John Shearer: Thankful For A Cat Named Ernie

Monday, February 18, 2013 - by John Shearer
Ernie the cat and Maisie sharing a chair about two years ago.
Ernie the cat and Maisie sharing a chair about two years ago.
- photo by John Shearer
My wife, Laura, and I unfortunately had to say goodbye last week to our big black cat, Ernie.

After 14 years of being a seemingly healthy cat, he uncharacteristically stopped eating and drinking for the most part. After several days of this, we took him to the veterinarian, who x-rayed him and discovered that he had some cancerous masses among other problems.

As a result, the end had sadly come for him.

Ernie was a rather unusual cat in many ways. A large animal weighing roughly 20 pounds during much of his life, he had long black hair and may have even been a Maine coon cat.

A former colleague of my wife had found Ernie as a kitten in her Sequatchie County barn in early 1999 and had called him Moby because he was larger than the other kittens.

After the friend showed up with him at our house one day, we quickly knew he was a keeper. Laura decided to name him after singer Tennessee Ernie Ford.

I am not sure if it was just guys hanging around together, but Ernie for some reason gravitated toward being my cat and buddy.

Early on, I found that he loved being rubbed on the back of his neck, so that became a ritual several times a day whenever he was near me or I would pass him in the house.

I think I also helped him develop human-like tendencies, as I started feeding him small helpings of dry cat food three times a day after he became our only feline. And by 10 a.m., whenever I was at home, he would be ready for lunch and would let me know in a not-so-subtle manner. As a fellow guy who also has a hearty appetite, I could relate!

Ernie was larger than the vast majority of cats and, while not really overweight, he had a way of lumbering around that reminded me of elephants, bears or tortoises I would see on wildlife-related segments on TV. And he was certainly not lacking for self-esteem, based on the way he would sometimes lay down on his back like a beached whale.

To borrow a popular TV ad slogan of recent months, Ernie was definitely comfortable in his own skin!

But despite his size, he had the meekest meow that sounded more like a squeak.

Ernie in many ways was a rather complex and contradictory animal. He would generally greet human visitors in a friendly manner and would eventually come and speak to them after they arrived. And oftentimes he would come near where Laura and I were sitting and want a rub down.

But he was generally not a lap cat, primarily because of his large size. And because of his tendencies to wake us up at 5 a.m. and let us know breakfast time had come, we would generally have to put him in our large laundry room at night with our crated West Highland terrier dog, Maisie, rather than let him freely roam the house after hours.

Ernie could also sometimes be downright mean. If he was touched or rubbed somewhere else besides the back of his neck, he would let you know in a not-so-friendly manner. And my young step-grandchildren often were the recipients of a slapping paw when they would accidentally pat him in the wrong place or he did not understand their form of saying hello.

Ernie was also not afraid to try to eat Maisie the dog’s food, forcing Maisie to have to sometimes guard it. In most households, the cat food bowl has to be kept away from the dog, but the opposite was true at our house.

But despite Ernie’s unusual and somewhat high-maintenance personality, we loved him the same.

We had owned him since a short time after I left the Chattanooga Free Press, and much about Laura’s and my lives and careers has changed since then. As a result, he was one of the few constants over the last 14 years, and that endeared him to us.

The neck rubs, getting out the food for him in clockwork manner and cleaning out his litter box were such a big part of my daily and weekly routine that the thought of no longer getting to do that – especially rub his neck – makes me sad.

Looking back at his last few days, perhaps the most endearing memory I have is from last Thursday, when I went to pick him up in the kitchen to take him to the vet for what I likely knew would be the last time. He was feebly sitting and staring out at the backyard he loved.

I miss him greatly, but I am thankful we were able to enjoy him for 14 years.

Goodbye my old buddy. I will always love you.

Lane Closures Announced For Georgia Avenue

Talley Construction resumed EPB vault work at 818 Georgia Ave. on Tuesday. All work will take place in the southbound lanes of Georgia Avenue and traffic will be detoured west on E. 7th Street and east on McCallie Avenue and E. 8th Street, as was done in phase one of the project. The project is scheduled for six weeks. In order to view a map of all closures, visit:  ... (click for more)

UDC Jefferson Davis Chapter Hosts 120th Tennessee Division Convention At Read House

The Historic Read House was the site of the 120th Tennessee Division United Daughters of the Confederacy 2016 Convention.  The convention was sponsored by the Jefferson Davis Chapter 900 of Cleveland.   The chapter tried unsuccessfully to locate a place to hold the Convention in Cleveland, but could not find a place with enough space to hold such a convention. ... (click for more)

In Surprise Vote, Chattanooga City Council Turns Down Short Term Vacation Rentals

In a surprise vote, the City Council on Tuesday night turned down allowing a process to legalize short term vacation rentals in Chattanooga. Only Chip Henderson and Jerry Mitchell voted in favor. Opposed were Carol Berz, Yusuf Hakeem, Larry Grohn, Moses Freeman, Ken Smith and Russell Gilbert. Chris Anderson was absent. Afterward, Councilman Smith said, in light of the vote, ... (click for more)

Cold Case Unit Makes Arrest In Murders Of Brothers In Brainerd Almost 20 Years Ago; Detectives Say Brainerd Jeweler Rick Davis Tied To Incident

The Cold Case Unit set up by District Attorney Neal Pinkston has made an arrest in the murders of two brothers in Brainerd almost 20 years ago. The Hamilton County Grand Jury on Monday indicted 52-year-old Christopher Jeffre Johnson on two counts of first-degree murder in the January 1997 deaths of Sean and Donny Goetcheus. The 25-year-old Sean Goetcheus and his ... (click for more)

October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Picture a sold-out baseball game at Wrigley Field or Nationals Park packed with 40,000 fans. That image represents roughly the same number of women and men who die from breast cancer each year.  In Tennessee alone, an estimated 900 women will die from the disease in 2016. It is a sad statistic, but there is some good news: thanks to early detection and improved treatments, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Saving A Life & More

About 40 years ago I was at an afternoon football practice when one of those who was also watching from the fence was bitten by a bumble bee or yellow jacket or whatever it was and almost died from anaphylactic shock. Luckily an athletic trainer had an EpiPen, jammed it into the man’s thigh and it is believed to have saved the victim’s life. For years I kept an EpiPen on the top ... (click for more)