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June 14, 2006

Shadow: The man, the myth, the beast

Many of you have either met or heard of Mike's legend of a cat, Shadow. Shadow was a large grayish-brown beast who weighed 29lbs at his prime, and had about four claws and three teeth. He smiled a snaggletoothed smile as he removed many a finger and/or toe, and inspired many a tale of cunning and gore. He was an inspiration for all cats. My cats in particular were just happy to be in contact with a shoe that had been around Shadow. He was an amazing cat and will truly be missed.

I first heard of Shadow not long after Randy and I started dating three years ago. I don't remember what the context was, but I do remember the stories. Here are some of the best ones that I've heard, as told to me by Mike.


Shadow the Trickster

Shadow was large and grayish-brown, with a stark, white belly. He was very fond of laying flat on his back, his belly exposed for all to see just how large and sumptuous it was. Laying with his eyes nearly closed, he would seem to say, "Look at my nice, white belly! Don't you want to reach out and rub it???" And reach out people did! And when their hands got about two inches from the soft, white fur, Shadow's claws would emerge, his ears would go back, but his eyes would stay closed. And, deceived, whoever was attempting to pet the belly (stupid, stupid people!) would continue with their attempt, only to end up howling in pain and blood spurted from their hands where Shadows claws had gashed them. They were lucky to have all ten fingers after attempting such a feat.


Shadow Always Gets What He Wants, And What He Needs

Every morning before school, Mike's sister Brandy would sit in the middle of the living room floor and watching TV. As she sat watching television, she would eat her cereal, be it Froot Loops or Capn'Crunch or Wheaties or what have you. Sometime Shadow would wait for Brandy to finish and give him the bowl of leftover milk. But on the days that Shadow was not as inclined to wait for her to finish, he would wait until Brandy was completely engrossed in the TV. Then he would run up behind her, leap onto the back of her head, and wrap his claws around her face. At this point, Brandy would scream and flee the room, leaving Shadow with the bowl of cereal all to himself.

Shadow Hates Stuffed Animals

When Shadow felt as though he was not getting enough attention from Brandy, he would often drag stuffed animals off of her bed, and continue dragging them around the house until he received the attention he so deserved. Or, if nobody was home, he would drag them into the middle of the living room floor and leave them for people to see and/or trip on.


Shadow Drinks Only the Purest Rochester Water

Shadow was a cat of dignified and refined taste, especially in his water. And being a smart and resourceful cat, he knew how to get the best tasting water, and it was not found in his water dish. When Shadow was in his younger, slimmer days, he was able to jump up onto the kitchen counter, and, using his head, could turn on the faucet (to the cold setting of course, never the hot water), and drink until his thirst was quenched. No need to shut OFF the water afterwards of course, what if he needed more later? So Mike and the rest of the LaBrecque family would arrive home from school or work, or get up in the middle of the night, and find the kitchen water running inexplicably on many occasions. Sadly, when Shadow grew to a larger width he was unable to jump onto the counter anymore and had to settle for the much inferior bowl water.


Shadow Works Alone

Shadow was an only-cat for a few years, and was none too pleased at the arrival of Casper, the fluffly black and white kitten who just wanted to play. Shadow angrily tolerated Casper's idolatry, and reluctantly let Casper follow him around all day.

One day as Mike was eating lunch in the kitchen, he saw Shadow walk through and into the bathroom. Soon, he heard the familiar noise of the bathroom cabinet door being opened. Instantly, Casper came a-running to find out what his buddy was up to. Mike got up and peeked into the bathroom.

Once Casper arrived, Shadow abandoned whatever he was doing at the bathroom cabinet, and moved over to the linen closet. Using his claws and head and weight, he was able to pry open the magnetic closure of the linen closet door. He peered inside at the blankets there and waited. Excitedly, Casper leapt over Shadow's head and into the linen closet to explore what was inside.

Satisfied, Shadow stepped back from the closet, and, using his paw, closed the door, locking Casper inside. He then turned and walked proudly away past Mike as Casper scratched at the inside of the door and meowed loudly, trapped within the confines amongst the blankets.

Eventually the LaBrecques had to keep the door to the bathroom closed to prevent Shadow from locking Casper in the linen closet whenever he got tired of Casper following him around all day.


Shadow's Genius

It was late one night when Mike sat alone in his room in the attic, reading. Suddenly, he heard an odd noise and a small light flickered from the bottom of the attic stairs. He got up to investigate. As he neared the kitchen, a strange sight met his eyes.

The light was coming from the now-open refrigerator door, and there was Shadow, lying on the kitchen floor beneath the refrigerator. His claws were grasped around the crisper drawer, and he was using his immense weight to pull it open. As Mike watched, Shadow succeeded in opening the drawer, at which time Casper, Shadow's partner in crime, leapt into the drawer, grabbed the lunch meat ham, and jumped back out again.

Casper triumphantly threw the ham onto the kitchen floor, and the two cats set down to begin their feast.

"Hey!" Mike said.

Startled, Casper immediately bolted, but Shadow was not so hasty. He knashed his three teeth down upon the bag of lunch meat, and tried to drag it out of the room.

"Hey!" Mike said again.

Shadow dropped the lunch meat and fled, vowing to return one day, and have his prize.

The Myth
(This is the version of the above story that evolved in my mind over time, though totally inaccurate, just to illustrate how much of a myth Shadow has become)

It was late one night when Mike sat alone in his room in the attic, reading. Suddenly, he heard an odd noise and a small light flickered from the bottom of the attic stairs. He got up to investigate. As he neared the kitchen, a strange sight met his eyes.

The door to the refrigerator was wide open, and Casper, Mike's sister's cat, was busy removing every object appetizing to a cat, and scattering it on the floor.

And there was Shadow, in all of his girth, perched atop the kitchen table, much like a drill sergeant observing his men. "Casper!" Shadow seemed to say, "Get me MEAT!"

"Yes Shadow, of course, anything you want!" Casper seemed to say.

At this moment, Mike walked into the kitchen. Immediately, Casper ran into the other room as quick as a flash. But Shadow held his ground. He stared at Mike.

"There is no blood on my hands," Shadow's eyes said to Mike. But all of us know who was in charge of the raid on the fridge that night.


Shadow's Power

Randy almost always wears dark-colored, if not black, pants. And Randy really, really doesn't like it when there's cat hair all over his nice black pants. And Shadow knew this.

Every time Randy visited Mike, Shadow would triumphantly walk up to Randy, stare at him, and proceed to rub against Randy's legs, making sure to cover his pants in as much fur as possible.

"Hi Shadow," Randy would say through gritted teeth.

And Shadow would continue with his rubbing.

Once, Randy made the mistake of trying to shoo Shadow away, only to end up with Shadow's claws lodged deeply into his foot. Shadow's angry eyes stared into Randy's, and Randy knew that this was the only time he'd get away with that without losing a few toes.

Ever since then, Shadow rubs Randy's pant legs as much as he wants, all the while staring at Randy, waiting for a reaction.


The Man Who Stood Between Shadow and the Raccoon

One summer night, there was a raccoon in the LaBrecque's yard. Shadow could see it through the metal screens of the porch, and clawed at them eagerly, trying to get outside and teach this raccoon just whose yard this really was (this was after the nylon screen had been replaced with metal for that very reason, and in addition, wooden trellis had been added to the outside of the screen for reinforcement). As Shadow snarled and clawed at the screen, Mike's dad came out onto the porch.

"Shadow, it's time to come inside," said Mr. LaBrecque.

Shadow ignored him and continued trying to free himself from the confines of the porch.

So Mike's dad leaned in and tried to pick Shadow up. This was a very bad decision. Soon, he found himself with all three of Shadow's teeth lodged deeply in his arm. Howling in pain, Mr. LaBrecque leapt about the porch, trying to detach the beast-cat from his arm. Finally, he reached for his shoe, and beat Shadow about the head three or four times before Shadow released his jaw.

Mr. LaBrecque had to go to the hospital because his wounds were so deep and risked infection.

Shadow never did get that raccoon.


The Notorious S.H.A.D.O.W.

Taking Shadow to the vet was a feat in and of itself. When Shadow arrived at the vet, the staff members would put on special, protective, bullet-proof gloves just to try to remove him from the cat carrier. These staff members knew Shadow by name, and not from reading his file just prior to the visit. Oh no, they had heard many stories about Shadow before. As the snarling beast was brought into the room to have his checkup, the silly vets would try to open the door to the carrier. A tornado of claws and fangs and fur would greet their gloved hands, and they would soon retreat. The only way of removing Shadow from the pet carrier during a vet visit was to physically take apart the carrier itself, by unscrewing the sides and removing the top. Only then could Shadow be examined. For a thorough examination, he required tranquilizers, and many pain relievers for the poor, unfortunate veterinarian.


Shadow's Revenge

One day, Doug went to visit Mike at his childhood home long ago. When Doug entered the room, he looked around and started walking toward a chair.

"You might not want to sit there," Mike said. "That's the cat's chair."

Doug scoffed at this and sat down anyway.

Not long afterward, in lumbered Shadow, who was in his prime at the time, clocking in at a solid 29lbs. He stopped and stared at Doug. And stared. And stared.

"Uh-oh, you pissed him off, Doug," said Mike.

Doug held his ground, and after a few more minutes, Shadow retreated into the darkness of the hallway. A sigh of relief passed over all in Mike's living room and the evening progressed rather uneventfully.

Later that night, Doug decided the time had come for him to head home, and he rose from the chair and bid Mike farewell. But as he started to walk down the hall to leave, a low, snarling growl emitted from Mike's sister's room, which he had just passed. Doug continued on. Suddenly, piercing pain erupted in his nether region-Shadow, like a bolt of lightening, had flown out of Mike's sister's room, down the hallway, and had leapt and attached himself to Doug's pants! One claw clung precariously from Doug's crotch, the other was lodge in his rear.

Doug, startled, and afraid of what could happen if he moved, stood there for a moment. Shadow, still snarling, hung from Doug's jeans, his claws holding on. He would have his revenge!

Then, just as quickly as it happened, Shadow let go and ran back into the room from whence he came, satisfied that he had made his point.

And from that day forward, nobody made the mistake of sitting in Shadow's chair EVER AGAIN.


Please feel free to post any details I may be missing, or additional stories, in the Comments. Only through the sharing of stories about this legend of a cat will we overcome our grief.

Thanks to Yael and Beth for assistance with this post. :)



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