You know those pithy bits of wisdom we love to hate when we’re having a bad day? Like the saying about a silver lining on every cloud? Three Portland felines don work vests and traverse area highways every day to prove those sayings true.
The feline siblings, Pixie Cat, Dixie Belle, and Sylvan Jinx, show local motorists that a flat on I-205 or a dead battery in the Gorge needn’t ruin a day. They roll with Jesse Dorsett, owner of Jesse’s Roadside Rescue, whose job is changing tires and jump-starting batteries. The cats’ job is cheering the sidelined motorists.
“They really are part of the team,” says Jesse, who has taken his cats along since they were kittens. They were just a few weeks old when he moved to Portland from California. “On that road trip, I realized they do really well in a car,” he says. By the time he’d started his business, Jesse’s cats were pros on the road. “I decided it was my business and I could take them along if I want.” The cats wear yellow vests and leashes on the job, and their images grace the company’s logo and advertising.
Originally an accountant, Jesse’s roadside business follows a long family history. “The Dorsett men working in the transportation business goes back to my great-great-grandfather who, with his brother, ran and operated a stagecoach in South Texas. I am an accountant who likes to rebuild cars. I studied the double entry system of accounting about the same time I studied ignition systems.”
Early on, Jesse found the cats helped do more than pass the time on the road. “There was one lady with a flat near the fast lane on I-205, by the grass median, and traffic was heavy,” he recalls. “She was crying and really stressed out. I said, ‘Hey, do you want to meet my cat?’” Sylvan Jinx visited with the frazzled driver, comforting her with his slinky black feline coolness. Soon the woman’s spirits were repaired, right along with her tire.
Dixie Belle, a gray and white patched Tabby, performed a service miracle for another customer. “She had a flat tire, and she expected a tow truck,” says Jesse. “I didn’t come to tow her; I just came to change her tire. She was a little grumpy about that.” But Jesse says the woman’s mood changed when he asked if she wanted to visit with his cat. “She was happy right away,” he laughs.
For customers who find themselves stranded, Jesse’s cats immediately lighten the mood. Sometimes people have waited an hour or more, growing more frustrated by the minute, and when cats come to their rescue, “it can really make their day,” he says.
Customers agree, posting reviews like: "Best roadside service cat ever!"
For Jesse, who’s on call 24 hours a day, his feline coworkers keep him healthy and sane. “They know what’s up,” he says. “They know when I have people sign their paperwork and I give them a copy, the job is done. And then they know we get to go for a walk. We find a place with trees and we go for a walk.”
Few tales of businesses give so many reasons to smile. “My predilection for auto mechanics, driving, helping people in need, and spending quality time with my fur babies have all come together very conveniently in this business I have worked my way into. Needless to say, I keep good detailed books and do my own taxes.”
Michelle Blake is a Salem, OR-based massage therapist and freelance writer whose work has appeared in national publications. Her husband wants you to know she's a REALLY crazy dog lady too.