Thursday, December 26, 2013


It all began with Sam cat – that’s short for Samantha.  Oh, I had had many animal companions before her, beginning with a husky puppy who ran circles around me to protect me from other dogs when I was six months old.  However, Sam was the first one to talk to me – at least that I was aware of!

When Sam came to me I was newly separated and working on a divorce.  It was a painful time.  My roommates and I discovered we had mice, and I said I would really like to have a cat live with us.  They agreed that would be okay.  It seemed much preferable to traps (we’d have to empty them and we also didn’t want the mice to have a painful death), poisons (they’d poison us too!), or worse, the exterminator. 

A friend told me about someone who had two litters of kittens at her house.  I went to visit and saw this kitten eating.  She didn’t want to stop even long enough for me to pet her.  I wondered if she would be lonely.  The woman, who had to dispose of two litters of kittens, encouraged me to take two kittens.  I said I would try it.

It didn’t work.  They both cried all night long.  After two sleepless nights, I took the other kitten back.  Sam then settled in nicely.  She slept on my feet and played with my them every time they moved under the blanket.

To the end of her days, Sam always was hungry.  Perhaps it came from being one of two litters.  The mothers had stolen each others kittens back and forth.  It must have been confusing for the kittens, and I’d guess that not all of them got fed every meal.  Plus, I think they were weaned too early.

I always fed her.  She always loved me. 

We had a narrow balcony, and we put her litter box outside under the roof overhang.  The roof itself was her playground.

So we got on for the first year of her life.

One of my early memories of Sam is her circumnavigation of the bathtub when I was in it.  It was an old claw foot tub, so the rim wasn’t wide.  She nearly fell in a number of times.  Once she was playing with the water in the toilet and actually did fall in.  She couldn’t get back out over the rim of the seat. I was laughing so loudly that one of my roommates came to investigate.  She berated me for not getting Sam out and sent me after a towel.  Sam slinked away, studiously ignoring my laughter.  She ignored me for three days afterward.

Sam did not digest her food well in the beginning – she farted frequently.  She also used her claws a lot.  She would be sitting on someone’s lap and then fart and dig in her claws.  I was always surprised.  You might think I would get used to this behavior, but no, I did not.  I always yelped, and Sam always leaped down from my lap.  Finally, she’d had enough of this and stopped using her claws.  Gradually, as she matured, she stopped farting as well.

When she was about a year and a half old, I moved.  For the first time in her life she lived on the first floor and had access to the outside.  She thought it was heaven.  I lived, with roommates again, in a suburban condo with acres of green belt around it.  Sam would disappear for hours at a time.  She always came home for meals though.

Then she had a bladder infection.  I didn’t notice it at first, probably because she went outside instead of in a litter box.  One day I came home to find she had peed in the middle of the bed.  We found a vet, and he diagnosed a bladder infection.  I gave her the little pills faithfully, with some resistance on her part.  But the infection didn’t seem to get better.  Back to the vet.

He gave me stronger pills, and warned me they tasted bad and she’d not take them easily.  I was supposed to give them twice a day.  However, Sam would disappear for 24 hours at a time.  She came back to eat, and I gave her a pill and she disappeared again.  Finally, I read a book about a human who rescued a cat.  The author said that her gift to the cat was the rescue, while the cat’s gift was helping her to see her patterns with her mother.   Aha! 
My mother was arriving soon.  Could this be it?  I sat down with Sam and explained that I would deal with my feelings about Mom, and she could focus on being a cat and getting well.  Immediately she went to the bathroom sink and started drinking water.  And the bladder infection disappeared.

The next time we moved, I had to choose between two group houses.  I didn’t know how to choose, so I took Sam with me to each place.  In the first one, she sat down in the middle of the living room and howled.  I had never seen her exhibit such behavior, though the potential housemates did not believe me when I said so.  I could see it in their eyes.

I was apprehensive heading toward the second house.  Sam and I came in, and there was a group of six people seated in a circle in the living room.  I put Sam down.  She calmly began an investigation of the entire first floor (which would become her new home).  She stood in front of the closet door and one of my new housemates opened it for her to explore.  Sam even checked out the wheat grass growing in the dining room.  When she finished, she crawled up on a lap and purred.

We moved in the next day.

The owner was Starfire, my first teacher on a conscious spiritual path.  She lured me into doing kundalini yoga by bringing me ginger lemon tea and singing me awake.  I began to open and unravel the chains that bound me to the past.  As I did so, I went through periods when my whole body pulsed and pounded with the energy, and the roar inside my head was deafening.  Whenever I was most overwhelmed, Sam would come and curl up on my heart and purr.  She was always nearby when I needed her, loving me.

It was also in that house that we had a discussion about her hunting.  She had a cat “window,” created by the household handyman, Charles.  One day I heard a funny scratching sound behind my desk.  Since my desk was a six foot solid oak door, it was not easy to move.  With Charles’ help, I investigated and found a scared little mouse, whom I promptly released outdoors.  After a couple more times of this, I decided I must talk to her.  “Sam,” I said “You cannot bring mice inside.” 

There were no more mice.  The next thing was birds.  They were dead, and deposited on my grandmother’s hand-braided rug.  After a time or two of this, I knew it was time for another conversation with Sam.  “Sam,” I said “I know you are bringing me a gift.  I know this is in your nature.  I appreciate the sentiment, and I love you too.  However, I cannot eat these dead birds.  And you have not been eating them.  You don’t need to eat them since I feed you well.  Please stop killing birds.  I will love you just as much.  Thank you.”

There were no more birds – at least until the next house.

When we moved, I knew it was time.  What I had learned and opened up was enormous.  Yet I needed to become my own self, out of the shadow of my teacher.  We moved this time to a well-groomed brick house owned by a single mom.  Her daughter and a young man also lived there.  Just once did Sam bring in a bird.  It was still alive.  Sam and I had another talk.  This time I specified no other beings in the house.  And please don’t kill or torture any living thing.  So far as I am aware, she never did kill or torture another animal or bird.

As I grew and learned, so did Sam.  We were living in a ground level apartment, and she had access to the outside through the "cat window" that Charles had made for her years before. 

We moved a number of times after that.  Sam began to show signs of flea allergies.  There were no easy solutions.  When I found her bleeding from sore spots I decided I had to keep her indoors.  I used one of the new integrated pest management flea bombs to clean the fleas out of the apartment.  Sam sat in the window and looked out longingly.  Finally I saw her leap from the window of the first floor apartment – down about twelve feet.  She was fine, of course.  Yet I felt her need to be able to go outside.

We finally moved out of the city to an 18 acre parcel.  Sam spent most of the first months outdoors in the tall grass.  I let her out first thing in the morning, and had to find her to bring her in when it was dark again.  There were other cats in the household.  When the one cat that was older than Sam finally died in her sleep, Sam became the Queen of the house.  She relished the role. 

I was adopted by another kitten, Misty.  Misty tried very hard to make friends with Sam.  Sam would have none of it, and made clear that she was in charge.  They co-existed quite peacefully though, and almost became friends. Still, Sam no longer slept on my bed.  A year later I was given a very large dog, Shama.  I talked to Sam about it first, and she said it would be alright.  Sam had been my spirit companion, teaching and loving me, guiding me and pushing me toward my destiny.  With Shama, Sam felt replaced.  She had agreed to this, yet had not realized it would be so painful to let go.

Sam started sleeping in the spare bedroom. 

When my housemate moved, there was a big shuffle.  I moved to a temporary trailer, and a month later moved a mobile home onto the property for myself and my companions.  Sam, now eighteen years old with joints deformed with arthritis, did not like it at all.  There were stairs to negotiate and she didn't have her own room anymore.  Even the bedroom was up a few steps.  I looked at her and knew she was thinking about dying and was scared.  For six months I did my best for her, knowing that she was unhappy, and that I really could not give her what she wanted.

One day, my friend and landlord mentioned that Sam had been coming back into the big house through the cat door and they had been pampering her. Since Fran didn't mind, I didn't think much more about it.  Then Sam spent the night there – in "her" bedroom.  The next night, Sam was back in my home, and actually curled up in her old favorite spot near my head. 

I woke up crying, having had a very unusual dream.  In the dream I was left behind, while my beloved person moved with her dog and the other cat.  I caught up with her, and then she moved again and I could not find her.  I felt despair, terror, loneliness and anger.  I realized that Sam had "sent" me a dream, crying out all her feelings.  I felt guilty and anguished.  I told her how sorry I was to have caused her so much pain.  And that day I pampered her.

The following night, Sam went out the cat door.  This was amazing, since it was about a foot off the ground, and Sam found it a challenge even to walk on level ground.  The first time, I brought her back inside.  The second time I moved the stool from in front of the cat door so she couldn't (I thought) get out.  Finally, the third time, I went outside to talk to her and realized she would not stop.  I said goodbye and went back inside to cry myself to sleep.  The next afternoon, I felt her leave her body behind.