There is Kismet, and then there is “Kitmet.” Or is it “Catmet”?
Just ask Queen Anne resident Stellman Keehnel: As one of the country’s top litigators, Keehnel may be fierce in the courtroom, but he’s a pushover when a tabby cat comes to his door.
Recently, Keehnel, partner at the DLA Piper Global Law Firm in Downtown Seattle, and his life partner, Patricia Britton, director of marketing and communications for Book-It Repertory Theatre, celebrated their tabby cat’s three-year adoption anniversary. (FYI: He adopted them; they didn’t adopt him, which brings us to our story.)
Mr. Buddy is the third domestic tabby short hair to wander into Keehnel’s life. He follows two other beloved tabbies.
“The first was Lucy, inherited from neighbors who were moving. Lucy had taken to staying in my house, as opposed to their house. Sadly, she had a battle with cancer, which she lost. And then I thought, ‘No more cats — too painful.’”
But fate had other plans.
Another tabby, Mrs. Boo-Boo, came into Keehnel’s life.
“A friend was moving to Burma — Myanmar — and couldn’t take his cat,” Keehnel recalls. “I thought, ‘Who could provide a better life for Mrs. Boo-Boo than yours truly?’ I had her for years until she, too, lost her cancer battle. Again, we swore, ‘No more. No more. No more.’”
Famous last words.
About four months later, Keehnel and Britton were walking home from a restaurant when they heard a cry.
Britton said, “I thought it was a baby.”
Instead, it was a very hungry tabby. His owner, the evening manager at the 5 Spot restaurant in Queen Anne, had gone out of town and left him with a sitter. He had traveled three-quarters of a mile to their yard.
“He was meowing so much we decided to feed him.” Keehnel explains. “We just opened the door, and he waltzed right into the kitchen.”
The manager decided to relocate, so Mr. Buddy has been with them ever since.
“He picked us,” Britton confides. “Stellman has always been a cat person; I’m a recent convert.”
As far as they are concerned, the handsome, 6-year-old tabby is feline royalty. And he’s not averse to being the center of attention. He stretches out on Britton’s knee in a theatrical pose that rivals the Great Sphinxes of Egypt.
Officially, Mr. Buddy’s name is “The Cat With No Name,” Keehnel’s nod to Clint Eastwood and his spaghetti westerns. Unofficially, TCWNN is known as Mr. Buddy. (Coincidently, Keehnel has the same birthday as Eastwood but not the same year.)
“Mr. Buddy is very vocal,” Keehnel describes. “Like a teenage boy, he can be very rowdy. He likes to be out all night. And he likes to play hunt. But he’s also a gentleman. He doesn’t claw the furniture. He doesn’t jump up on the counters or the tables. He will basically come to you to demand that it’s hunting time. You have to have a string or a stick or a twig, and you have to play with him — both inside and outside.”
Britton admits that Mr. Buddy used to bring back a mousy snack to share with his human family. However, he has since realized that they don’t share his culinary taste.
When it’s check-up time, Mr. Buddy rides to his vet in style, in Keehnel’s silver Aston Martin convertible. The sports car, with only 10,000 miles on it, once belonged to actor Ben Affleck, a gift from singer/actress Jennifer Lopez at the height of their romance. But Jennifer Garner didn’t want her beau driving a car bought by a former sweetheart.
Keehnel is the third owner, and Mr. Buddy is its first feline passenger, though it’s doubtful he appreciates the privilege.
Once he’s put in his carrier, Mr. Buddy goes into whimpering mode, which the fearsome lion of the courtroom imitates in kitty falsetto. “I love you. I love you,” as he looks fondly at Mr. Buddy, “Don’t you, you silly boy?”
The owner of The Bon Marché originally built Mr. Buddy’s new home 110 years ago for his daughter. Keehnel points out a painting of his first tabby, Lucy, hanging in the dining room, nestled between a poster of Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet” and the French poster for Clint Eastwood’s film, “Et pour quelques dollars de plus” (“A Few Dollars More”). On the kitchen counter, there are photos of Mrs. Boo-boo and Mr. Buddy, who could be mirror-image twins.
Keehnel and Britton have joined an impressive list of legendary cat lovers, one being William Shakespeare, who mentioned cats at least 44 times in his plays. So, in that vein, a couple of weeks ago, they hosted Seattle Shakespeare Company’s traveling production in their backyard for 100 guests. But Mr. Buddy did not attend: It seems there was a dog in the play, and he refused to be upstaged.
STARLA SMITH is a longtime Queen Anne resident. To suggest a Queen Anne/Magnolia resident to be featured in “Starla Speaks,” email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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