For more than a decade, one of the most revered residents at the Kensington assisted living home has proven to be the perfect companion for residents and visitors alike.
His name is Fargo, a cat rescued from Heartland Pet Connection during one of its adoption drives more than a decade ago.
Adopted out by Heartland founder Judy Hoch in 2004, the gray feline has recently developed a fondness and appreciation of Hoch, one that has manifest itself during the past six months each time she visits the Kensington to perform for its residents on piano.
“She brings him treats and he’ll get up and sit beside her on the piano bench for two hours while she plays,” said Rhonda Kolbet, Kensington activities director. “His tail hangs over the piano bench. It’s so adorable. He remembers her and is so thankful he is living this wonderful life because of her.”
Hoch doesn’t know for sure whether the cat actually remembers her or not. She thinks it is her temperament that Fargo finds attractive. That, and the treats she bring each time she performs.
“I don’t know if he enjoys the music or he just trusts me, but he is a constant companion when I’m here,” she said. “I think he knows that I’m a real cat person. I’ve owned cats for all but five years of my life. We’re friends.
“He’s not much of a lap cat. He doesn’t sit on the residents’ laps or my lap, but he sits close to you.
“One of our residents, Carol Harrold, picked him out and we brought him home. Now all of them (residents) socialize with him. He’s a nice addition to the Kensington.”
As its unofficial mayor, Fargo has run of the residence. His positive impact on the lives of residents is undeniable, Kolbet said.
“Everybody knows him,” she said. “At Christmas time, when school kids come in and sing, there’s Fargo, sitting right there. He interrupts everything.
“He plays pool with the guys here, too. He loves men. He’ll sit up there and lay beside the pockets so they can’t get the ball in. Sometimes he’ll pick one out when they come in and follow them. He goes up and stays in guest’s rooms, too.”
On Sundays, he can be found attending in-house church services. He plays no favorites.
“He goes to every one,” Kolbet said. “He’s a non-denominational cat.”
Perhaps his best friend among residents is resident Vida Forsburg, 89, who offers him treats each time their paths cross. Though he has become finicky about which treats he eats, he still seeks her out for companionship on a daily basis.
“He’s special, very special,” she said. “He stops and sees me. He’s a good friend.”
Growing up on a farm in Gosper County — where mice-chasing cats patrolled the family barn made Forsburg well-versed in feline behavior. But none of that prepared her for the free spirit that is Fargo, she said.
He’s spoiled,” she said. “He stays indoors. This is home.
“He’s not on a special schedule and I’m not either, so I usually check on him in the morning to see if he’s in his box to let him know I’m here. I’m glad he’s here.”
Residents Jack Northrop, 92, and his wife, Genevieve, 88, of Clay Center, are among those who consider Fargo a fixture in the home. As part of their daily routine, the couple drops by the office of transition coordinator Wendy Buhr most nights before bedtime to wish him pleasant dreams.
“He’s everybody’s pet,” Buhr said. “He picks out the animal lovers. He can tell when somebody walks in the door if they like pets or not.
“He won’t just go up to anybody. He’s a good judge of character.”
His friendship with the Northrops wasn’t immediate, however. It would take him more than six months to warm up to them, Jack Northrop said.
“He has quite a few people here to get acquainted with,” he said. “Now all I have to do is tap my leg and he’ll come. He means a lot to everybody. He’s everybody’s friend.”
“Our day isn’t complete unless we’ve talked to Fargo and tell him goodnight,” Genevieve Northrop said. “He sleeps in the director’s office and we can almost always find him there in a special decorative box he sits in near the window. He’s somebody special around here. If you don’t know Fargo, you don’t know the Kensington.
“I remember when he was sick. You would have thought we had a funeral around here. If he’s not around, everyone is always wanting to know where Fargo is.”
Visiting dogs despise him, but that doesn’t seem to phase him in the least. He doesn’t like them, either, Kolbet said.
“When dogs come in, he knows how to torment them,” she said. “He likes to lay down in the lobby and watch them. He’s very vocal. He says, ‘You need to go: This is my house.’ ”
And to that point, Kolbet concurs completely. He runs the show, and staff and residents happily cater to his every need.
“He’s very spoiled,” Kolbet said. “He has to have ice in his water. He’s figured life out here. He’s no dumb cat.”