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GAIL WHITE Despite temptations, Rudee keeps a tidy shop



Published: Wed, April 10, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



If I could look inside the mind of an animal, I would want to examine Rudee's.

Rudee is a long-haired black and white cat who lives at Cards and Collectibles, a gift shop in Boardman.

Looking around the shop, I immediately spy the expensive crystal on glass shelves.

In the front window, Japanese table fountains are flowing, the water running gently into the basins.

A display of pricey Boyd's Bears are in the middle of the shop. Off to the side, a shelving unit, looking very much like a tree, holds costly metal creations.

Then there are the cards, the shelves sitting low to the ground. In the back of the shop, an entire row, no more than 3 inches off the ground, is filled with small, dainty items.

Paws for concern: I have heard of felines living in business operations. But a cat in this environment could be disastrous!

I envision shop workers opening up one morning to find crystal shards on the floor with tell-tale cat paw prints on the glass shelves.

Japanese water splotches on the windows from a feline fishing escapade.

A Boyd's Bear's ear found in the corner, a nose under the counter.

Metal creations strewn across the shop -- the result of a cat climbing expedition on the treelike shelf.

And the cards. I can just see the bottom shelf of cards, shredded to bits as kitty used them as a scratching post.

The low-lying shelf in the back is empty as a playful cat has batted them across the floor.

This shop has all the fixings for a mischievous cat's heaven!

Spotless record: "In four years, she's never broken a thing," says Carl Wesch, vice president of Cards and Collectibles.

"It amazes customers," echoes Billie Mauritz, a sales clerk in the shop.

I nod, looking around. Having had a few cats of my own, I am truly amazed.

Rudee, with her red, white and blue scarf hanging fashionably around her neck, sleeps under an antique stove in the shop. Her furry mouse toy shares her bed.

Rudee's food and water dish is in the shop's store room. Her tuna and crab treats sit up on a shelf.

Being female, Rudee shares the restroom facilities with her female co-workers. Her litter box is in the ladies room.

Rudee wanders around the store during the day, visiting with patrons.

"She'll come up to different customers and meow," says Bonnie Martinko, salesclerk. "She's quite talkative."

Catching her rays: When Rudee needs some sun, she sits on the window ledge near the store's bridal section.

When Rudee needs enlightening, she visits the card section.

"Sometimes, she'll be standing there," Bonnie laughs, pointing to the card shelves. "She looks like she's reading them."

When Rudee is tired, she nestles into her bed under the stove.

Indeed, Rudee has people to pet her all day long, all the food she can eat, and she gets to spend quiet nights under her stove.

Yet, there is an incredible responsibility to her leisure. It is a responsibility that she has not stumbled from once.

Amid all the temptation that surrounds her, she has never jumped, splashed, scratched or batted.

Carl believes he knows what's behind Rudee's restraint. He believes he knows what's inside her mind.

Carl is the one who found Rudee.

Needed a hand: Four years ago, right around Valentine's Day, a skinny, ragged, cold kitty came up to Carl as he was getting out of his car.

"She was a real mess," Carl remembers. "That was a really cold winter."

After a bath and a trip to the vet, he took her to the shop and she has been there ever since.

The door to Cards and Collectibles opens hundreds of times a day. Rudee never runs out.

"She had her time outside," Carl smiles. "She didn't like it. She doesn't try to go out at all."

gwhite@vindy.com




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