It’s a topic of debate around Gloucester’s Harbor Loop: when did Stubby the cat first make his appearance there?
Some people say 2002, some say 2004. No one really knows.
Mary Kay Taylor, education director at Maritime Gloucester, says somewhere in the middle, maybe 2003.
Whichever year he appeared, however, he’s never left — and has been a familiar fixture in that corner of Gloucester, with many fans, some of whom are seasonal residents who come looking for him every summer.
Thursday, Maritime Gloucester, one of his main haunts, hosted a Valentine’s Day/birthday party in Stubby’s honor. About 30 people showed up, some bearing gifts for the orange cat who has no tail, all with a story or two about the feline denizen of the docks, and some with photos of Stubby from over the years.
Nancy Dudley brought a photo of Stubby from his early years in Harbor Loop. And Damon Cummings, former dockmaster, told the story of when he first took Stubby to the vet for a checkup, and Stubby was seated on his lap with both paws on the wheel. “He drove me to the vet,” Cummings joked. He enjoyed working on dories nearby and Stubby keeping him company there. “He supervised,” he said.
The cat was on hand for most of the party, perhaps under the influence of some organic catnip spread around the floor in the museum. People were offering him treats, including shrimp, which he mostly refused. He is a friendly cat but he seemed to feel a bit cooped up in the museum, though his fans were clamoring for his attention and he received many kisses on the head from some of his most ardent supporters.
A large orange-striped cat-shaped cake was served, baked by veterinarian Donna Heaney, who also treats Stubby, and there were fish and cat-shaped cookies, candies and other treats for Valentine’s Day, too.
A spirited game of “Pin the tail on the Stubby,” was very popular with the party guests, using orange felt tails to tape to a large photo of Stubby. Others created greetings for Stubby with crayons and mingled together sharing stories and chatting.
People looked around often to see what he was up to. A few times, Stubby retreated to more quiet areas of the museum, seemingly overwhelmed by the attention.
The gathered group sang “Happy Birthday” to Stubby as he was held aloft, and then he made his exit to the outdoors, where he tends to like to be.
He has safe and warm refuges at a few locations in Harbor Loop for winter including at Maritime Gloucester, its Dive Locker and TD Bank. But he remains an independent cat and does what he likes — as well he should.
Allegra Boverman is the chief photographer and a staff writer for the Gloucester Daily Times. She can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3448 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.