Brooklyn DA offers commendation for 'Undercover Kitty'Anybody who knows me even a little (just look at the upper right hand corner of this blog), knows I'm a sucker for cats. Especially tabbies.
BY ANTHONY M. DESTEFANO
Newsday Staff Writer
May 19, 2006
True to form, Fred the placid undercover cat was a model of good behavior Thursday as he received one of the annual law enforcement appreciation awards given out by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes.
The friendly "Detective Fred," as Hynes called him, purred in satisfaction as the veteran prosecutor gave him a special plaque for his effort that led to the arrest earlier this year of a suspected bogus veterinarian.
"I told him a grateful county gives honor to you," said Hynes after the special awards ceremony at the Brooklyn Marriott Hotel.
Fred, a 1-year-old American shorthair, was actually one of 21 honorees -- the rest two-legged police officers, detectives, fire marshals and court officers -- cited for risking their lives to save others or apprehend suspects.
Also honored with Fred was undercover detective Stephanie Jones, who works for Hynes and who took part in the case against Steven Vassall, the Brooklyn man accused of posing as a fake veterinarian. The charges against Vassall, who has plead not guilty, are pending.
Fred got more publicity earlier this week when Newsday reported that he was on his way to be certified for use in pet therapy as part of Hynes' "Legal Lives" program to tell school children about the importance of kindness to animals.
Tabbies are the cats I most associate with the street, and since I grew up on the street (admittedly, the streets of the Upper East Side, but hey, I was the only blonde-haired, blue-eyed kid in a Sicilian gangster neighborhood, and I was in high demand from the girls. You do the math.), I have a deep affinity for them.
My experiences with tabbies are that they are tough, smart, affectionate and loyal. My father adopted one from a construction site where he was working, and we kept that cat for eleven years.
OK, "kept" might be too strong a word, as we used to let it into our "backyard" (more like an alleyway that got some sunshine on occasion), where he would promptly leap to the roof of the radio-station-masquerading-as-a-church next door (long time Pacifica listeners will know the station instantly), and disappear and do whatever it is cats do on the street.
He was vasectomized, so I had no concerns about him being dragged into a paternity suit.
I liked to imagine he was the friendly cat at the Irish bar on the corner, getting the occasional piece of bacon tossed to him. I'd run into him occasionally when I was staggering home from some boitê on the UES at one in the morning, and he'd always escort me home. Good little bouncer.
One night, he didn't come home, no matter how much we'd call out the back window. Yea, people in Manhattan used to do that, just like in the old movies from the Lower East Side: "Ma! T'row me down a jelly sammich!" "Bobby, you get in here THIS INSTANT!"
My mom and I pulled on some clothes (hey, it was hot and the building wasn't wired for A/C. We sat in our underwear a lot.), and roamed the neighborhood looking. It must have been quite the site to see a teenager and a middle aged woman walking around, whispering into manholes and basement bulkheads.
We did that for a few days, and then decided to wait a while and see what happened. About a week after disappearing, Mikko came wandering back along the path he usually clambered home on: up the fire escape of the building on the side street, make the leap to the annex to the restaurant, up to the church roof, then down to the ground, then make the eight foot leap up, scraping his hind paws on the brick, and up to the roof across from our backyard.
He didn't look much worse for the wear, a little skinnier, with the slightest odor of burned oil on him. Best as we could figure, he must have gotten trapped in a boiler room somewhere and feasted on the mice and waterbugs.
Mmmmmmm, that's good eatin'!
The other tabby I've "owned"? That's a story for another day, but his tale is even more remarkable.