Sheba Meowingtons


Bus at the helm   

 Sheba Shabbas Meowingtons, also known as She-bus, The Bus, Bus Bustopherson, or Bustopher is an enigmatic, solitary grande damme.  She is Garbo-esque in her wishes to simply be left alone.  Sheba is known for her aloof beauty, her tremendous singing voice, and her peculiar communion with errant socks.    

No one, not even Sheba herself, knows when and where she was born, how many owners she’s had, why she has only three teeth, and what experiences have shaped her personality into that of a crabapple.     

What is known about Sheba is that she was acquired by Ms. Jill Frieberg, then a resident of Laguna Beach, CA from a local shelter in late 2002.

Jill Frieberg is a most eccentric, multifaceted individual.  At the time of Sheba’s adoption, Jill owned up to nine dogs (most of them large and untrained) and a dozen interrelated cats.   She was in the habit of visiting shelters regularly and taking home animals that struck her as exceptional, sometimes keeping them and sometimes finding other homes for them.  She is a kind-hearted soul, and a genuine animal lover who gives her pets only the best food and medical care.  Her life however, tends to be tumultuous, governed by inebriated decisions, and she doesn’t put much stock in cleanliness.

cat paw 
Not Sheba's actual paw.


Jill was told by the shelter workers that Sheba had belonged to an old woman who had passed away, and the lady’s family didn’t want the cat.  Sheba had already gained a reputation for being a nasty customer, and her attitude didn’t make her adoption prospects very hopeful.  Although her exact age was unclear, Sheba was no spring chicken, and she was also toothless, smelly, and made horrible, unfriendly noises when people attempted to pick her up or pet her. 

However, Jill was charmed by Sheba’s looks, and was optimistic that the cat’s miserly attitude would improve when removed from the shelter environment.  She kindly took Sheba home, saving her from the fate of euthanasia. 

Used to a quiet, sedate life with her elderly former owner, Sheba’s attitude did not much improve at Jill’s house.  In fact, her outlook on life had gone from bad to worse:  the cat developed what a vet diagnosed as “stress-related acne” on her face, she took to biting and swiping at everything in her path, and spent most of her time hiding.  The constantly barking, barely-trained pack of dogs shredded her nerves, and sharing a litter box with 12 other cats assaulted her delicate sense of decorum.  

A few months after Sheba’s adoption, Ms. Freiberg abruptly decided to leave California and head back to her native New York.  Miserable Sheba was packed into a Winnebago with the other twenty-some animals for a weeklong drive cross-county to the Catskills. 


An RV not unlike the one in which Jill stuffed over 20 animals, including Sheba, in for her cross-country trip.

The trip was the last straw for Sheba Shabbas, one could say.  Fate had been dealing her a bad hand ever since her owner had passed away, and she was nearing the end of her rope.  As the smelly RV bucked and weaved its way across America, fur and poop flying, Sheba hid in the upper compartment and racked her small, limited brain for a way out of the nightmare. 

Upon arriving in Saugerties, NY, Jill was met by friends Alicia Collins and Brian Nisbett of Brooklyn, NY, along with their dog Louis Tannenbaum.  Alicia and Brian were on hand from to help Jill with unloading her animals and settling them into their beautiful new home in the picturesque mountain town.  

Alicia and Sheba briefly first met while Alicia was in the process of catching all of Jill’s nearly-feral cats from the Winnebago and forcing them into carriers to be taken to the new house—a process those in the vet-tech field refer to as the “scruff ‘n stuff”.  Expecting a bitter fight from the fluffy Persian that Jill had warned was “very grumpy”, Alicia was surprised at how easy it was to catch the small cat, noting her dilapidated appearance and ridiculously slow reaction time.  Sheba was crated without incident and brought inside the new house, where she promptly retreated to the basement and stayed there for the next month. 


The beautiful mountains of upstate NY    

Sheba, Alicia, Brian and Louis all met again a few weeks later, when the Tannenbaum party came to visit Jill and explore the charming woods that surrounded Jill’s home.  Alicia found the angry furball hiding in the basement and took her upstairs for a much needed brushing.  As her matted, dirty coat was gently groomed, Sheba made noises that suggested savage torture, but she made no physical struggle to be free.  Dirty looks were exchanged, and Alicia and Sheba matched wills for a second time.  

Alicia finished brushing and released the cat, who clambered angrily back down the basement stairs; Alicia assumed that she had made an enemy for life of the miserable, weird creature.  Later that night, Jill lamented to Alicia that Sheba seemed very unhappy, never came out of her hiding place, and hated all the other cats and dogs.  She worried that maybe the cat should’ve stayed in California, with a more suitable owner.  Sheba brooded in the basement, the tiny wheels of her mind unsteadily weighing the pros and cons of a small plan. 

The following morning, Sheba hauled herself from her basement lair and stationed herself squarely upon Brian and Alicia’s suitcase as they prepared to head back to New York City.  Jill was surprised to see the cat on the ground level, particularly in daylight, but in the rush to make it to the train station, Sheba was simply shooed away from the luggage.  Jill later called to report that Sheba had emerged several times after Brian and Alicia left, wandering around their guest room in a searching manner and yowling. 

Talking on the train ride home, Brian and Alicia discussed the strange being that was Sheba.  They pitied her life  in the cacophony of so many raucous animals, and interpreted Sheba’s appearance on their suitcase as the demand for help that it was.   Sheba had been getting through life on her looks alone, and it was her cuteness that made her feeble plan a success.  Brian and Alicia were taken by this cute, fluffy ball of intense grumpiness, and her plea for a better life.

    Long story short, Sheba came to live with Brian, Alicia, Louie and their other cat Zoey in the spring of 2003.   Disappointingly, although Sheba no longer hid all day, her attitude improved only very slightly.  Instead of sulking in a dark lair all day long as she did in Saugterties, Sheba now preferred to station herself in high-traffic areas of the home and protest mightily if anyone passed by or moved her out of the way.  Louis Tannenbaum suffered several toothless attacks when he made the mistake of gently approaching Sheba with a friendly hello.  

A clean bill of health at the veterinarian's dashed Alicia's hopes that Sheba's bad attitude was perhaps caused by an underlying medical condition.  

    "Nope, she's fine; she's just a brat.  Why do you want this cat again?" were the words of Dr. Maddon.

 Sheba settled into her new home.  The other animals learned that friendly overtures were worthless, and simply ignored her.  After several months, she began to be almost pleasant for minutes at a time.  Her stress acne disappeared, she gained weight, and her coat became fluffy and lustrous.

Sheba in Brooklyn

   
It was around this time that Sheba's bizarre nighttime routine developed.  In the late the evenings, Sheba began yowling agitatedly and very loudly for long stretches once the lights were out.  Her tone of voice was plaintive, adamant, and oddly muffled at times.  Finally, Sheba was caught in the act one evening, and her strange ritual was revealed.  Sheba feels it is her duty, and God-given right, to gather dirty socks, arrange them all in a pile and yell at them all night.  

Theories as to why she does this range from the sympathetic ("the socks are her pretend-babies"--Brian's Mom) to the clinically harsh ("age-related dimentia"-- Dr. Maddon), but being as this is probably one of the only things in life that brings her joy, it was decided that this rite should not be interefered with.  

When Brian and Alicia decided that cruising in a sailboat to tropical locations was something they were interested in doing, they chose to move to Jersey City, NJ to start saving the neccessary money.  Tragedy struck, however, when after they'd moved in, their landlord insisted that the dog could stay, but the cat had to leave immediately.  The announcement co-insided with a visit from Brian's family, who kindly offered to take Sheba back to Oklahoma with them. Saddened by the landlords' sudden hard-heartedness, but figuring that the book of Sheba's life was destined to have many chapters, Brian and Alicia took them up on their offer.

Sheba shortly before her departure to Oklahoma.

   
Sheba flew to Norman, Oklahoma, where the Nisbett family grew to love her idiosyncracies just as Brian and Alicia had.  They reported that Sheba continued her nightly sock ritual, and enjoyed leisurely strolls in the garden.  While Brian and Alicia missed Sheba's weird ways at home, they were content knowing that at least Sheba was amoung folks who appreciated her.  

 Alicia and Brian moved aboard their 34' sailboat, "Hambo" in May 2006, and took even more comfort in knowing that Sheba had a good home in Oklahoma--the tiny living space would've made having another pet a very crowded situation.  However, when they had the miraculous good fortune of acquiring the 44' "Sarabande", suddenly there was room to spare.  It was decided that Sheba would triumphantly rejoin the Tannenbaum clan.  Brian's family graciously agreed to bring Sheba to the family Christmas celebration in Rogers, Arkansas, where Sheba would then depart for boat living with Brian, Alicia and Louis.

On December 26th, 2006, Bus landed at the Newark International Airport.  She had been suspiciously quiet and compliant on the plane, and Alicia had a funny feeling in her stomach.  Sheba was brought to her old vet in Brooklyn the following day, where she was diagnosed with kidney failure.  She was dehydrated, lethargic, refused to eat, and her bloodwork revealed deadly levels of toxicity.   She had also lost 3 of her former 8 pounds, and had lost much of her eyesight due to high blood pressure caused by the loss of kidney function.  Alicia was warned that Sheba's condition was terminal, and it wasn't likely that she would live for much longer.

Sheba days after her diagnosis, resting on her heating pad.

Heartbroken and racked with guilt, Alicia launched a major research campaign on feline renal failure and holistic medicine, and tried to figure out how best to help poor Sheba.  She began administering aggressive subcutaneous fluid therapy, medication to bring her blood pressure down, and force-fed the nutrients Sheba's body needed to keep going.  There were several close calls with death, and Sheba had a very difficult winter, but she regained her sight and gradually began eating a high-quality, homemade diet on her own.


Sheba regains her fur, some weight and her crappy attitude.


Today, Sheba is much like her old crabby self aboard "Sarabande".  Continued daily fluid therapy, medication, and a special diet help replace the work her kidneys aren't able to do for her body, and she enjoys a reasonable quality of life.  Alicia and Brian are very glad to have her back, and they appreciate every day they have with this curmugeonly  furry troll.  Boat living would suit Sheba just fine, if everyone would stop bothering her and quit hogging her spot on the deckhouse settee.

"I am purring, but do not touch me."

 


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