Retired librarian spending time with her pets

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 28, 2000

Judy Messina is "not from around here", as the saying goes, but she feels perfectly at home in the Camellia City.

After all, the Birmingham native has been the librarian at Greenville High for nearly 20 years.

Newly retired, Judy wants to enjoy some "transition time" before she begins to pursue a second career.

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Given her former profession, it's no surprise Judy first plans to do lots of reading.

In her cozy apartment adjoining Priscilla Davis' College St. home, stacks of books sit, waiting to be discovered.

A quick glance over some of the titles lets you learn of Judy's interests: art, travel, cooking, the theater . . .and pets.

Prominently displayed is a copy of landlady and friend Davis' book, "Southern Dogs."

It has a theme with which Judy can easily identify.

"I always had inside pets as a child, dogs . . .cats, too.

When my children were young, they experienced the same thing."

Joe and Carolyn, her son and daughter, are all grown up now and living in New York City.

Joe's a chef who spent four months on a farm in Italy, working in the fields and groves as he learned about the art of making olive oil and wine.

Carolyn, an actress, appears in off-off Broadway productions. ("So far off, you can't even see Broadway from there, mom", the young woman quips).

Given their urban environment, Joe and Carolyn can't have dogs for pets right now.

But each sibling has a contented cat companion with which they share their small apartments-carrying on the family tradition.

Mom Judy currently shares her own home with a charming mottled feline named "J.P." along with "Evie", an exuberant Boston terrier with mismatched eyes , and "Cissie", a Min-Pin who's very rambunctious.

(Cissie generally spends her days banished to the back yard enclosure.)

"J.P. was this scrawny stray kitten Priscilla found one day in the Super Foods parking lot," Judy explains.

When Davis, who Judy describes as a "one woman humane society", didn't find anyone to claim the kitten, she planned to take it to the shelter.

"She asked me if I'd ride over there with her," says Judy.

The next thing Judy knew, she was in Priscilla's car, the scraggly kitten in one hand and her half-eaten piece of toast in the other.

"That kitten took one look at my toast, stuck her little head out and gulped down a huge bite!

She was so hungry . . .

I sighed, looked at Priscilla and said, You might as well turn the car around, I'm going to keep her.'"

Judy nods and smiles fondly at the memory, adding, "She just won me over . . .that was twelve years ago."

Today J.P. is a happy, healthy and striking creature, her sleek dark tortoiseshell coat


and streaked with patches of gold, in sharp contrast with four pure white paws and a white "neckerchief."

Do the initials "J.P." stand for anything in particular?

They certainly do.

"I named her for Jackson Pollock, the modern artist.

His canvases were all splatters and swirls . . . J.P. looks as if someone

splattered her!" Judy laughs, explaining the origin of her unique-looking feline's name.

J.P. enjoys daytime outdoors, stalking crickets in the grass, napping in the sun and just watchin' the world go by. In the old days, she loved leaping from counter to the top of the fridge where her treats awaited her.

Alas, like many of her human counterparts, J.P.'s slowing down a bit.