Cat Show Plans Memorial Service for Dog

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - This will probably be the first time a dog's memorial service is attended by 300 cats. A schnauzer-Siberian husky mix named Ginny will be eulogized Nov. 19 at the Westchester Cat Show, where she was named Cat of the Year in 1998 for her uncanny skill and bravery in finding and rescuing endangered tabbies.

"It'll be right during the show, with the judging going on and all the cats out there on the floor," said Leslie Masson, a spokeswoman for the Westchester Feline Club, which sponsors the show. "We'll call for quiet, and then a few people will get up on stage and talk about Ginny. Her owner will be there and talk, if he's able to, and some people from her fan club."

Ginny died in August at age 17, after a long career as a one-dog rescue party for cats on Long Island's South Shore. The club says she saved hundreds of cats who were abandoned, injured or in harm's way.

Her owner, Philip Gonzalez of Long Beach, has written two books about Ginny and the cats she found, several of whom moved in with him. Among the best-known rescues is the time Ginny threw herself against a vertical pipe at a construction site to topple it and reveal the kittens trapped inside. She once ignored the cuts on her paws as she dug through a box full of broken glass to find an injured cat inside.

Gonzalez, 55, said Thursday that over the years he has tried to train other dogs to do what Ginny did, but "They just didn't have it."

"I didn't train her," he said. "Ginny was just magical in a way. I adopted her from a shelter, and they said she's never been with cats before. But she just had this knack of knowing when a cat was in trouble."

As he used to do with Ginny, Gonzalez still goes out every night to feed stray cats in the area, with the help of the Ginny Fund, which pays for food, medical care and spaying or neutering.

The cats seem to miss Ginny too, he said.

"They want nothing to do with my other dogs," he said. "They used to come up to Ginny and rub against her, even if I was putting food out."

The memorial service will be followed by this year's Cat of the Year award, which is going to an actual cat — Zoe, an 8-year-old ragdoll from Larchmont who saved her owner from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Other cats of the year have included a cat with a cleft palate who taught herself to hold her feeding tube and a cat who campaigns against rules that prohibit pets in senior housing.

Besides the memorial service, the Cat of the Year award and the best-of-breed judging, the show features a household pet competition, an agility contest for cats and a book signing by Allia Zobel, author of "101 Reasons Why a Cat is Better Than a Man."

In addition, about 80 cats from shelters will be up for adoption.

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