tail was permanently cocked at a jaunty angle, and only about six inches long. Huppy's name came from his dog-like affection and nature; Rabbit's name was derived solely from her appearance. Rabbit Dodd was a sweet white-faced calico with a stubby, furry tail and long white back legs. Both cats' growth was probably stunted by their early deprivation; they remained the size of six month kittens all their lives.

We were down to only three cats at this time, a previous cat with the full name of "Small Bear with No Brain" having proved true to it. The two Dodds fit right in, and Mama Dodd grew so bold as to step inside to eat (with the door wide-open and only inches away). She was already showing evidence of another liaison.

We met the Wiggilys much earlier in their lives. Mama Dodd-Wiggily moved this litter under our front porch when they were about four weeks old. With spring here, we got aquainted with them by feeding them in the front flower bed.

There were four Wiggilys originally. Two we did not name, but homes were found for them. Two came with names, and Piggily "Wilbur" Wiggily's greedy appetite provided the whole litter with a surname. Euclid was a beautiful green-eyed silver tabby with geometric markings. Piggily resembled his mother in his stocky build and long hair; he was fluffy white with large black patches, and able to keep surprisingly clean, although as a kitten his whiskers always had food on them.

Unfortunately the Wiggilys seemed to be ill-fated, while the Dodds, with their less propitious beginning, had longer better lives. Mama Dodd-Wiggily's fate is not known.

About a year later, we moved across town. While we once trapped Mama Dodd for a trip to the vet, she never became a real house cat, and was nowhere to be found when we moved. Euclid did not last much past the move. For the first two days, confined to the house, he was miserable. Let loose, he disappeared for a week, showed up for a meal, then disappeared forever.

Piggily was a happy part of the household for another year or so, but then he too disappeared for a week. When he returned, dehydrated and miserable, he was changed beyond recovery. While he improved physically, he seemed to be severely traumatized. He was terrified of sudden movement and strangers, and took to living under the house, his long fur matted and dirty. The Dodds were in much better shape when I parted with my two house mates and moved away.

Although we checked several times after move, and occasionally visited the old neighborhood, we did not see Mama Dodd-Wiggily again. She was healthy, without the burden of having to raise kittens, and I can hope that she found someone to feed her outside on a porch, where she felt most comfortable. She had become quite friendly, but was never happy inside unless all the doors were wide open.

Notes: Huppy Dod appears in the George Booth cartoon “Ip Gissa Gul”, New Yorker January 20, 1975, Huppy Dodd, our cat, was a bit dog like in appearance and behavior: he was cheerful, liked to follow us around, and his stiffly cocked half-length tail was not very feline! Huppy Dodd is not in the photo above, but was in the room (probably under my feet)! Mama Dodd-Wiggily sits in the foreground, with Rabbit Dodd and Euclid Wiggily to her right. Fluffy black tailed Piggily Wiggily is interacting with the caretaker of the crowd: Wheatgerm. Calpurnia sits against the cabinets looking upward. Wheatgerm and Calpurnia are not blood relatives to the Dodd-Wiggily family (as far as we know), but Wheatgerm came to Huppy Dodd's rescue on more than one occasion.