From Issue #50: The Senoia Road Six

By: Scott Ludwig

I host running events on New Year’s Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day. Several years ago my friend Susan brought a couple of kittens she was fostering to the event on Labor Day.  My wife Cindy came to the park that day and before I knew what hit me ‘Moe’ (Hawaiian for ‘sleep’ and boy does the name fit) became the fourth feline in the Ludwig family.  Moe is a male orange tabby who has grown into a rather large cat.  How best to describe his size? Let’s just say he is to a Shetland pony what a Shetland pony is to a horse. Cindy and I swore to each other that very day that Moe would be the last stray kitten we would take into our home.

A little over a year later Cindy and I were returning to our hotel after I ran a marathon in Morganton, North Carolina when a silver tabby walked out from under a car and brushed up against my leg.  I went to the convenience store for a can of cat food and served it along with a cup of water to the obviously very hungry and very thirsty kitten.  Cindy and I decided we would take the kitten back to Georgia with us and do what Susan does: Become foster parents for the kitten until we found it a Forever Home.  As good as it sounds as I write it to this day I ask myself: What could possibly go wrong?  How about this:

We couldn’t tell if the kitten was a boy or a girl.  So Cindy says ‘Why don’t we call it Morgan?  That could be a boy or a girl’s name and after all, we found the kitten in Morganton.’

If there’s one thing I know to be true, it is this: Once you name a kitten, the kitten is yours for life.

So if you haven’t been keeping score at home, that puts the tally at two humans and five felines in the Ludwig household.  The balance of power is now with those who have their litter boxes cleaned every morning by the person with a job so he can afford cat food and kitty litter.

This past Saturday morning Al, Amanda and I went for our usual 10-mile run in Fayetteville.  We were on Old Senoia Road and saw something that caught our attention on the edge of the asphalt (it was about 5:45 a.m. so it was still dark outside).  We aimed our flashlights at the crescent-shaped crack in the road and found something that immediately caused our three rapidly-beating hearts to melt: Six tiny, shivering, wide-eyed kittens huddled together, terrified of what might happen to them next.  The thought of ‘who could have done such a terrible thing’ didn’t even cross our minds; we were too concerned for the welfare of the kittens.

So let me describe the situation as best as I can: We ran to Al’s house as hard as we could (the only tabby in the litter was chasing after us—we had to ‘shoo’ him back if in fact shoo-ing kittens actually works) to get our cars so we could return to Old Senoia Road and rescue them.  Fortunately Amanda had a cardboard box and several old sweatshirts destined for good will in her car which we used to place the five quivering (Cold? Afraid? Both?) kittens into. Wait…five?  Who’s missing?  Of course, the gray tabby that was chasing after us (Note: Shoo-ing kittens does in fact not work)!

Amanda and I (Al had to leave for work) spent a good 45 minutes searching for the missing feline.  No luck…until a husband and wife who had been walking in the park across the street from the recreation complex we had been scouring returned to the parking lot and mentioned they noticed a cat lurching beneath their vehicle (Note: I had already looked under every vehicle parked at the complex and didn’t see it).  Amanda got down on all fours, looked under the car and found the tabby inside the rim of the wheel and draped over the back axle, hissing like a banshee.  Now one of them had a name: Axle, complements of Amanda.    Once we had all six kittens corralled, we had to decide what to do next.

I texted a photograph I had taken of the five (pre-Axle) kittens to my wife’s cell phone, called her at home and told her to look at the photo and call me back. Two minutes later she called back: ‘Ahhhhhh…’  The kittens now had Cindy in their back pockets along with Amanda, Al and I.  What now?

For starters, I posted the photo on my Facebook page with the caption ‘Sometimes you find the neatest things on your morning run.’  The power of social media immediately went to work.  (If I would have had time to give it more thought I would have created a Facebook page for the Senoia Road Six.)  My post was getting more ‘likes’ and more ‘shares’ than anything I’ve ever posted before.  Now if I can only find some Forever Homes for the little ones…

I took them home and Cindy and I set up our screened-in back porch as their temporary living quarters, playground, dining area and bathroom.  Equipped with large bowls of food and water and a litter box on loan from our own five cats, the kittens spent the day eating, drinking, frolicking (a combination game of tag/leap frog that Cindy coined just the right word for: ‘Adorable’) and using everything that wasn’t a litter box for a bathroom.  They also took a couple naps, each time all six of them resembling a pile of fuzzy pick-up sticks, just as we had found them earlier in the day.

I made a trip to the bank and showed my favorite teller Stephanie the photo of the kittens.  I asked her if she was interested in having one of them.  ‘I might be.’  Several hours later I got a message from her on Facebook asking if I would be home today and could she come by and see the kittens?  Stephanie could have also asked me if I’d cook her dinner and wash her car if she came by and gotten the same answer: YES!

So what now?  Stephanie would want to see the kittens in their ‘natural habitat,’ the back porch.  So we had to do something about the minefield of poo and that awful smell in the air, not the greatest selling point for kitten adoptions.  For the next hour Cindy and I scraped (Note: I can clean up my own cats’ poo with no problems.  However, cleaning up another cat’s poo is a different story.  Parents—Do you know how you can stomach cleaning up your infant’s vomit but simply seeing someone else’s infant vomiting makes you sick?  It works that way with kitten poo as well.), scrubbed and shined for Stephanie’s visit.  For good measure we lit a scented candle to freshen the air; if not freshen it then at least to disguise it.

Later Saturday afternoon Stephanie and her daughter stopped by and it wasn’t long before ‘Ash,’ the solid gray kitten that I would have chosen if I had to choose just one had his Forever Home.

All day long the next day I continued to correspond with people on Facebook about the kittens.  Susan (trained in the veterinary sciences as well as being arguably the World’s Greatest Pet Foster Parent) ran with me that morning and after our run came in to identify the age (eight weeks) and gender (three males, two females) of the remaining five kittens.  ‘Axle’ was a boy, ‘Sta-Puft’ (his face resembled that of a blowfish and/or the marshmallow monster in Ghostbusters) was a boy, ‘Stripe’ (gray with a thin white stripe on the bridge of her nose) was a girl, ‘Suzie’ (she looked just like a cat I had when I was 10 years old) was a girl and ‘Highlight’ (gray with a predominately white face) was a boy.  (Note: The only name I said aloud was Axle—whom Amanda named and Sta-Puft—whom I named but wouldn’t really name him that were he mine because it just sounds silly…even if it was appropriate!)

Monday was Memorial Day.  A day for another of my holiday running events, like the one I held on Labor Day several years ago when Moe joined our family. It was now time for some cosmic karma to take place.  Let’s see if ‘paying it forward’ actually paid off.

Let me summarize the day by saying Cindy and I truly had karma on our side, paying it forward does pay off and as I’ve known for many, many years; runners are some of the finest people on the planet.  Memorial Day couldn’t have been more memorable: The rest of the Senoia Road Six found their Forever Homes.

Highlight was adopted by a young couple who stumbled upon our group of runners on their way to a picnic-for-two by the lake.  The second the woman made eye contact with the white-faced kitten I knew it had a new home; it was after a minute or two of convincing her husband in Spanish that he knew as well.  Later I took a small bag of kitten food and a couple of kitten toys (Cindy’s idea) to them and I could tell by the way the woman was holding the kitten in her arms it was a good fit for the both of them.  I noticed the look on the face of her husband; it was obviously a good fit for him as well.

As you already know, Ash was adopted by my friend from the bank.  Stephanie, I’m so glad ‘Oliver is now part of your family.

Suzy was adopted by a wonderful couple from Greenville, South Carolina.  Don and Adamy, I’m so glad ‘Amy’ is now part of your family.

Stripe was adopted by a young lady from the north side of Atlanta who is new to our running group.  Veronica, I’m so glad ‘Chloe’ is now part of your family.

Axle and Sta-puft were both adopted by a young lady, also from the north side of Atlanta and a veteran of our running group.  Heather, I’m so glad Ares and Nebula are now part of your family.  I know your daughter Angel must be thrilled.

Later in the afternoon all of the new ‘parents’ (sans the Mexican couple, because I didn’t get their name; just a photo of them with the kitten) posted photos on Facebook of their new additions.

Although I felt my heart melting all over again, this time it was for a different reason:

The Senoia Road Six had found their Forever Homes.

Epilogue: Each year the Darkside Running Club picks a specific race and donates up to $1,000 to be divided amongst members of the club participating in the race.

A couple days after Memorial Day I recommended to the club we donate this year’s sponsorship money amongst the new parents of the Senoia Road Six for initial trips to the veterinarian, kitten food and kitty litter.

I am proud to report that there were no objections, and a considerably large number of written endorsements.