THE END

After being found at the dump, a stray became a neighbourhood favourite and a big-screen star

BARBARA RIGHTON October 30 2006
THE END

After being found at the dump, a stray became a neighbourhood favourite and a big-screen star

BARBARA RIGHTON October 30 2006

After being found at the dump, a stray became a neighbourhood favourite and a big-screen star

THE END

BEAN

1993-2006

Bean, a.k.a. Stringbean, was born in Shelburne, N.S., a historic Loyalist settlement on the Atlantic coast 150 km southwest of Halifax. His parents are unknown, as is his birthdate, although it was probably in the late winter of 1993-94. When he was about six months old, his original owners tied him and two siblings, all black and white, into a garbage bag and tossed it over a chain-link fence into the town dump. In the spring of 1994, he was found by Louise Lindsay, a hydrogeologist, who hiked out on a mission: the town was closing the dump and Louise wanted to see if it had installed devices to monitor the groundwater. “I just stopped my bike and was looking through the fence and I heard this little meow,” Louise says. “I made mewing noises back and, lo and behold, three kittens came out of this ripped garbage bag. One of the three trotted right out under the fence and started circling around my legs. The other two ran off.”

Louise and her husband Andy Blackmer, also a hydrogeologist who works in Halifax, lived in an old house on Dock Street in Shelburne’s waterfront district, near a number of cafés and museums and the Muir-Cox Shipyard. They already had a Maine coon cat,

Pepper, and two dogs, a malamute named Willow and an English pointer named Tache. “I went home and said I found this sweet little kitten and Andy said,

‘No more cats,’ ” Louise remembers. “So, for about a week, I kept biking back and feeding him at the dump.” Andy relented. Louise went to pick up the kitten in her Dodge van. “It was easy,” she says. “It wasn’t like catching a wild kitten. It was like, ‘Hi. I love you. Let me come home with you.’ ”

Louise, who works from home, took Bean (whom she originally dubbed Stringbean because he was so thin) to the town’s vet, Mike Steen. The vet told her Bean was suffering from extreme malnutrition. He said that with such a hard start, he might not live a long life. After he had his shots and was treated for fleas and was neutered, Bean and what Louise calls “his mentor,” Pepper, embarked on a charmed summer in their Dock Street neighbourhood. “It was not scary because it was shut down for the movie,” Louise says. Outside her house, Demi Moore and Gary Oldman and Robert Duvall were shooting The Scarlet Letter. The gregarious Bean soon became a favourite of the cast and crew and had the run of the set—

although Louise was asked to remove his red nylon collar because it interfered with the look of the film. In subsequent years, Bean had other collars, but Louise always worried about him getting caught and strangled, and he soon became such a fixture in the neighbourhood, he didn’t need to wear any identification.

Betty Stoddard, the office manager of the Shelburne County Museum, about a block and a half away from Louise and Andy’s

house, calls the cat “My darling Bean.” She got to know him “as soon as he was allowed out unchaperoned, so to speak,” she says. “Dock Street is a little onelane street that goes by the museum complex, and Bean would go from backyard to backyard. You just left the door open and he would come in and visit you.” At the Beandock café nearby, owner Monique Fillmore says Bean was a regular back-door moocher. “He would sit on the doorstep and give us a little cry. He always came for treats—kitty treats or bits of bacon and tuna,” she says. When the weather was fine, he would spend the day with her patrons outside on their Adirondack chairs. When Louise and Andy went away, Monique would go over to the house and cat-sit him. “He was a happy little thing,” she says. He was also fearless. Louise tells stories of Bean attacking Tache like a panther, and once being bitten by a

carpenter’s dog he surprised while it was sleeping. Andy says he was an inveterate fisherman who liked to scoop squid out of the harbour and gnaw them to pieces on the lawn.

On Friday, Sept. 1, Bean was lying in one of his favourite spots— under Andy’s Jeep, where passersby often stopped to pet him. Gloria Medicraft, from nearby Milton, saw him and thought he was in ill health. At 12, Louise admits Bean was deteriorating. He was as thin as ever, with a patchy coat and cysts that had resulted from the dog bite. Gloria, who has 13 cats living in her house, says, “I made the decision.” She picked him up and took him to Mike Steen’s successor, Dr. Jill Calder, one of the few people in the town of 2,013 who did not know him. “She assured me he was homeless,” Jill says. “With homeless cats, if they are not young and healthy, they are not adoptable.” At about 4 p.m., Jill euthanized him and put his body in a freezer. Louise and Andy, heartbroken, tracked him down the next day and buried him in their yard,

BARBARA RIGHTON