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"The Perfect Man" will make its official debut today.

Feisty feline companion prompts book

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For years, LuAnne White saw Fred only through windows, the feral feline aloof and independent.

The "Lothario of the neighborhood" was known to all on Chippewa Loop.

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Considering himself to be "God's gift to the human population - and female cats," Fred accepted gifts of food, at a stately distance.

But over the span of a decade, a relationship between White and Fred formed. And when he died last summer, after a battle with cancer, White penned a tribute to the "demanding, obnoxious, carefree" critter that captured her imagination and stole her heart.

"He epitomized curiosity," she said of "The Perfect Man," the title of her book. The memoir, replete with photos and whimsical observations, will officially debut with a book signing at noon today (Saturday) at Beagle Books.

As a number of kittens began to appear in the Long Lake neighborhood, White and neighbors Bruce and Linda Harlan decided to have the rogue tabby neutered. It was no small feat, hauling him in to the vet's office. But when he returned, he became a frequent caller at White's abode.

Three years into their acquaintance, White began feeding and conversing with him. Slowly, the owner of two indoor cats and the outdoor scoundrel began to bond.

About five years ago, she detected an infection, likely the result of a squabble with a hawk, and opened her door.

"He waltzed in, for the night," she recalled. The next day, they were off to the vet.

That would be the beginning of a beautiful friendship...

"After that, he decided he loved me," said White, the program coordinator for the Headwaters Center for Lifelong Learning.

He would peer into the window, his presence felt before seen.

His moniker would evolve from Feral Fred to Friendly - and sometimes Freaky - Fred. He would grow to love cuddling.

But he was "high maintenance," White said of Fred's oft times obnoxious behavior.

She estimates he covered a three- or four-mile radius in the neighborhood, and wished she could install a camera on him to view his exploits.

Mice, moles and rabbits, following their demise, would be symmetrically displayed on her doorsteps. On one occasion, Fred introduced a live mouse to the house and let it go, for future recreation.

But the "mafia patriarch" had a tender side as well, bringing home a female kitty in need of medical attention.

"He was afraid of red squirrels, but otherwise terribly fearless," White said.

Fred "helped" her plant the garden, evaluating her work as he followed her down the rows.

And he loved being read to. "He read by osmosis; he sat on the book," White said. "He would have loved Mark Twain's autobiography."

He loved fish, but wouldn't go fishing.

The feisty feline, at about 10 years of age, was diagnosed with cancer. But his spirit remained. The night before he was to be put down, Fred conquered a wily gopher that had eluded traps and other lethal weapons for more than a year.

It would be his swan song.

"He fell asleep in my arms," she said of his euthanasia. "Smiling. He was already chasing something up there."

The "story of the feral cat that came in from the cold" was published by the Jackpine Writers' Bloc.

It's available at Beagle Books, Headwaters Animal Shelter, Blank Canvas, What Not, Brigid's House and at www.lulu.com.

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