KODIAK — Where did he come from? No one knows. Where did he go? From Kodiak to Astoria, OR.
Brujo is a 25 year old black cat, who was found by Susan Korpela when he was just six weeks old in Kodiak in August, 1993.
“I found him at the ferry dock – there was a ferry loading,” she said. “He was meowing and ferry was leaving. It’s just the way he acted that I knew that he was homeless.”
Korpela was concerned for the kitten. She thought that he might have escaped from someone’s car before the ferry left or, worse, that someone might have abandoned him. She took him to the Little Bar (Tropic Lanes bowling alley) and got some milk for him. Then she went for dinner at Henry’s.
“And he was waiting for me outside,” said Korpela, “so we decided to take him in.”
That was the start of a relationship that would last quarter of a century (and counting) and span several states.
Korpela said, the first thing she did was take him to the vets for shots, to be neutered and to make sure he was healthy. A local vet estimated the cat’s date of birth to be July 1, 1993.
Korpela decided to call him Brujo, due to his personality at the time.
“He used to be kind of mean, and Brujo means warlock in Spanish,” she said. “He’s not mean anymore, I’ll tell you that much.”
Korpela had moved to Kodiak in 1982 to teach English as a second language. She taught at Main Elementary for five years, before going to graduate school, then returning to teach at East Elementary, Peterson Elementary, Kodiak High School and North Star Elementary.
“I had a lot of different people I knew, and students I had, they remember this cat, because they were afraid of him,” she said. “Everybody thought he was mean in Kodiak, but not here.”
While Korpela said that Brujo’s temperament has mellowed over time, the cat has been embroiled in more than a few shenanigans along the way.
In 2005, when Brujo was 12 years old, Korpela moved back to Astoria, Oregon (where she was raised), to be closer to family.
“We moved three cats down here,” she said, “and he disappeared after three weeks.”
One month went by, then two – and still no sign of Brujo. Korpela said she began to worry that he’d gotten into some real trouble.
“We have so many possums, and racoons and bears,” she said.
Eleven months later, she was heading to a convenience store, and there was Brujo. Dennis Symmons (a Kodiakan, current borough assembly member, and long time friend of Korpela) happened to be visiting Astoria at the time.
“That’s when Dennis was here. They went to the store. I went to the corner market and saw Brujo,” she said. “I went back and asked them ‘what’s the best thing you can think of?’ They said ‘you won the lottery.’ I said, ‘no, I found my cat.’”
Symmons later confirmed this story. He said he remembered Korpela being upset over Brujo’s disappearance and, at the time, felt that that the discovery might have been wishful thinking.
“I said, ‘are you sure that’s your cat?!’” said Symmons. “I’m blushing remembering the embarrassment of not believing her at first … I felt like a real fool when I questioned whether it was her cat. There was no doubt in her mind – the doubt was all in mine.”
“It’s a crazy story. I was pretty awed,” he added. “I’ve known Sue for a long, long time. Most cats don’t even live anything near that. It was just so weird how it played out.”
Korpela recounted various other escapades that Brujo has been involved in. She said that she and her husband used to take the cat camping with her, and that things changed two years ago.
“When I realized I didn’t want to board him anymore or take him in the tent, we bought an RV and we take him everywhere,” she said. “He loves it, it’s like a little home for him.”
Brujo is a well-travelled feline – he’s been from Leavenworth, WA, down the Oregon Coast, and all the way to the Redwoods of California.
“He saw the total eclipse with us,” said Korpela. “We put glasses on him and took him outside, it was so fun!”
Korpela said she often wonders where Brujo ranks in the list of the world’s oldest cats.
While Brujo is certainly not the oldest living cat in the world or the U.S. (there have been cats reported as old as 30 in other states and in Europe), Brujo may well be the oldest cat in Oregon. The previous holder of that title was a cat named Corduroy, who was based in Eugene, OR and was reported as being 27 years old. Since November 2016, however, Corduroy has been missing and is presumed dead, leaving Brujo as a serious contender.
“I’ve known my cat ten more years than I’ve been married,” said Korpela.
Brujo’s age may be catching up with him. Korpela said he is diabetic and has lost much of his appetite, but he continues to be active.
“He’s still fine,” she said. “He still does go hunting, though we don’t encourage it. Sometimes he comes into the house and we think he’s cleaning his feet – turns out he’s chewing on a chipmunk.”
“He’s still quite the sport. We’re totally amazed by him,” she added. “We’re taking him down south in the RV to go camping one more time.”
After 25 years, Korpela could not be closer to Brujo, but there’s still one mystery that won’t be solved anytime soon.
“He’s a funny little cat … I just wonder where he came from,” she said.