The le­gend of Erik the Red

Bid­ding a fond farewell to the Mar­itime Mu­seum of the At­lantic’s chief ro­dent con­trol of­fi­cer.

The Coast - Pets Halifax - - Kitty Corner - BY JA­COB BOON

n ag­ile, nat­u­ral ath­lete and rar­i­fied salt, fully pos­sessed of his sea legs from the be­gin­ning, Erik would make his way from scant­ling to fid­dley grate to bilge, deck to deck, stem to stern with a dili­gence un­ri­valled. His ca­reer legacy is one of ser­vice to ship and com­pany that was, quite sim­ply, flaw­less.”

So writes CSS Aca­dia ship­keeper Stephen Read for the Mar­itime Mu­seum of the At­lantic about the life of beloved “ro­dent con­trol of­fi­cer” Erik the Red. The or­ange tabby served aboard the float­ing Na­tional His­toric Site for over 15 years be­fore re­tir­ing in 2015. He passed away this past Au­gust, af­ter a brief ill­ness.

“Erik was the last of the four ro­dent con­trol of­fi­cers who so proudly served aboard ship,” reads a state­ment from the mu­seum an­nounc­ing his pass­ing. “Well done, good and faith­ful ser­vant and God speed.”

The orig­i­nal RCO, Nan­nie, a coal black tabby, van­ished dur­ing the At­lantic Bowl Col­lege Foot­ball Cham­pi­onships. Ber­tram Q. Bil­ge­wa­ter (or Bert) took over from Nan­nie and proved a for­mi­da­ble pres­ence on the wa­ter­front—fight­ing rats, gulls, mink and even dogs. Cal­ico cat Clara, a res­cue from Bide-a-While an­i­mal shel­ter, suc­ceeded Bert but never had much in­ter­est in the rat-catch­ing game.

“At best, she might snag a mouse or small rat from the wharves and bring it aboard ship where, be­fore ac­tu­ally dis­pens­ing the poor cow­erin’ beastie, she would lose in­ter­est and al­low it to stroll on its merry way,” writes Read.

Erik was a dif­fer­ent story. Once upon a time he had been a stray, who fol­lowed Read home one evening in 1998 down Got­tin­gen Street. Sens­ing his po­ten­tial, Read brought the svelte or­ange tabby aboard the Aca­dia.

He quickly be­came a fa­mil­iar site on the board­walk, pa­trolling the area from Purdy’s Wharf down to Pier 21, and vis­it­ing nearby shops and restau­rants look­ing for a quick ear scritch or stray treat. His kind, in­tel­li­gent eyes and ap­proach­able de­meanour earned him many friends, writes Read.

A fix­ture at Sum­mit Place, Erik would reg­u­larly visit the of­fices of the Daily News— a print pub­li­ca­tion the cat would out­live by al­most a decade. Em­ploy­ees clos­ing up at Tim Hor­tons would oblige his feline hunger with a spare scrap of chicken. He even wan- dered away to The Dome one night, cat­ting around with the rest of Hal­i­fax’s club kids.

“He en­joyed a se­cure berth and base from which he could come and go at will, while claim­ing the en­tire wa­ter­front as his per­sonal do­main,” writes Read. “The wa­ter­front of­fered more head strokes, chin scratches, treats and more ab­ject love and ado­ra­tion than most felines could likely fathom.”

Be­fit­ting his naval ser­vice, and in the tra­di­tion of prior ro­dent con­trol of­fi­cers, Erik was buried at sea. There are, un­for­tu­nately, no plans as of yet for a per­ma­nent mon­u­ment to his mem­ory. But Hal­i­fax will not soon for­get all you’ve done for us, Erik.

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