Meals On Wheels of San Francisco


Meet John, Big Foot and Drama: Cats are wonderful support

Posted May 7, 2014

MOWSF Blog | Senior Stories

Portrait of MOWSF senior John B

John moved to San Francisco in 1969.

MOWSF client John, age 66, has lived in his one-bedroom apartment for 23 years. He says his neighborhood hasn’t changed too much in that time. “I like that it’s mostly families,” he says. “I remember when my neighbor’s daughter was born, and now she’s in college.” He also has a great view, as his apartment is perched high on a hill on the south side of the City.

John was born and raised in Chicago but left when he was 18 years old. In 1967 he visited San Francisco for the first time. John, who admittedly still looks like a hippie, knew instantly he wanted to stay and two years later moved here for good. “I went straight to the Haight,” he says laughing. “When you’re 20 years old, you have the world at your fingertips. It was a magical time.” It was also a time, he remembers, when you could ride MUNI for 15 cents.

MOWSF senior John B's handmade bookshelf and oxygen machine

John B’s made the bookshelf on the wall. It contains his books on spirituality.

For 35 years, John worked as a cabinetmaker, working his way up from apprentice to owning his own small business. He also made beautiful furniture, including the cherry wood coffee table in his living room, the desk and a shelf that holds part of his large book collection. But his already severe breathing problems were aggravated by the sawdust and lacquer. He developed a chronic lung disease and began using an oxygen machine to breath. Five years ago, his doctor ordered him to quit working and told he had only a few years to live. “God I miss it,” he says about making his own furniture.

Since John can no longer be physically active, he tries to stay mentally active. He used to lead meditations but now practices mostly at home. He is also an avid reader. For company, he has two black-and-white cats, Big Foot and Drama. “My friends are not around anymore, and my kid is far away,” he says. And since he couldn’t walk a dog, cats are the right kind of pet for him. “They’re a hoot and this makes me laugh,” he says. “It’s also cool to have something to care about.”

Drama in the window.

Drama poked her head into the kitchen window but declined to be interviewed for this story.

Big Foot, who has two extra toes, is 10 years old. John adopted Drama cat to keep the older cat company. “It’s been two years, and Big Foot barely tolerates Drama,” he says laughing.” Turns out the last thing the 10-year-old cat wanted was to be pestered by a kitten.

A few years ago, MOWSF paired John with Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS), an organization that assists medically vulnerable individuals by helping provide food and services to their animal companions. PAWS helps John with cat food, litter and other services. MOWSF has also helped him find assistance with his rental payments. “They’ve been a terrific help,” John says. “They helped me get a microwave, a stool for the shower and even a new futon,” he says.