Monday, April 9, 2012

On kitties and heartache

Samwise, who loved shoes. 
 Last night after the girls were in bed and I had made a couple unwise eating choices, while I was on the phone with Andrew who called to check in because the girls and I went to a party before he woke up in the afternoon and got home after he left for work so we hadn't seen each other all day, while we were talking about this and that my beloved cat Sam suddenly and unexpectedly died. One moment he was fine, tussling with Penelope, getting a drink of water and then he was on the floor and then he was gone. I thought it was a seizure and then I knew it wasn't because you can just tell when a living thing has stopped living especially if you are stroking its head and pleading with it to get up, to breathe, not to go.
just a wee nugget

Sam was my first baby - the first wee tiny creature whose care was totally and completely entrusted to me. I was twenty-five and finally living somewhere that allowed cats. A friend of a co-worker had found some kittens and their mama in a parking lot and I got the first pick. They were all grey tabby cats and then there was Sam - bright blue eyes and impossibly big feet. He slept in the crook of my arm and when my still-new boyfriend Andrew stayed over he would dive under the covers and attack his feet, legs and other parts.

Raising Sam was the first glimpse I had into how satisfying it is to nurture a life into maturity, and I will always love him for growing into such a good adult cat. His only major problems were around six months of age - Andrew and I were gone a lot and he was angry about it. So we got him a kitten and the problems cleared right up. I might have raised Sam but Sam raised the P-cat pretty much all on his own, from comfort nursing her until his nipples were visibly chafed to teaching her his personal ethics around how to play without using claws and run eagerly to the door like a puppy when the people came home no matter what time of day or night it was. Raising his kitten took all of Sam's time and energy for a good long while and we had no more behavioral complaints.

This isn't to say our boy didn't have his eccentricities. His depth perception wasn't the best, so he always stuck to the lower reaches of wherever we lived. And coordination wasn't his strong point - he's the only cat I've ever seen trip while walking across a flat surface.  He was a super affectionate guy but a little OCD about it. When Sam wanted some love he would come and find a human and use his extensive, expressive vocal range to compel the human to one of several pre-approved petting areas. These usually included whatever couch we owned (one end only), one of our chairs and maybe a particular area of the floor.

I wondered if having kids would change my feelings for my animals, and was a little surprised to find that it didn't. There is something precious about the gift of loving a not-human creature, of getting to form a relationship with my own cat. In a way that is sort of similar to babies the only way to really know a cat is to live with him day in and day out. But of course a pet doesn't ever outgrow you - they grow up and stay reliably in the relationship, doing whatever it is they have established that they do. If you are lucky that includes cuddles and pets and those deep throaty purrs with the alto overtones that mean there is no one like you. It's not really comparable to parenthood, I know this very well, but it is a special gift. I have never been able to feel at home without animal friends, and Samwise has been there for all of the home making that I am most proud of. He'll forever be in my heart and lurking somewhere in the background of most of J's baby photos, but it hurts my heart that he'll never be in my lap again.

RIP sweet goofy cat. 

12 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry about your gorgeous little Sam. I can't tell you how much I wished all our pets could live forever.

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  2. I'm so sorry for your loss. Your love and devotion shines through this post. Sam as a kitten looked remarkably like my Minty as a kitten, which makes this post even more poignant to me. What a special guy.

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  3. He sounds like a lovely cat and is also very gorgeous. I'm sorry that he has died but glad that he got to be with you through such momentous moments of family-building and that he also got to be with you throughout his whole life.x

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  4. I am so sorry for your loss. He was a beautiful cat. Glad you got to have him with you for so long. It can be hard for non animal lovers to understand just how sad it is when our pets pass away.

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  5. Oh, I'm so sorry to hear this. Your post made me cry- it's so hard to lose pets- they really are dear family members. Praying for comfort for you all.

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  6. I am so sad, Alissa, I will miss him too...your story makes me both cry and hug my Kali cat!!

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  7. I tried to comment, and somehow +1'd this-- not quite the sentiment I'd intended. I'm so sorry to hear about Sam, and this is such a beautiful post,even though it's sad.

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  8. I love that he was named Samwise! I'm so sorry about Sam - we have a cat too (Jonah) and I can't imagine what it will be like when he passes.

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  9. SO sorry for your loss. It sounds like he was a fabulous kitty, and you were lucky to have each other.

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  10. Thank you all for your understanding and sympathy. It means a lot to be able to celebrate and mourn my sweet Sam.

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  11. So so sorry for your loss of Sam... I am crying through reading your post...he was a good boy. It really strikes home for me because I too got my first "boy", my cat in college and then adopted another kitten which he showed the ropes too. My 2nd boy died suddenly one day also, but we weren't home, that always bothered me. My other cat is now 17 1/2 yrs old and it is a constant worry. I know it must be difficult to have witnessed his passing, but a comfort for him to have known his mom was with him. So sorry Alissa, Andrew and girls, sending you love

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  12. I'm just now reading this. I am so, so sorry for the loss of your kitty. I know exactly how you feel, and it is very hard.

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