All the president’s pets

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November 16, 2006

10:38 PM

Some of the least famous residents of the President’s House may also be among the most popular. Now that the Nichol family has moved on campus, students can often be seen petting one of the Nichols’ two gray cats in the Wren courtyard.

p. “I love them,” junior Aliette Lambert said. “They are so cute and remind me of my cats at home. I love being able to pet them just as I’m walking by.” Senior Catherine Chu agreed. “They seem very friendly, and it adds to the community feeling of the school.”
The two cats resemble each other but should not be confused. President Gene Nichol is said to have nicknames for his whole family, and the cats are no exception.

p. The smaller cat, Squeaker, is a silvery gray color. Nichol’s wife, Glenn George, said that Squeaker enjoys the attention of strangers and welcomes petting. However, she warns that he does not like to be picked up.

p. Junior Rob Tisdin can attest to Squeaker’s friendliness. “It was climbing on the fence and then jumped down and we played with it for 40 minutes,” Tisdin said.

p. The Nichol family found Squeaker as a stray outside a Mexican restaurant in North Carolina in 2001. After they brought him to the pound and he went unclaimed, the Nichols brought him home. Squeaker loves to be outside and is often seen hunting squirrels and birds. George admits, “I’ve also been told that the squirrel population is on the move, but I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t think they’d be fast enough to actually catch one.”

p. The larger cat, Peeker, is the older of the two at 10 years. While both cats are gray in color, Peeker can be recognized by having more brown in his fur. He is less likely to welcome the attention of students, and has been known to hiss at passersby. The Nichol family adopted this feral cat from a shelter in January of 1997 while living in Colorado. He is less visible than Squeaker because he often goes indoors, especially at night.

p. Each cat’s tag reads: “President’s Cat,” instead of its name. George explained that this was done so that groundskeepers, students and tourists would not confuse the indoor /outdoor cats for strays. Tourists, especially, do not always realize someone lives in the President’s House, and the Nichol family wanted to ensure that their cats wouldn’t accidentally be taken to the pound.
When asked if the Nichol family was okay with students playing with their pets, George responded, “Oh, of course. They love it. They got a lot more attention here than they ever did at home.”

p. George is not worried about the cats running away. She admits that at first, the family was concerned about their proximity to the traffic on Richmond Road. However, “They stay closer to home now than they did in their previous homes because they love the Wren courtyard. And they also love the boxwood next to the house because they can hide under the bushes, kind of creep under them without being seen.”

p. Like the two cats, the president’s dog Jackson was also a stray. Jackson is a mutt, but resembles a flat coat retriever. He is very friendly and so popular among certain members of the administration that they have been known to stop in and visit him during the day. The entire family helps to walk Jackson. George usually takes him for an early morning walk around 5:30 or 6 a.m., while the kids take him out after school. At night, either George or Nichol himself takes responsibility.

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