Sammy was cold when I found her this morning on the couch. There wasn’t shock or surprise…she’d been dying hard for the better part of a week. Mainly there was relief: I was thankful she was no longer suffering; I was grateful I didn’t have to watch her waste away any more; glad that I didn’t have to wrestle syringes of mushed cat food down her throat with the faint hope that this might somehow re-start her system.
In the end she died, and I took her out and buried her in the flower bed. We’ll plant a fern over her and find a concrete statue that resembles her in her prime, and we’ll remember an awesome goddamned cat.
Even people who hate cats loved Sammy. Partially it was that she acted like a dog: greeting you at the door, climbing all over you, desperate for affection, desperate to win your approval. She was cussed out not a few times when we tried to work and she’d be there calling for attention. She weathered the abuse of a growing child who treated her like a doll and carried her around the house once she grew too old to outrun her. When Bailey was an infant and we closed her in her room at night to cry herself to sleep because that’s what some stupid book told us to do, Sammy, who knew better, would sit outside the door with a look of pity concern until the crying stopped.
Within minutes of meeting her, even the most hardened cat hater and most macho dog lover would be absently petting Sammy as she snuggled into his lap. You couldn’t help yourself. She worked harder at melting hearts than any creature I’ve known. You open yourself up to ridicule, I suppose, writing a eulogy for a cat. Even a cat lover like Hemingway wouldn’t stoop to this. But I gave up being a serious writer a long time ago. Screw it, I’m going to eulogize.
Sammy sat on my lap while I wrote three thousand pages of drivel…two finished and unpublished novels, and two stillborn epics never completed despite amassing an ungodly number of pages. She outlived my desire to be a Great American Novelist. She spent many late hours purring patiently as I wrote a few screenplays that fared a little better than my novels, and as I burned oil until well past midnight launching armadas of marginally useful emails for what is colloquially referred to as a “real job.”
In the end, she never judged. She just wanted a warm hand to slick back her fine gray fur. She wanted to wedge her chin against your cheek and make a burbling noise not unlike a coffee percolator that would slowly unravel your frayed nerves and remind you that you aren’t alone in the world with your toils, and how the simple things, like the humble acknowledgment of the fact that other creatures exist and breathe and want nothing more than a scratch under the chin, can change your attitude. Sometimes it takes another species to remind us that we’re human.
Sammy had a good life. Nancy picked her out at a shelter fifteen years ago. She was scrawny, wearing her rib cage like a corset, blowing snot and twisting her bony, patchy body around our legs. For some reason, this little mongrel won Nancy’s heart even though she didn’t look like much to me. We spent a couple thousand bucks, which was a lot when you’re making $6.50 per hour on the night shift at Kinko’s, getting her healthy, and she spent the rest of her life showing us her gratitude.
Thanks, little gray buddy, for the gift of your friendship. I’m reaching out my hand now, and for the first time in fifteen years a grumbling, mewing, sleek little creature isn’t leaping out of the shadows to arch her back under my fingers. That’ll take some getting used to.