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Street cat who found a home in Stamford inspires book

December 21, 2018

STAMFORD — Boo is gone now. After about 14 years, all of his lives ended last month.

He was a peaceful cat, big but not fat, whose favored spot in the house was the bathroom.

He lived with Jon and Dianne Saunders after showing up at their door one day in 2009 hungry, his long black fur dirty, matted into a helmet.

“He looked like an armadillo,” Jon Saunders said.

Things were good for Boo after he moved into the Saunders’ century-old house off Hope Street, but on Nov. 16 he succumbed to a number of medical conditions, including arthritis and possibly a stroke.

He leaves behind a book.

It’s called “Nine Lives on the Street” — Jon Saunders’ speculations on what Boo could have been up to before he lived in Glenbrook. It’s a “children’s book for adults, or maybe an adult book for children, I don’t know,” Saunders said.

Told by Boo, the story opens with an explanation of his name, which is unrelated to Halloween. He got it because he liked to watch the neighborhood kids play, just like Boo Radley, the reclusive character in the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“But, to tell you the truth, it doesn’t matter what you call me,” the first page reads. “I won’t come unless I want to. I’m a cat.”

In the story, which Saunders wrote in 2015, Boo lives with a wealthy older woman in a luxury high-rise on Manhattan’s Park Avenue. He’s a pampered pet until the day he walks into the kitchen and sees his owner on the kitchen floor — dead, presumably, of advanced age.

“That’s why it may not be a children’s book,” Saunders said.

Police arrive at the Park Avenue apartment and during their investigation call animal control officers, but Boo “isn’t having any of that, and takes off,” Saunders said.

It begins a series of adventures in the big city. Chapter headings include “Park Avenue and 81st Street,” “77th Street Station,” “Central Park,” “East 110th Street” and “Under the FDR.”

Boo, who’d never walked a street or even met another cat, is snatched by a group of punks who steal his Tiffany’s collar. Then he’s jumped by gangster cats. Chapter Four is subtitled “I Face Certain Death Beneath the No. 4 Train.” He is temporarily adopted by a Brooklyn family and renamed Twinkie.

In the bowels of Grand Central Station, Boo learns of the Great Cat from a guru of feline philosophy. In Central Park, he’s nearly lifted away by a hawk. Then comes Saunders’ favorite adventure — Boo is nearly sacrificed in a ceremony conducted by witches.

Saunders got the idea for the book because he’d long wondered about Boo’s life before he appeared in their yard, scraggly and starving.

“I set the story in New York, even though Boo was a Stamford cat,” said Saunders, who for 20 years worked in Manhattan as an advertising copywriter and creative director. “I thought there was more opportunity for adventure there. I gave him an interesting life.”

He thinks the real Boo provided a couple of clues about his early years.

“We knew he’d been someone’s cat at some point, because he’d been neutered,” Saunders said. “We think he lived in an apartment because whenever his litter box wasn’t to his liking he’d go upstairs and use the bathtub. Many times people who live in apartments put the litter box in the bathroom. Boo liked to use the bathroom.”

There was another hint.

“We think maybe he never had a chance to be a kitten, because he really didn’t know how to play,” Saunders said. “He didn’t do cat things, like grab at a piece of string.”

No one will ever know whether Boo lived through anything like what Saunders imagined for “Nine Lives on the Street,” which ends with an adventure involving an Army Ranger, a Daily News reporter, gunfire, a trial, and a cat hairdo known as a “lion cut.”

If Boo’s fictional tale has a lesson, it’s that “it’s possible to change,” Saunders said. “He starts out as a rich, spoiled, lazy cat and at the end hooks up with a homeless ex-soldier.”

The storybook cat evolves into one that more closely resembles the gentle real-life Boo, described by Saunders as “an old soul who’d seen it all.”

He always liked cats, Saunders said, though he’s not sure why.

“I don’t know if cats give you unconditional love,” he said. “They certainly give you unconditional acceptance. They’re not upset if you are something other than what you are supposed to be.”

The book is a love note to the late Boo, and a testimonial to the rewards that can result from welcoming a stray.

“I got the feeling Boo had been through a lot and, because of it, he’d achieved a certain Zen,” Saunders said.

“Nine Lives on the Street” is available on Amazon. Saunders donates a portion of the profits to Friends of Felines, a Stamford nonprofit that cares for homeless cats.

acarella@stamfordadvocate.com; 203-964-2296.

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