PELHAM, N.Y. – A pink-and-white gardening glove was missing Thursday morning from Jeannine Goche's front porch. But there was absolutely no mystery about who had taken it. Willy, the cat who loves gloves, had struck again.
"It has to be him," said Goche, an attorney. "I've heard about him."
As if the gardeners of Pelham don't have enough to worry about, with the rocky soil and the slugs and the big trees casting too much shade, a feline felon has been sneaking into their back yards and carrying off gardening gloves.
Goche's flower-patterned number may soon take its place on the clothesline that's strung across the front fence at Willy's home, which he shares with Jennifer and Dan Pifer, their 19-month-old son Hudson and a mutt named Peanut Chew.
Above the line is a sign that says, in words and pictures, "Our cat is a glove snatcher. Please take these if yours."
On Thursday morning, nine pairs of gardening gloves and five singles were strung up, nicely framed by the Pifers' flourishing tomato and basil plants. Willy, looking innocent, was playing with a beetle under the Subaru in the driveway and occasionally dashing after Hudson.
"This all started about the time people began working in their gardens, I guess March or April," Jennifer Pifer said. "Willy would just show up with a glove, or we'd see them on the front steps. I guess it's better than if he was bringing home dead birds."
A friend, Claudia Bonci, said she was in the Pifers' kitchen recently and had noticed a single gardening glove on the sidewalk.
"Jennifer was telling me all about how Willy was bringing home all these gloves, and there was a small pile of them outside the door, and then here comes the cat with a glove in its mouth, proud as could be, like he was giving me a gift."
Some of the gloves really are gift-worthy.
"A lot of these looked brand new," said Pifer. "Some of them are really nice."
She doesn't know how far afield Willy goes to find a glove, but she has learned it takes him two trips to bring home a matched pair.
Willy, born to a stray last spring and taken in by the Pifers as a newborn, stays out some nights but seems to assemble his collection in daytime raids.
"Mostly it happens on weekends, I guess when people are out gardening," Pifer said. "Can't you just imagine people saying, `The gloves were right here, where'd they go?'"
John Cassone, who lives and gardens across the street, said he isn't missing any gloves. He uses "the big, heavy leather kind" and figures Willy, a wiry type, isn't strong enough to drag them away.
Guess again: There's a pair of the big, heavy leather kind among Willy's trophies.
Willy couldn't care less about the gloves after they're captured. On Thursday he could not be enticed into a grab-the-glove game.
In winter, when gardening gloves are hard to find, Willy switches to his offseason prey, dirty socks, which he brings from the laundry room.
"We find them in the hallway, on the stairs," she said. "I used to think, 'Oh, I must have dropped it on the way down.' But now I know better."
Despite his criminal nature, neighbors get a kick out of Willy. Cassone said the cat likes to accompany the mailman up and down the block, all the way to each front door. Willy also likes to climb trees and bat at the heads of people below.
Since Pifer grows flowers and vegetables and herbs herself, isn't she tempted to make use of the endless supply of garden gloves that arrive at her doorstep free, shipping included?
"No," she said, a bit sadly. "I do a lot of gardening but I don't use gloves."