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Fragments 12

Cleveland Amory,
Polar Bear

and animal rescue

Cleveland Amory with his white cat Polar Bear

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Cleveland Amory (CA) was an American author, humorist, journalist and TV critic. Some of his work has reached the status of 'classics', especially his three books on sociology, but it is his lifetime of work for animal welfare in America to which we want to pay tribute here. As a young boy he was introduced to animals and their care by an aunt; and also as a boy he read Anna Sewell's famous novel about a horse, Black Beauty, which influenced him greatly and led to his dream of one day creating a refuge for mistreated and abandoned animals.

In 1962 CA joined the board of directors of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and then in 1967 he founded The Fund for Animals, remaining its president until his death in 1998 and taking no pay for the job. Another notable achievement was to recruit celebrities of the time such as Doris Day, Mary Tyler Moore and Angie Dickinson into his campaign against the use of animal fur in the fashion trade. However, many more people probably know him as the author of three best-selling books that are largely about his cat, Polar Bear. The white cat was rescued, by Amory and an animal-rescue colleague, from the freezing streets of Manhattan, New York, on the evening of Christmas Eve 1977. Never having lived with a cat before, CA found his life changed by Polar Bear and the relationship between the two of them, and he became absolutely devoted to the feline, whom he described as 'the best cat ever'. (See Feline Folios for details of the books about Polar Bear.)

In 1979 CA was finally able to realise his boyhood dream when land was acquired in western Texas and the Black Beauty Ranch was set up near Murchison. It occupies some 1400 acres (well over 500 hectares) and is a refuge for rescued, abandoned, abused and injured animals of all kinds, domestic and exotic. It is not a zoo: CA was adamant that it is for 'animals to be looked after, not looked at', it is only open to the public once or twice a month for small, prescheduled, guided tours, 'to respect the peace and privacy of the animals'. At the gates to the ranch are inscribed the last lines of Anna Sewell's book: I have nothing to fear, and here my story ends. My troubles are all over and I am at home. In 2005 HSUS and The Fund for Animals joined forces to be better able to achieve their common goals.

There is no space here to detail the astonishing rescue and rehabilitation work that the ranch has achieved, and continues to achieve. Anyone interested should obtain a copy of CA's book Ranch of Dreams, completed not long before his death — but be warned: it is not all comfortable reading. It's readily available from online sellers of second-hand books (ISBN 0-670-87762-X, published in 1997 by Viking Penguin). We also recommend the ranch's informative website (link above) where news can be found of current work and the animals living there at present, and there is a video featuring some of those animals. There's also a brief tribute to CA, and details of how you can help the ranch's work if you are so inclined.

Polar Bear visited the ranch many times with his owner during its early years, and so when he died in 1992 from kidney failure, to CA's enormous sadness, the cat was buried in one of his favourite spots beneath three trees, and a fine memorial was erected. When Amory himself died six years later, he had requested to be buried close to his beloved cat and a further headstone was placed. We are greatly indebted to Brenda Blackwell of Black Beauty Ranch for responding to our request for photos of the memorials and the spot where Amory and Polar Bear are buried, and these can be seen via the thumbnails below.

Memorial site where Cleveland Amory and Polar Bear are buried - Black Beauty Ranch, near Murchison, Texas Memorial to Cleveland Amory - Black Beauty Ranch near Murchison, Texas Memorial to Amory's cat Polar Bear - Black Beauty Ranch, near Murchison, Texas border=

Also see The Fund for Animals/Black Beauty Ranch pages at Facebook and Instagram.

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Our featured feline at the head of the page, and your companion through Feline Fragments, is Maggie. She came as a kitten from Powys Cat Rescue. One of their volunteers had seen her wandering around, apparently uncared for, and thought her rather young to be just left to roam. The person 'responsible' for her said she 'didn't care', and so the youngster was taken in for rehoming. Only about 4 months old when I brought her home in 2003, she was a self-assured soul, probably because of her early experience, and was soon climbing all the available trees in the garden. She was a determined hunter in her earlier days, and was usually outside, but now prefers snoozing unless the weather is good. She has superb whiskers — and as the photo shows, loves getting into things! (see it here without the puzzle effect)

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