November 27, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
33°F
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Meet Sam, a purrfect type of worker

LORAIN — The city’s youngest employee works for food, spends all of his time at the office and never gets in trouble for mousing around.

Sam, a 4-year-old Russian blue cat, has been keeping the Street Department office at 114 E. 35th St. free of mice since the fall of 2008. Bypassing civil service examinations, Sam applied onsite for the job just a few weeks after being born.

Arriving for work one morning, workers noticed a Slurpee cup moving in the locker room and heard noise from it.

“He had gotten in the Slurpee cup and the lid shut on him, and he couldn’t get out,” said Lori Garcia, a department secretary. “He was only, maybe, 3 weeks old, and his eyes were barely open.”

Workers initially fed Sam with an eyedropper, and he has lived and worked at the building ever since. When he arrived, the aging building had a bad mouse problem.

Sam’s predecessor, who had spent about 10 years at the building, had died about eight months earlier. Garcia said she and coworkers weren’t planning to replace him until seeing mice and finding mouse droppings on computer printouts.

A day before Sam’s hiring, Garcia said a mouse crawled across her foot in the kitchen.

Since taking over, Garcia said Sam has presented workers with two half-dead mice — “He was so proud” — but is usually discreet about his work. No mice. No turds. No problems.

“I’d have to say he’s pretty effective,” Garcia said.

But not against raccoons, which broke into the office twice in November. In the worst incident, a raccoon feasted in the kitchen, including helping himself to cat food left in Sam’s bowls.

On normal mornings, Sam greets workers at the door and then makes a beeline to the kitchen for breakfast, which usually consists of lunch meat. But after the raccoon incursion, he cowered at the front door, refusing to go to the kitchen without an escort.

Workers used a trap to catch the raccoon and caught a second one a couple weeks later. Traps have been set in the attic, and there haven’t been any other break-ins since.

Other than raccoon encounters, life is pretty routine for Sam. He occasionally abandons his post to run outside the building for a few minutes, but doesn’t stray far. Garcia said he runs back in as soon as he hears the front door scrape as it is being closed.

When not hunting, Sam spends a lot of time in the office with Garcia looking out the window and taking cat naps in baskets around the office. But coworkers — who stop by the building on holiday weekends to feed Sam — don’t think he’s a slacker.

Garcia said employees from other departments stop by to feed him treats and give him toys.

“People will just come to see Sam and bring him stuff,” she said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.