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Making furry friends and enjoying the ride

I wonder how you go about getting your pet to be part of a national ad campaign?

If I could figure that out, I have little doubt that our outdoor cat, Mr. White, would be the best “spokesman” that a cat food company could possibly have.

Some time ago, I shared with readers of this column “The tale of Mr. White.” I described in this space how we had come to adopt a mostly white cat that had been left behind when our neighbor died. The neighbors home eventually was demolished, and this poor, starving, nearly bald kitty was left to fend for himself, trying to make a home in a tall patch of weeds.

After much coaxing and gentle bribing with food and water, my husband, Mike, finally managed to approach this animal and gain his trust. Soon after they became friends, Mike built a little house for the cat, persuaded him to eat and drink from bowls on our porch and dubbed him Mr. White.

It didn’t take long to discover that this furry little critter did not care for wet cat food. In fact, as thin and scrawny as he was, he seemed to have very particular tastes. Not only did he want dry kibble exclusively, but he clearly preferred a particular brand of cat food. So, that was what he got.

Gradually, that cat made progress. He gained weight and grew fur — a lot of thick, soft, white fur with a few brown and black patches — and began to get comfortable on our porch and in the area surrounding our home.

Eventually, we even managed to take him to out veterinarian. The doctor vaccinated him and made some general recommendations for his care.

And that was that. Mr. White had become our cat.

That was a couple of years ago, and Mr. White has come a long, long way. Today, he is a fluffy, rather lazy sunbather who spends almost all of his time on or around our front porch or visiting my brother’s nearby yard. He loves to lie in the grass and lick at the passing breeze, and he is quite funny to watch as he hops around the lawn batting at grasshoppers and other small creatures.

Mr. White remains a bit timid with most people. I can approach him, put food and water in his bowl and even pet him from time to time. He will submit to brushing from me, but it is not uncommon for me to receive an accidental scratch as he swats playfully at his brush.

He generally avoids other people, but he does not run when familiar faces like my brother’s approach.

With Mike, though, it is an entirely different story. Mr. White seems to know that Mike saved his life. Whenever Mike pulls in the driveway, Mr. White hops down from whatever he is perched on and bounds up the sidewalk to meet him. He then walks ahead of Mike — or sometimes me — to the front door, where he waits for some attention.

If Mike goes outside and gets down to his level, Mr. White cuddles up to him like crazy. Sometimes he even gives Mike a lick for good measure. And although he extends and grabs at Mike’s clothes with his razor-sharp claws, he never seems to catch his skin anymore. Their almost daily petting sessions are adorable.

What started out as a tragic story of unintentional animal neglect has evolved over time to become a tale of friendship and kindness that has allowed a desperate, struggling animal to thrive.

∫ ∫ ∫

I’ve had the opportunity recently to take a few short road trips. Those travels have taken me as far as Columbus, passing through communities such as Cambridge, New Concord and Zanesville along the way.

Closer to home, I have visited places such as Centerville, and Warnock — areas that are little bit off the beaten path.

No matter where I am headed, I always seem to enjoy driving. Whether the road is a relatively straight highway where I can make good time toward my destination or a long and winding path that requires a more cautious approach, I tend to take trips eagerly and to always come home with tales to tell.

During my recent trips, I’ve started to notice the telltale signs of fall. Corn stalks and weeds along the roadways have started to dry up and take on their brownish autumn hues. Piles of pumpkins can be spotted as well, whether at established businesses or just our in front of a farm where they were grown in abundance this season.

Animals, too, are showing signs of the change of seasons. Deer seem to be out grazing earlier, dashing through the tress that filter the setting sun through their leaves.

Geese and ducks can be seen in the sky, headed south in their familiar V-shaped formations.

It’s undeniable that cooler weather has arrived with more on the way.

But driving around our region at any time of year can be a pleasurable experience. From the rolling hills that lead toward the Ohio River to the flatter stretches that carry us west, the landscape is almost always lush and scenic.

Historic homes and businesses that dot the passing scene tell the stories of the people who settled here and shaped the economy and communities that we know today.

In her column below, Belmont County Tourism Director Barb Ballint touches on some of the joys of driving through the region. Take a good look at the information she shares. You may find that you want to follow one of her recommended routes or take part in some of the events she mentions.

But even if you’ve been there and done that, I’ll bet that you can find a pleasant and interesting route to travel around our area. Get out there and take it all in.

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