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Cat Gives Term Litter New Meaing

April 21st, 2007, 10:46 PM
Boo knows trash

Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon
Published Saturday April 21st, 2007
Appeared on page B9
Some cats bring home dead mice. Others, dead birds.

But Tena Gaunce's cat Boo? He brings home garbage.

"Tim Hortons cups and straws are his favourite," says Gaunce, motioning to Boo's latest pile of offerings on her West Side driveway.

"It's almost embarrassing," she says. "It looks like I put it out there."

Anyone who knows Gaunce would know that isn't the case. The former chair of Communities in Bloom is a dedicated environmentalist. She was composting years before the city's program started, refuses to use pesticides, hangs her clothes to dry and picks up litter around her neighbourhood during daily walks with her day-care kids.

That could be how Boo became a garbage-collecting cat, she suggests. "A couple of the cats would follow us"...Maybe he saw"...I really have no idea."

It all started about three years ago when Boo, a mid-hair Tabby with greenish-yellow eyes and raccoon-like markings, was one year old.

Gaunce woke one morning to find garbage strewn along her Montreal Avenue driveway. She wondered where it came from, but figured it must have just blown into her yard. She didn't think much of it until the next day when it happened again - and kept happening.

About one week later, Gaunce looked out the window to see Boo trotting up the driveway with an old coffee cup. "I thought it was hilarious," she recalls. "Bringing Mama home some garbage."

Another day, she watched Boo struggle with a fast food bag with packaging still in it. "It was huge, so he dropped it, sat there for a minute, then picked it up again and made his way up the driveway."

She missed the day he dragged home a two-by-three foot piece of clear plastic. "I would have liked to have seen him carrying that between his legs," she laughs.

At first, Gaunce kept Boo's penchant for picking up paper and plastic to herself. "I thought 'Nobody's ever going to believe me he's bringing home litter.'"

She even started stockpiling his gifts of garbage so she'd have proof when she was ready to reveal his refuse ritual. "There's tiny teeth marks in it," she says, holding up a piece of plastic. "See?"

Eventually, Gaunce couldn't keep her secret any longer. "I told everybody in the neighbourhood and they all started watching for him, saying 'We've got to get a picture of this.'"

Neighbours would call to say 'He's on his way," but every time Gaunce had a camera, Boo would drop whatever waste he was carrying and run to her.

Gaunce even tried staying outside in the dark one night, hoping to capture Boo and his trash on film. He usually does his neighbourhood cleanup at night, under a modest cloak of darkness, she explains. But after a couple of hours, she gave up.

"It's hard to encourage a cat to do just about anything," says Gaunce, who has six other cats, mostly strays. There's Irving from the Irving Nature Park, Sheldon from Sheldon Point and a cat from Fredericton. No, not Freddy, but Missy. "It's a girl."

Like any mother, Gaunce insists she doesn't have any favourites. "They all have their different personalities."

Boo likes to cuddle and comes when she calls, but he's also "saucy.

"He tends to go over and swat the other cats and runs. He gets them quite agitated at times," she says. He meows if he wants his chin or ears scratched. And when he wants outside in the morning, he jumps over Gaunce's head to the other side of the bed, onto the dresser and "beats on the blinds.

"You can't ignore him."

Maybe Boo knows he's the only cat with a "claim to fame," she says.

Gaunce doesn't expect Boo to do anything special today to mark Earth Day. For them, every day is Earth Day.

But she does hope Saint John area residents will participate in the numerous clean up projects around the city.

"I don't understand why other people can't see (litter) and not feel compelled to pick it up," says Gaunce, who finds cigarette butts particularly annoying. "If it's not in their yard, I guess a lot of people just don't care."

That's why she has raised her three children to be environmentally conscious and tries to encourage her seven day-care kids, aged five to 11, to do the same.

"I encourage them not to litter and if they see some, to pick it up; not to assume somebody else will do it."

After all, not every neighbourhood has a Boo.

April 21st, 2007, 11:23 PM
Thats adorable. I hope he doesn't get hurt on the job though. Its amazing how some cats just decide to do something kind of different. They are like the geniuses or over achievers of the cat world.:)