By Joanna Bastian
Meet Crick, aka “Fat Daddy.” Tree climber, mouse hunter, pink-toed, yellow-eyed, black cat with nine lives and a crooked tail that ends in a heart-shaped spiral. A heart-shaped tale, if you will.
Crick went missing three years, 250 miles, and three moves ago — and last week he miraculously reunited with his family here in the Methow Valley. I met Crick in Mandy Shoger’s living room. He gazed lovingly at her and purred while she stroked his fur and told as much of his story as she could piece together.
Seventeen years ago, Mandy decided to procure two kittens to keep her older cat, Natalie, company. She found littermates Crick and Roderigo at a shelter that micro-chipped each adopted animal. The shelter workers named Crick for his crooked spiral-shaped tail he was born with. Crick and Roderigo settled in, keeping Natalie company, and the rest of the neighborhood well entertained.
“He’s always been a sweet boy,” Mandy explained. “He went for walks around Ballard with us.” Crick and Roderigo found other ways to enjoy the sights and sounds of Ballard. They periodically climbed a tree and stepped out onto the roof of a neighborhood gym, enjoying the bustling view of the sidewalk below. When they tired of that entertainment, they struggled to get back down. Firefighters from the station across the street extended their tall ladders to the curious cats, recording the rescue and sharing the PR video across media venues. Crick and Roderigo never tired of climbing the tree to enjoy the view from the roof of the gym, and the firefighters seemed to enjoy taking a break out of their day to rescue the cats. “It happened several times,” Mandy said, rolling her eyes. “I was always taking brownies or doughnuts to the fire station.”
After over a decade, Mandy moved from Ballard to Green Lake. Unfortunately, after a few weeks, the landlord decided to sell the first rental Mandy moved into and she had to quickly find another place. Mandy and the cats moved to a less-than-ideal home. “It was a busy area,” she said, “lots of businesses, a freeway on-ramp, and many parking garages.” Crick decided to take a stroll one morning, and failed to return. Mandy put up fliers all over the neighborhood. For months she walked in every direction, calling his name. She joined multiple Facebook groups to ask for help finding Crick. “There were a lot of false hopes,” she recalled, “lots of black cats were found, but none with his distinctive crooked tail.”
A year ago, Mandy moved to the Methow Valley with her husband, Nate. “I felt so bad leaving, what if Crick was still out there?” she said. After two years of searching, Mandy accepted that Crick was gone, but still had this feeling he was alive. She dreamt of him often.
Two weeks ago, Mandy received a phone call from Roosevelt Station Vet Care in Seattle. A man named Ed had brought Crick into the office to treat an ear infection. After a routine microchip scan, Ed was surprised to learn the cat, who he had called “Fat Daddy”, had a microchip. He thought Fat Daddy was a stray.
The vet’s office did a diligent search for Crick’s owner, but immediately came up against a wall. The 17-year-old microchip was made long before cell phones were common, and the company no longer produced the chip. The vet’s office was able to locate the manufacturer who still had Mandy’s name on record. Luckily, Mandy is a successful artist with a unique last name. The top 40 links in a Google search all yield Mandy’s Foxtail Pottery art and contact information. The top link was to her TwispWorks studio.
Ed agreed to meet Mandy for a reunion with Fat Daddy/Crick. The good man bought Crick toys, fed him, provided vet care, and even built Crick a little insulated hut. Mandy was certain that Ed had bonded with Crick and she didn’t want to put extra stress on the cat, but Ed insisted that she take him home. “Are you sure you are OK with me taking him?” she asked. Ed shrugged and in a thick English accent proclaimed Crick loud and annoying. This whole time, Crick was living just nine blocks away from where he first went missing.
On the coffee table in front of the couch where Crick snuggled with Mandy, sat an open box from TabCat. Collar tags and a radio receiver are a more immediate method of keeping track of the cat with a heart-shaped crick at the end of his tail.