Grave on campus
By Daniel Bell
Those who sometimes use the back exit from the central campus
of Georgia Highlands College may have noticed a white cross marking a grave just in
the edge of the woods across from the Plant Operations Building. Written
on this makeshift headstone is the name “Tom.”
was a polydactyl cat that used to call Georgia Highlands College home. Polydactyl
means “having extra toes,” and in Tom’s case, that meant
six toes on both of his front feet.
“He just showed up one morning,” said Ken Lewis, skills trade
worker and employee of Physical Plant. Lewis and Herman Fitzgerald, grounds
department, began feeding and taking care of the black and white tomcat.
According to Fitzgerald, “Tom was a friendly cat,” and it
is his belief that Tom was once someone’s pet.
“Tom wasn’t shy. He was a lap cat,” agreed Lewis. Lewis
affectionately described the cat’s extra toes as looking like “catcher’s
mitts,” while Fitzgerald said they looked like “snowshoes.”
Tom lived on the FC campus for about a year and a half and would have
eventually lived with Lewis.
“I was going to take him home with me once I finished building my
new house,” said Lewis. “But he died two weeks too early.”
Tom died almost a year ago because he had feline AIDS and feline leukemia.
Currently there is no available treatment for feline AIDS.
To honor their six-toed companion, Fitzgerald and Lewis built a little
casket and brought stones from Indian Mountain to encircle the grave.
“We just couldn’t put Tom in a hole,” said Lewis looking
back. “We are going to make a concrete headstone too.”
Since then the two have regularly pulled weeds and cleaned up debris from
the Tom’s grave.
As additional tribute to Tom the six-toed cat, Lewis said he has a new
cat at his house that he calls “Tom 2.”
only people need help,” said Lewis. “We have taken care of
lots of animals over the past ten years.”
Fitzgerald said he once took home a dog that had wandered up. The dog
then gave birth to 11 puppies. “The important thing,” he said,
“is to make people aware.”
According to Lewis one of the biggest problems around the campus is people
polluting the lake and its surroundings.
“There is a one-legged duck here that lost its leg because it got
tangled up in some fishing line,” he said. “There are trashcans
all around the lake, yet we see trash lying on the ground right next to
Fitzgerald and Lewis have taken care of many dogs and cats over the years.
What’s more, they pay for everything the animals need out of their
“There was a black lab once,” said Lewis, “that had
a broken leg. We took up money, and it cost $551 (to treat the dog).”
Lewis said the Humane Society helped out a great deal with “Black
Dog” and that the Humane Society has foster homes for stray pets.
“They take animals and put them in foster homes until they can find
something permanent,” said Lewis.
For now, a white cross with the name “Tom” stands as a monument
to the beloved six-toed cat of the FC Physical Plant.