Today I lost one of the best and truest friends I ever had. Tomorrow I will wake up and my world will no longer be the same. Sammy was much more than a cat to me and I am having a hard, hard time with his passing. See, he was my son.
|Sammy, basking in his last sunrise.|
At the counter I asked if he had a name. They told me they named him "Sammy" when he was brought in ("But feel free to give him a new one."). I held him up to my eyes and thought that Sammy was a fine name for him. He was around twelve weeks old, but small and somewhat frail. I looked at him, cradled in my arms. He purred at me, a tiny engine of love. I said, "Sammy, I'm your dad.", but it was always he that found me.
This is a story that Ruth is better at telling, but the way it goes is that when I arrived home with little Sammy, all Ruth saw was this scrawny little kitten with a runny nose and one watery eye. She was not impressed. I defended my choice somewhat halfheartedly. I knew he wasn't the healthiest cat from the first glance. Nor was I able to adequately illustrate to Ruth whatever spell the kitten had cast upon me at the adoption center. I sat in a mild funk for a few moments before Sam cured me of that by simply being himself. He climbed onto my shoulder and perched there for a full hour while we watched TV.
From the other end of the couch Ruth said, "I guess he is pretty cute, but he's clearly your cat."
The first time Sammy went to the vet he was still under six months old. He was having difficulty eating and his gums were inflamed and producing the fetid odor of decay. He was feverish and lethargic, didn't look good. We were told that he had a congenital gingivitis and that if we wished him to live the vet would have to pull all his teeth (insert "kitty dentures" joke). Less than a week later the little cat was noticeably gaining weight, his hair was glossy and he had resumed killing bugs and getting into cabinets. He continued to grow, but never got any bigger than the smaller side of average. Sam also didn't develop a voice until after he was a year old, but after that he became the most vocal cat I ever met. He had a lot to say.
The next time Sammy saw a vet was over 12 years later.
|"The scourge of neighborhood wildlife."|
|Sammy had a habit of sleeping on top of us.|
The practice of zen buddhism aims to achieve an emptying of the mind, a complete connectedness to the immediate moment. A connectedness without the expectations of the future or the encumbrances of the past. Cats live in that most zen-like state, their moments are free of worry, stress, concerns, hurts, wants, etc... Sammy taught me that cats are intrinsically the zen masters of the animal world. Cat's do exactly what they want, when they want, and in a manner that is uniquely feline. They are the embodiment of zen, and Sam was a grand master. He reminded me to relax, to enjoy stillness, to fill my mind with an appreciation for what is right in front of me. He showed me a better way to look at the world.
|It took over a year before Sammy could "meow". After that he was always talking to us.|
|You couldn't turn your back on fresh laundry with Sam in the house.|
|I buried Sam under this very tree.|
Sammy had several habits that are particularly poignant today, behaviors that I will deeply miss. Sammy would often spend most of the night out prowling but for years he always came into our room to get a morning belly rub before I left for work. He'd be sitting outside the bathroom when I got out of the shower and would follow me to the dresser where he'd flop on his side, stretching out for that sweet morning rubdown. I was a sucker for it, every time. Sammy would also be waiting out front in some flower bed until I got home from work. As I pulled in he'd walk out to the driveway, meowing a "hello" as I stepped out of my truck. He did this many hundreds of times over the years and it hurts to think of how much I am going to miss that. He had a habit of gently placing one paw on your hand or arm, just the sweetest cat. For a while Sam would sneak up on us at night, park himself on Ruth's or my pillow and where he promptly began to clean himself. He often found ways to sleep on top of one us, and I'm remember many naps with him knocked out on my chest. Sam enjoyed stepping on the buttons on Ruth's digital alarm clock, and Ruth was late to work more than a couple times because he had somehow messed up the settings. You should have seen him freak out the first time he turned on the clock's radio. I was dying it was so funny. He could hear a can opener from across the street, was fascinated with cabinets and closets (and got stuck or shut in a few times). He knocked over several Christmas trees and ate a few aquarium fish.
What was very special about Sammy was that I never had to look for him. When Ruth or I were home he was always within our sphere. He really did want to be near us and we both know that he was really there for us during the ups and downs of life, a quiet friend offering only unconditional love. His nature often reminded me that the world needs more gentleness and grace.
|Sam's facial structure changed due to the loss of his teeth. Still, he was a handsom devil.|
About six weeks ago I noticed Sammy limping badly, and overnight he looked somehow older. It turned out he had an infection, probably from a thorn puncture. More worrisome, and what I'd suspected for sometime, was the sad news that Sammy's kidneys were failing. I'd seen him struggling to take in enough water, but he couldn't absorb what he needed. He was losing muscle tone and at times he was unable to make easy jumps. We were given another few weeks time with our friend, and I tried to make the most of any opportunity spend with him. In a way, convalescing from my own health crisis at home afforded me nothing but time to spend in his company. Sammy's infection resolved quickly with treatment and for a few weeks he seemed to be his usual self, but he soon began a rapid decline and in the last couple days he became increasingly somnolent and lost interest in food or fluids. It was time.
|Sammy wasn't a fan of the vet's office. He only had to go to such a place three times in his entire life. Like me, Samuel was born lucky.|
|Dave & Sammy, 02/11/13, the day before I took him in.|
Yesterday I just sat with him cradled in my arms, just like the first time we met. I held him and rocked and mourned the loss of my friend. I am a solitary person, with very few close friends and I have been very broken up by his loss. Last night I held him close, an all-night vigil. I just couldn't bear leaving him to die alone in the dark. At one point in the night we had a moment, he looked at me with that deep gaze and I knew he was telling me that it okay and that he was ready. This morning I gathered the blanket with Sammy, the little bundle I'd held tightly all night, and sat him in the morning sunlight. I stroked him and told him everything he'd ever meant to me. I took him in to the vets office at nine and he passed very peacefully.
|Sammy's last morning. He wasn't taking fluids or eating. It was a tough morning for me. It's been a tough day. It's been tough writing this.|
|Goodbye my son, I love you and will always miss you.|