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Judy Spooner: Pumba, Park Grove Pet Hospital's well-known 'Clinic Cat,' dies

Pumba, perched in his usual place on the Park Grove Pet Hospital front desk. The well-known and friendly feline died recently. Bulletin file photo by Judy Spooner

Pumba made more friends in 13 years than most people have in a lifetime.

Just a garden variety American tabby male cat and the star of the show at the Park Grove Pet Hospital in Cottage Grove, Pumba died recently.

Anyone who visited the clinic, whether a dog or cat lover, or both, remember him best as the cat who sat atop the main desk in the lobby and waiting area.

It was his favorite place, said Melanie Knipe, who has worked at the clinic for as long as Pumba was there.

"He'd sit on my mouse pad," she said when I talked with her last week. She was trying not to make a connection between Pumba and a "mouse," a connection so many of us make who were brought up on Tom and Jerry cartoons.

"He didn't care and wouldn't move when I needed the computer," she said.

I know why the desk was his favorite place. When he sat there, everyone who came in petted him. That Pumba was nobody's fool.

Several veterinarians who worked at Park Grove in the past noticed Pumba was getting a little chubby and tried to get him to slim down by changing his cat food to lite.

They wondered why the new food did not seem to be working.

But Pumba had friends in high places. Melanie, and others who worked at the desk, gave him treats.

She remembers Pumba's early days at the clinic, then located where the parking lot is now across from Kohl's and next to 80th Street.

Brought in as a stray cat, he kept finding ways to break out of his kennel and strolled around the office like he belonged there, Melanie said.

So the office workers asked Dr. McConnell if he could be The Clinic Cat and he, now retired, agreed. It didn't take much persuading, she said.

It was as if Pumba was orchestrating his fate.

There was a list of four or five names submitted by clinic workers who voted to name him, Pumba, a warthog character from "The Lion King" movie.

He let everyone pet him and was not particularly interested in any of the cats people brought into the clinic.

He didn't like dogs all that much and didn't back away from them. But he hated golden retrievers and batted his paw at them.

When anyone describes a cat's behavior, tries to explain it, and asks me what I think, my answer is always the same: "Cats!"

Pumba liked birds and came running into the waiting room if he heard them chirping, according to Melanie.

Suffering from kidney and pancreas disease, Pumba had an infected tooth that needed to be removed and died from a related infection, I was told.

The clinic workers have put together a picture frame in memory of Pumba with a locket containing some of his ashes, his collar, paw prints and picture.

Pumba wanted to make sure that no one forgets him.

"He was a special kitty," Melanie said. "He touched everyone's heart."

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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