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Cat club founder shares her interest with others

September 03, 1998|By SHEILA HOTCHKIN

Rosemary "Rosie" Martz grew up on a Washington County farm, but she never enjoyed the chores and lifestyle that came with it. While she occasionally demonstrated them for her city friends, who found them quaint, she avoided the tasks when she could.

"I never milked a cow," she said. "I was a city girl who grew up on a farm."

But Martz, secretary for 26 years for Washington County's 4-H clubs for the University of Maryland's Cooperative Extension Service, found her niche with the smaller, more graceful cat. Now, through a cat club she founded seven years ago, Martz hopes to offer an outlet to area kids with the same interest.

"There seemed to be a lot of interest," she said. "There had never been a cat club."

"I like that purring sound," Martz said. "It's very soothing. More people should be able to purr. It'd be a more peaceful world."

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Martz herself has a 30-pound Himalayan Persian, registered as "Jarvar Sir Fluff" but answering to the less- pretentious "Fluffy."

"Born on Valentine's Day, the love of my life," she said.

At her club's quarterly meetings, she and the other members discuss grooming, nutrition and health of their pets, and also share stories about their quirky companions.

Martz recalled one of her own: Once, as she showered, she saw a little black paw pull back the shower curtain, and there sat Fluffy, blinking as water ran into his face.

"And I said, 'You're supposed to be afraid of water fella. Get out of here,'" she said.

She also remembered the loyalty the animals can show. Growing up, her family owned a collie named Lassie, who befriended a stray, tiger-striped tabby kitten. Each night, the little gray cat slept on the dog's back.

After Lassie was hit by a car, the grieving kitten continued searching for its friend until it died in a similar manner, Martz said.

Cat club members have also started taking the felines to nursing homes to visit the residents, an activity which Martz said has become one of her most significant accomplishments.

"We've done for some of the residents what medicine couldn't do - put an animal in their arms and put a smile on their face and made them feel real good for the moment," said Martz, whose father lives in one of the nursing homes they visit.

She said the kids are always very enthusiastic about the visits, and even the residents who are not cat lovers appreciate the animals.

"You don't necessarily have to like a cat to like that," she said. "They just bring a little of the outside to someone who's confined."

Having a pet, whether it's a cat or a steer, teaches kids responsibility and leadership, Martz said. "I figure if I just reach one kid and teach him responsibility, then I've done my job."

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