For the love of Clyde

The early years were not easy for Clyde. He came from a broken home, was abandoned and taken in by an abusive foster parent. He was suffering from leukemia, and one day he faced his ultimate fear — he was one fluffy tabby headed for a one-way trip to the pound.

What followed was a fairy tale. He was taken in by Warren Arnold and living the good life in Malibu. Arnold is a guy who keeps to himself — “not a cat person,” he states matter-of-factly. “I’m by myself. I had some girlfriends that didn’t work out. You got to put effort into a relationship.” But Arnold developed a relationship with Clyde. “He almost died, and pulled through. That impressed me.”

Arnold is not an emotional type and seems to cringe at any Titanic-style notions of sentimentality. “Clyde has his life. I have mine. We’re friends.”

Soon he was giving Clyde a course in survival skills. “I taught him what I could about staying off the road and not jumping the fence.” And every night after work, Clyde would be waiting for Arnold. “We’d walk the neighborhood — like a survey — then he’d go to sleep.”

A week ago, Arnold came home to a crippled Clyde, who apparently got his foot caught in a trap. “His foot was at a 45-degree angle,” he says. Arnold was told the only option was a $1,500 specialty operation, which, quite frankly, he could not afford. Still, Arnold said, “He didn’t cause me any trouble. What could I do?” He paid for the operation, and Clyde came home in a paw-to-shoulder cast. Arnold, meantime, was working long days — 14, 16 sometimes 18 hours. The rest of his precious, bleary-eyed moments, he stayed up with Clyde, administering antibiotics and pain medication through an eye dropper.

On Nov. 6, Arnold came home to find the door ajar and no Clyde. He went into the bushes, down the ravine and under the house, even pulling up floor boards in the dim glow of a flashlight. “I went round and round, couldn’t see him anywhere.”

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He visited animal shelters in Santa Monica, the Valley and even Carson, handing out fliers all the way. “I worried about coyotes,” he recalls. “He’s crippled. He can’t get away.”

By Saturday, a cold rain had set in. Arnold distributed letters to his neighbors and ran an ad in The Malibu Times — LOST — CAT IN CAST. “I looked for any kind of clue or answer from anybody.”

On Monday night, after another long day, Arnold pulled up to his Malibu Road home. He heard a faint meow that must have seemed like the whimpering groan that a buried coal miner makes to rescue workers after an explosion. Clyde was back, he was safe and he was relatively clean. Someone apparently took him in during the weekend downpour. “They took care of him. That really impressed me.” Arnold came away with Clyde and a renewed faith in the place he calls home. “I don’t know who did it, but they did something really nice. There are nice people in Malibu. That’s what makes it such a great community.”

Now, with a lighter work schedule, Arnold and Clyde will be spending some time together — he’ll be carrying him around the neighborhood for their “surveys” because, as Arnold says, “it’s important to Clyde, — these walkabouts.”

After the ordeal, Arnold, a Vietnam vet who values his independence, sees the relationship in service terms. “It’s like the military — you’ve got a buddy, you take care of him.” Asked what he loves about Clyde, Arnold says simply, “He doesn’t damage anything and he doesn’t give me a hard time.”

This from a man who befriended a dying cat, paid $1,500 for an operation, scoured pounds for 20 miles, distributed fliers and never gave up hope.

Perhaps Clyde’s just a people kind of guy, because Arnold’s not a cat person — not a cat person at all.

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