March 28, 1991 – November 11, 2011
Sam was our family cat for over 20 years. But if you ever asked her she probably would have said, “What family?” Sam was completely devoted to my dad. She barely batted an eye when my sister and I left home, and greeted us with a scowl whenever we returned. My mom maintains that whenever Sammy looked at her all she saw was a tin of food with legs.
My relationship with Sam hit the dirt after the Christmas Bow Incident of 1991 and completely shattered when, years later, I showed up with Bear in tow. But it all started out so well.
The first time I saw Sammy she was three weeks old and tumbling about in a rabble with her brothers and sisters in the middle of a horse barn. I followed my parents and sister past stalls of shuffling horses to an open storage area of solid square wooden beams and warm yellow light and a floor covered in straw.
I remember a crowd of people, of voices and laughter overwhelming the space. By the time my sister and I got to kneel down beside the tiny cats most of them were spoken for. The little black and white kitten with the white spot on her back and the white-tipped tail was destined to be ours.
The barn was so quiet the day we picked her up, three weeks later. My parents and I followed a woman back to that room where the kittens had been. She pulled aside a bin, revealing the mother cat and our black and white kitten curled up together in a ball.
“She’s the last one,” she said and a bolt of sadness stabbed through my heart. How could we take away her last baby? Just look how content they are.
The mother cat stared up at us and then stood and slinked away into the shadows, leaving her kitten behind.
“Where is she going?” I asked.
“She knows you’re here for her kitten,” said the woman.
My stomach dropped as the black and white kitten blinked up at us. I quickly knelt down and plucked her from the floor, bringing her tiny body up to my neck, cradling her in my hands.
My mom named her Samantha on the way home. I sat in the back seat of the car with the kitten beside me in a small cardboard box with a folded towel on the bottom. Sam mewed and peeped and climbed out again and again, so I held my hand down to her in the box to try and keep her in one place, but she scrambled up my arm and sat on my shoulder.
After we tucked her in to her cardboard box that night I sat on my bed and listened to the plaintive cries of the tiny creature who had never been alone before. I flung open my door and in the light that spilled from my room I saw the little black and white kitten standing in the living room. She saw me and ran as fast as she could, launching herself into my arms as I knelt down, rubbing her face against mine, purring so loudly.