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CALABASH—Wherever Mary Keefe goes, Buddy the cat often goes. If he feels like it.
It’s been this way for the past eight-and-a-half years, when Keefe, owner of the Yardbird Emporium in the Low Country Stores complex, helped rescue Buddy and his two kitten siblings from under the store’s porch at 10138 Beach Drive.
Mary took Mini, one of Buddy’s sisters, home to live with her. The proprietor of the former Martelle’s Flag Store took the other feline sister, Miss Kitty.
But Buddy, the only orange kitten and brother, stayed at the store complex where he resides to this day.
“He hangs out and protects the bird store,” Keefe said, noting Buddy has survived several of his nine lives at the 9-year-old shop.
Buddy had been living at the complex for only about a year when he decided to check out what was on the other side of the road one morning. Trying to cross busy Beach Drive, Buddy got hit by a passing car.
“He was left in the median to fend for himself,” Keefe recalled.
One of her neighbors rescued the injured cat.
“It was a long ordeal,” Keefe said. “We got him in a box and got him to the hospital.”
Dr. Ernie Ward, veterinarian at Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, “suggested [Buddy] could use many weeks of rest,” Keefe said, recalling Buddy suffered a broken pelvis and tail.
“I said, ‘Have you ever figured out a way to keep a feral cat confined so they’ll mend?’” she recalled.
Ward kept Buddy at his veterinary clinic for close to 10 weeks.
“My neighbors and my customers all contributed so [my] total didn’t have to be quite so steep,” Keefe said.
And business owners at the complex “put out a Buddy fund can, and it worked,” she said. “It got lots of good contributions. So he came home from the vet and he’s still here and he doesn’t go near the road.”
Buddy also got beaten up “at least twice” by the neighboring “bar cat” at CarBo’s in the business complex next door, Keefe said.
“He had a pretty serious fight that I don’t think he won,” she said. “He’s not a fighter. He’s had run-ins with other cats. He always seems to be the one that gets beat up.”
Buddy sustained facial injuries and “got his ears boxed in, literally,” Keefe said.
At least now she can pick up Buddy and put him into a carrier.
“That’s when I started being his owner,” she said. “It cost me some money. You just take him to the vet and you do what you’ve got to do.”
Now things are peaceful in the neighborhood.
“For his sake, I think it’s wonderful,” said Keefe, who keeps Buddy fed with Fancy Feast and Meow Mix treats.
“He’s a joy to have,” she said of the store’s mascot cat. “People ask if he’s here. He’s become kind of a main attraction.”
With all the bird items sold at Keefe’s shop, Buddy has also learned to mind his manners around the birds that visit there to check out her feeders and birdhouses.
“I’ve been a good teacher and reprimanded him for stalking,” Keefe said. “He’s had to be trained, and he’s not without fault.”
But overall, “he’s well fed, well cared for, and now kind of in a lazy stage,” she said, noting Buddy’s favorite activities these days are lounging around and cleaning himself.
Most days, she said, he’s happy just to lie around in the sunshine and welcome customers.
If he feels like it.