Why I’m glad my home has wheels — The Chuy Story

“You know, you don’t need to have your dogs on leashes.”

This surprising statement draws my interest to a man approaching us.  The crew and I are on a back street of Lone Pine, California.  It’s laundry day and we’re out walking around the neighborhood behind the laundromat, enjoying the sunny day while the clothes spin.

I smile at the man and he continues talking as he walks toward us.

“The dog catcher here doesn’t do her job, so you can let your dogs run free.  Nobody will catch ‘em.”

We’re face-to-face now.  The man is not very tall, Hispanic, sixty-ish, and he has a plastic shopping bag in his hand.

“Hello.  What do you mean?”  I ask.

“See that white Ford pickup down there?”  He points down the wide street lined with modest wood houses on little lots, most showing the wear of summer sun and sand-blasting of desert wind..  “I live down there.  The lady next door to me has about 60 cats and they run all over the place, making a mess on my property.”

“That’s terrible.” 

Before I can ask if he’s contacted anyone about it, he continues. “The dog catcher lady doesn’t do her job.  She got fired, but they had to take her back.  They were afraid they’d get sued.  I don’t know what to do.  It’s awful.”

He proceeds to tell me what it’s like to have cats roaming all over, doing their business everywhere.  “They even pee on my front door!  I put out a table to do some work in the back yard.  The next day there’s feces all around and under it.”  By this time Bridget and Spike are resting on the warm pavement at my feet.

As soon as there’s a pause in the flow of words, I offer my hand.

“By the way, my name is Sue.”  He takes my hand.  “I’m Chuy.  My real name is Jesus, but I’ve always been called Chuy.”  He smiles and I notice he has the kind of eyes that twinkle, that is, when he’s not thinking about the cats.

“Nice to meet you, Chuy.” 

I want to ask him if his nickname is a Spanish word or if it’s chewy as in cookies.  I decide to let it go. (This post has been edited upon being informed by readers that the name is Chuy, a common Hispanic nickname, not Chewy as I originally spelled it which is how it’s pronounced.)  A can escapes the plastic bag and clanks on the pavement.  Chuy picks it up and returns it to his collection.

“I had heart valve replacement surgery so I’m not working.  I pick up cans for recycling.  It puts some money in my pocket,” he explains.

I’m curious about the cat situation. 

“Chuy, you look like you’re on your way home.  Is it all right if we walk with you?” I ask.  The crew hears “walk” and they’re up and ready to go.

We pass a shabby house, an old van with a flat tire partially hidden with weeds, a windowless building, and the side of a motel. The back of the motel is up against a lot where a pretty blue house trimmed in white beckons passers-by.  Roses, zinnias, and morning glories stick their cheery heads over and through the white picket fence.

“Is that your place?” I exclaim.  “It’s gorgeous!”

Chuy’s house

I notice white wicker rockers on the front porch, butterfly lawn ornaments, and a weed-free, lush lawn, perfectly edged along the walk leading up to the porch.

The butterflies are solar lights.

Pots of flowers ring the trunk of a peach tree.  “I’ve got another peach and an apricot in the back,” Chuy proudly informs me.

Chuy has lived in this house with his mother since 1979. 

I tell him it’s obvious he’s put a lot of work into it.  I can’t help repeating how lovely it is and asking questions about the plants growing there.

Morning glories

He tells me his mother grows the flowers.  He takes care of the rest.  Next to the peach tree is the largest Rose of Sharon tree I’ve ever seen.  Another tree – I think it’s a locust – has ivy growing around its massive trunk and up into the branches.

“This is so nice, Chuy.  May I take some photos?”

Red roses and white pickets always go together.

The flowers have pretty much played out, it being October.  I wonder what the flower beds look like at their peak, with peach blossoms and Rose of Sharon blooms above them.

A cluster of zinnias

While I’m snapping the photos, Chuy says gravely, “Wait ’til you see what’s next door.”

A sand driveway lies between Chuy’s property and the neighbors.  The driveway is one, big, cat toilet.  Feces are evident and the smell drives me backwards into the street where I almost step on some more cat droppings.

“Watch your step!” Chuy warns.  “It’s even out in the street.”  Chuy’s exasperated.  He puts his hands up to the sides of his head.  “I don’t know how much longer I can take this.  In the summer it stinks so bad. And the flies!  That can’t be healthy.”  I can see the flies swarming.

We discuss his family’s efforts to have something done about the cats.

Apparently Chuy and his sisters have given up. They’ve fought this fight for years.  I mention that the driveway needs to be completely dug out and replaced with concrete.  “At least that way, you could hose it down.”  I suspect money is an obstacle.

While we talk, cats roam around his neighbor’s dilapidated mobile home. 

A panel of the skirting has been removed so the cats can live underneath the home.  I see three faces peering out.  Another cat climbs up and over the patched-together, old board fence on a special ladder put there for that purpose.

“Look over there!” Chuy points to the far corner of his house.  A big tabby appears around the corner and strolls across Chuy’s lawn like he owns the place.

I suggest contacting an animal welfare group.

“If this lady’s hoarding cats, she may be sick and living in unhealthy conditions.”  Chuy seems baffled by my suggestion.  I try to explain about animal welfare organizations.  “Maybe there’s one in Bishop or some other town near here.  They could come out and maybe help this lady and her cats.”

Chuy seems completely disheartened. 

The thought comes to me that his soft-spoken manner and unassuming stature – not to mention being Hispanic – is probably easy to ignore down at the local health department.  Our conversation about possible solutions seems to go in circles until it stalls out.

I remember I need to get back to the laundromat.

I wait for the right moment.  “Well, Chuy.  I’ve got to go now.  It was really nice meeting you.  Thank you for showing me your beautiful home.”

Chuy, his house, and his truck

Back at the laundromat, Bridget and Spike have a drink and wait inside the PTV.

I take the clothes out of the dryer and fold them on the smooth table.  My mind lingers on Chuy and his pretty oasis with the flowers and the picket fence and the smell and the flies.

Boy, am I glad my home has wheels!


Canine Corner:  “It’s my house now” by Bridget

Here I am in my house.

When rvsue got a new dog bed for inside, Spike was all over it for a day or two.  I couldn’t even look at it without him growling like I was breaking the law or something.  Then he didn’t care about it any more.

Same thing with the canine condo.  Spike had to get in it right away and hog it.  Now he’d rather lie in the dirt under the BLT because he’s a very messy boy.

Keep on walking, Spike.

I like having the canine condo all to myself.  I rearrange the quilt just so before I sit or lie down.  And when Spike comes around I let him know he’d better keep putting one paw in front of the other ’cause he’s not bringing his dirty self into my house!


About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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52 Responses to Why I’m glad my home has wheels — The Chuy Story

  1. Lone Pine is one of my favorite places. While you are there you can pick up a map to where movies have been filmed in the Alabama Hills. The hills are on the road to Whitney Portal. The Alabama Hills are BLM land and you can camp for free, although it is primitive camping. I have spent a lot of time camping in the Alabama Hills. We have also camped in many of the BLM campgrounds in the area. Be careful of bears though. One got into our friends truck at the Lone Pine campground and tore the tono cover on the back of his truck. It was a bit scary for him because he was camping in a tent. It is a great story now, not so funny then.

  2. Glenda Cornwill says:

    My goodness………..don’t tell me I am first up for this blog entry. Oh that poor man and his dilemma. How nice are you Sue to take the time to talk with him and hear of his problems. What a beautiful home he has, so lovingly cared for and to have to live next to all those cats. I am a cat lover………..all animals for that matter and you have to feel for those poor cats too. With so many there how well are they being looked after? Surely there is something that can be done by the local authorities. I have seen numerous documentaries here in Oz and from the states where the animal welfare steps in and the owners are threatened with a hefty fine if they do not do something about such situations as you described. Cats/dogs are impounded etc. Takes all kinds to make this world I guess but sometimes one has to wonder??!!

    • Glenda Cornwill says:

      Ps …..seems I was not the first 🙂 Also well done Bridget !!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I tried to encourage Chewy to keep trying, to make a pest of himself, and to talk to the other people in the neighborhood. Unfortunately there isn’t a house on the other side of the mobile home and there’s some kind of storage building across the street, so he doesn’t have any potential allies.

  3. EmilyO says:

    Ah, now those are really good pictures. Love Bridget in her condo. Somehow just knew you’d get it worked out.

  4. bayfieldbunch says:

    Am familiar with the laundramat & the neighborhood you walked in. I did the same as you while waiting for laundry to dry when we were there. Probably walked right by Chewy’s house. Maybe even took a photo or two. No sign of Chewy though……..

  5. Ginger Davies says:

    That is disgusting to live next door to all that mess, not to mention the flies. Chewy’s home looks so nice and the flowers are so pretty. I would have to keep complaining to the city, the county, the health dept…until someone listened. If they didn’t help out,, then I would have to get a couple of dogs to put in my yard to keep the cats out of my space.
    cute canine post.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Ginger,

      I hope WordPress isn’t going to start messing around with people’s names again. Sorry about that. I asked Chewy about getting a dog and he said his mother doesn’t want one around. The dog probably would make friends with the cats and add more you-know-what to the problem.

  6. gingerda says:

    don’t know why it posted with my last name instead of GingerDa

  7. Kim says:

    One good thing about a large cat colony is that it keeps rodents out of one’s RV. But otherwise, not a good thing for the cats. Sad.

    But I gotta tell ya, Sue, that is one kick-ass camera you got there!

  8. Sherry says:

    I’m sure you are right that this is a health hazard. It’s amazing that Chewy can’t report it to the board of health but I do like Ginger’s idea about getting a dog to help out. But that won’t stop the smell. I’ll bet Bridget was totally horrified by such a mess. She doesn’t even want Spike’s “messy self” in her condo. I laughed out loud.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Chewy and his sisters have been pestering the Health Dept. for years. A lady came out once, talked to the cat woman in her doorway, left, and that was the end of it.

  9. Pat says:

    Great pics!!!!!!!!!! The flowers are so pretty, feel sorry for Chewy and hope he can get some help with the cat problem. Where are you going when you leave Alabama Hills? I wish I was there……..LOL

  10. Pretty in them hills. Wow! About the cats, I think it is as you said Sue, the lady needs help. I wonder if any of them are spayed or neutered ??? OMG, cats multiply quick if not. What a shame that no one is willing to step in and see what is going on with the cat situation. I Love cats. I think this lady needs some help ! Sad situation for the cats, Chewy and the lady who feeds them.

  11. Beverly says:

    Sure glad you’re back photographing. My sister has that camera and she takes amazing photos with it. You gave Chewy good advice encouraging him not to give up, and to try to locate animal welfare organizations. He has such pride in his beautiful property and it must drive him crazy with all those cats. My Mom and I, once again, laughed together while reading the antics of Bridget and Spike. We love your postings. You bring a lot of joy to us through your excellent writings.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I’m making a lot of mistakes with this camera, but I’m determined to learn. Everybody who reads this blog regularly will see some improvement in my photos, I hope. Glad you got a laugh out of the Canine Corner.

  12. Timber n' me says:

    Bridget, Timber ses he’s goin’ to tell rusty to get him a condo, so he can do what you do in yours,,,,,,EEEErrrrrrrRuuuFF RUuuuFFFF OOOOlll RUuuuff thats dog lingo, get me one dad, n’ those blums of color are so nice,,,,,,,great pic’s sue

  13. Joe says:

    They make a SOFT pellet gun that doesn’t hurt the cat just scares them if shot at a short distance like a back yard shot from a bedroom window. At least this will keep the cats out of his yard. Another idea is a Have-A-Heart trap. This trap will catch the cat and then you can take the cat to the Animal Shelter. I’ll betcha after he shows up delivering cats all the time the authorities will get off their duffs and do something.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      These are good ideas, Joe. Somehow I have a feeling Chuy wouldn’t buy a pellet gun or use one if he had it. The trap is a great idea. Probably if a cat is brought to a shelter around here (I don’t really know), it is killed. It’s very rural here. I don’t know where animal control is.

  14. Rita says:

    Loved pics of Chewy’s gorgeous flower garden. I have five cats all neutered & spade and they pretty much stay in my yard. I have a couple of litter trays in back yard which they use since kittens. The only complaint I have is they tend to trample my flower beds to get to the coolness. I have used redwood shavings in areas they sleep & wet it down in summer which helps. Chewy might need to contact the County to go a step beyond the city. Here in our city I read people getting busted for hoarding animals on a weekly basis…it’s not good for the animals and people who have to put up with the filthy environment. Most wild animals do not live in filthy environment with feces. Domesticated animals should not have to live in a filthy environment too. Pets are like children….would you keep your child in the condition as the cats next to Chewy? I think not and this argument should be taken up with higher authority other than the city officials. One thing I have done is to use sage, lavender, and other strong smelling natural products to dust around my front yard & back yard to keep other cats and dogs from relieving themselves anywhere they want. My pets (dogs & cats) are trained to go in certain areas for easy clean up. Animal repellent including cat and dog can be bought at Home Depot or Lowes but I’m not sure if it’s safe for animals. The only animal repellent I’ve used from Home Depot is the snake & bug repellent….here in AZ we have rattle snakes, scorpions, brown recluse spiders to name a few…all dangerous venomous critters.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Rita . . . These cats do make it unpleasant working in the flower beds. This is the desert so a water solution isn’t practical (Water is metered and high-priced for people of modest means). Chewy/Chuy said they tried higher authorities up to the State level but each time they were pushed back to the local. It takes a certain type of person with exceptional perseverence with particular skills to fight inaction in a bureacracy.

  15. mockturtle says:

    Here in WA, ‘animal hoarding’, as it is called, is illegal.

    BTW, not that it matters, but ‘Chuy’ is a popular Hispanic nickname. There are may Chuy’s restaurants and one, specifically, Papa Chuy’s in Van Horn, TX, which used to be a favorite stop for John Madden, the former football coach and now announcer.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Interesting bit of trivia! Thank you for setting me straight. I figured I was wrong spelling the name Chewy but I didn’t know the Spanish name. I’m going to go back and edit the story.

  16. LilNomad says:

    If Chewy goes around the perimeter of his property with Cayenne Pepper or the Red Pepper Flakes and even sprinkles it on the grass the cats will leave..also works for skunks and other ground critters. You can buy the big bags at Smart N Final. Ive also used moth balls for skunks and ground squirrels not sure if it will work for cats but know for a fact the Pepper works.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    Cats dislike water usually, right?? And maybe it would be too difficult, but I would try setting up a sprinkler for a time, over the area I wanted the cats NOT to use…and see if that helped. I find with animals, there are often things you can do that the animals will understand…tis impossible to get humans to have any sense in many situations.

    WOW, so nice of the guy to give you such a good camera!! LOVELY photos!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      He’d have to run a sprinkler constantly on all areas of his property which isn’t feasible when living in the desert. The water is metered and people on a limited income use it sparingly. Thanks for the compliment on the photos, Elizabeth. I’m trying!

  18. geogypsy2u says:

    If they’ve lived with the cat problem this long I doubt they will change it. You made some good suggestions though. Chewy sure has a lot to be proud of for the beautifully kept yard. Camera’s doing good, it’s a real learning curve for sure.

  19. jjbrantl@netzero.net says:

    FYI Not to insult your integrity or intelligence, but CHUY is a common name for Hispanics with the first name Jesus, still pronounced the same.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I’m glad to have you correct my mistake! In fact I was counting on someone pointing out the correct spelling, as I suspected his name wasn’t Chewy. I didn’t know how to look up the right spelling. I’m going to fix it in the story. Thanks.

    • DesertHawk says:

      Yes, it is a common Spanish nick name: CHUY or CHUCHO – a nickname for Jesús …. “Jesús” pronounced ‘Hey-sus / Hey-soos’.

  20. Page says:

    Women like that give us Crazy Cat Ladies a bad name. It’s such a shame.
    Beautiful pictures of that wonderful oasis.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I happen to have a very sweet, intelligent, highly-educated, fun, and precious friend who is a Crazy Cat Lady and wears the title proudly! Glad you liked the photos, Page.

  21. Candace says:

    GREAT, AWESOME pics. .. Good score on the Bday camera 🙂

    Chuy is probably how the homeowner spells his name, if he’s hispanic.

    Amonia in a spray bottle is what it finally took to change the minds of a bunch of local feral cats who decide they wanted to become our pets. We caught them marking the welcome mat, our patio furniture and fencing. Once sprayed they didn’t return. It might take him days to convince that many that his yard is not their territory, but if I had to live there, that’s what I woiuld do.

    Too bad “the authorities” are useless, as is the case in so many neighborhoods with limited funding.

  22. Mary Ann says:

    Your stories sometimes remind me of Eudora Welty’s writings. She took great photographs too. She was always so interested in people, and treated all her characters with dignity. I LOVE Bridget’s new status as condo-owner. She has that look on her face like I know you know I know.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Oh Mary Ann . . . That’s a nice compliment, but I hardly fit into the same category as Welty. Thank you for seeing a parallel. I’m honored.

      Bridget has the lease on that condo and she’s not giving it up!

  23. Sue says:

    I feel so bad for that man. We have cats in our neighborhood that someone left when they moved and now my front door smells like cat pee. I hate it but I am going to get a can or box of that stuff you can sprinkle and see if I can get rid of them. That or take some of my dog poop from the back yard and sprinkle it around so the cats won’t go there. That might help. Poor guy one quick call to the health department might help him too.

    Bridget, you are so cute.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Sorry to hear you’re having cat problems, too. As for Chuy, he and his sisters have done more than a quick call to the health department. They’ve called, written letters, and visited in person.

      Bridget knows she’s cute but she loves to hear it.

  24. Joe says:

    It’s a known fact that the Coyote is the one desert animal that has proliferated and extended its range. They now live in populated areas of Los Angeles because their food supply has dwindled down to eating cats and dogs. If I was a Coyote I’d thin out that herd of cats pretty darn quick. Wonder why that hasn’t happened already? Probably too many varmit hunters living in Lone Pine. To me this just shows how nature is willing to adapt but Man won’t let it happen. What to do?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Joe,

      There is at least one coyote hunting at the edges of Lone Pine. I’ve seen him twice, crossing a field out by the Visitors’ Center and another field at the south end of town. Chuy’s house is in a tight area of houses and businesses. That’s probably why the coyotes haven’t thinned the cat population. It doesn’t look like the cats stray very far from their food source.

  25. Edie says:

    What about contacting the show “Hoarders” on A&E TV?? Maybe they could make an appearance to help this poor woman with all the cats…..it’s gotta be very upsetting not to mention unsanitary.

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