Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Summer of Sam

My first view of him was from the back deck. I heard a sound in the tall grass below, finally spotting the stocky orange tomcat.  He appeared to be trying to stalk prey, but at the same time as he was sneaking through the weeds, he was making odd muttering sounds, which of course announced his presence to any rodents in the vicinity.  He may have been a lousy hunter, but from his size I could tell he was successful beggar.  I later learned that he was being fed by folks from blocks around.

That summer he also became enamored with my Angel, a tough tiger gal.  She was spayed but that did not stop him from following her wherever she went - in the yard, on the deck or up on the roof - but always at a few respectful paces behind.  She would not give him the time of day but he seemed to adore her.  He would never allow me to approach him, though - he vanished if I drew too close to him.

One day I saw that he must have been in a fight; his eye was swollen shut and he looked miserable.  I began to leave food out for him and he chowed down with great gusto.  I could see that his eye was healing but I suspected that he had no sight in it so I continued to feed him.  Every day I crept closer and closer to him until finally worked up the nerve to reach out to touch him.  As my hand patted his rough coat, he fell to the ground, rolling and showing me his belly.  He wanted everything all at once - love, food, pets, love, food!

I wanted to find a name for him but could not come up with anything that seemed to fit him.  As I was falling asleep one night I asked him to come to me in a dream and tell me his name.  Imagine my surprise when he did appear in my dream telling me, "My name is Samson but you can call me Sam."

All summer I fed him and gave him the attention he so dearly craved but then he did not come round for a few days in a row.  As I was growing really worried he staggered into the yard, scruffier than I'd ever seen him and clearly unwell.  He had been in another fight and this time his ear was severely swollen and infected.  I decided that a trip to the vet was in order.  

Hoo boy, this was going to be fun!  This was in the dark ages before they invented cat carriers, back when traveling kitties were traditionally stuffed into pillow cases (leaving their heads sticking out) and all that filled my mind was the unholy terror that Angel turned into when she was in the car or the vet.  She was a tame house cat - how on earth would a wild feral cat behave?  

Granted, he was less than thrilled about the one mile ride to the vet, but once in the examining room Sam amazed us all by sitting there like a stoic meatloaf, right in the middle of the cold stainless steel table.  The expression on his face?  "Well.  At long last I am receiving the professional care that I deserve!"  I am sure his ear must have been quite painful but he never flinched as the vet manipulated and cleaned it.

The vet told me to clean his ear twice a day with peroxide and apply the antibiotic ointment.  Right.  A feral cat, twice a day.  Uh huh.  Sam succeeded in amazing me once again by showing up right on schedule, morning and evening until his course of treatment was finished.  After he was all healed up he more or less disappeared from the neighborhood.  Once in a while I would catch a glimpse of orange muttering through the brush, but I guess my role in his life had been fulfilled.

Sam may never have been able to win his beloved Angel, but I do believe he passed on his orange genes to many generations of tough kitties.  I live only a mile away now (as the crow flies) and there has been a feisty orange tom around here for years and it was almost two years ago that Hari showed up at my back door and said, "Hi!  I am your new kitty!".  Could it be that Hari is a descendant of Sam?  I'll never know.
Sam, 1975
Hari, 2012