Nearly a year ago, much of the Hill was engaged in controversy regarding the residential fate of Sunny, a female cat who long had lived at the county-owned Nature Center on Highway 243 about three-quarters of a mile north of Idyllwild.
The controversy, reported in the Town Crier, extended to the Riverside County Regional Park and Open-Space District board which, coincidently, met that month in Idyllwild’s Town Hall. Several local residents testified that Sunny should be allowed to stay at the Nature Center, and private offers were even made for financing improvements to the facilities so as to restrict Sunny’s access to food-preparation areas and to clean up after her whenever she did managed to get into them.
Ultimately, the county felt that it had to agree with a local resident that Sunny — who, despite human efforts to the contrary, sometimes found her way outdoors at the Nature Center and sometimes managed to get atop food preparation surfaces in the kitchen anyway — had to be retired as unofficial greeter at the center.
Up stepped local artist Gary Kuscher, former president of the Art Alliance of Idyllwild, to offer Sunny a new home. Kuscher, who lives along Strawberry Creek in Idyllwild, has had Sunny at home with him for nearly a year now, and he reports that she clearly loves her new life.
“When I first brought her here in a carrier,” Kuscher said, “I put it down on the living room floor and opened the door. She stepped right out and looked around as if to say ‘OK, I’m home now.’”
Kuscher has a second bedroom in his home that is effectively Sunny’s. It is furnished with cushions and pillows, and Sunny often can be found there taking daytime naps.
But she also enjoys exploring the outdoors around his home during daylight hours. Kuscher says Sunny is appropriately shy of dogs and never leaves his yard without him, but will accompany him on walks around the immediate area of his home.
“She responds to several words,” Kuscher says. “Walk!” “C’mon!” “Up!” and “Treats!” are a few. And the afternoon call of “Coyote time!” also brings her running, though Kuscher says he’s never seen a coyote where he lives. In the evening, she wants to be in his lap until bedtime.
“Then she wants under the covers. She sleeps right along side with her head out, just like me,” laughs Kuscher.
In the morning, Sunny wakes him by licking his face. “Then she wants to play rough house, purring the whole time,” he says. “The more we rough-and-tumble, the louder she purrs.” When they play, Sunny sometimes inflicts minor scratches and bites on Kuscher’s arms, but he shrugs that off.
Kuscher obviously revels as much in Sunny’s company as she does in her new home.