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Gregg Burdo

Gregg Burdo with his favorite cat, Poppy. Poppy and some of the other cats at his camp in the woods have been diagnosed with a fatal immune disease, and Burdo is trying to figure out how to deal with it.

A reader dropped off a big bag of cat food the other day, and I was able to track down Gregg Burdo near his woods home on Tuesday afternoon to get it to him. The sun was warm, a lot of the snow was gone from the woods and his favorite cat Poppy was lounging in the warm rays.

The end of winter has not been a happy time for Burdo though, mainly because he is dealing with a wave of serious illness among his beloved cats, including Poppy.

Poppy, a big grey cat that has long been his favorite, is among 7 or 8 (half of his pack of 16 or so) that have been diagnosed with a communicable immune disease that cats can spread to each other, for which there is no cure or treatment. It can take years to kill a feline, but is always fatal. Poppy could have one year to live, or six, he said.

Another, a 2-1/2-year-old, was recently diagnosed with cancer.

"It's depressing," he said, watching as Poppy rolled over on an old seat cushion in the sun.

Burdo has called these woods in Queensbury home for decades, and wasn't worried about Wednesday's impending snowstorm, calling it "nothing" despite a forecast of up to a foot. He's seen much worse, and spring is coming.

He showed a big pine tree that snapped off in recent winds, as he slept in his makeshift shelter a couple of weeks ago. Thankfully it did not fall toward his shelter, but landed across the stream near his bedding area.

We chatted about basketball, as he had seen Joe Girard III play as well as some games at the Cool Insuring Arena last weekend. Burdo, a former college hoops and baseball player, was a fan of the Shenendehowa boys team and their style of play, and marveled at the college interest that Girard was getting.

"Can you believe a local kid is getting offered a scholarship from Duke?" he asked.

(We debated whether he should go to a mid-major, as Jimmer Fredette did, or big school where he may not get as much playing time. Burdo thinks practicing and playing with the best athletes at a bigger school was the way to go.)

He got a new camera to carry on a photography project he plans involving his cats, as the one given to him in January by Sheriff Bud York broke during the worst of the winter cold.

I asked about his rib injuries from earlier in the winter, when his bike hit an icy patch. One continues to bother him, but he said he recently figured out he could finally sleep on his left side again, more than two months after he was hurt.

Tears welled in his eyes as he picked up Poppy, and talked about the cat illness. He said North Shore Animal League has been helping, but getting diagnoses through blood tests has claimed nearly all of the money donated to Glens Falls Animal Hospital by Post-Star readers to help pay for his cat care. (The animal hospital continues to accept donations at 66 Glenwood Avenue, Queensbury, 12804, on his behalf. He also has a PO Box in Queensbury where he gets mail at PO Box 4683, Queensbury, NY., 12804.)

Losing Poppy would be a tough blow, he acknowledged.

"I don't know what I would do without them," he said of his cats.

-- Don Lehman

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reporter

Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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