Remembering Sam the cat

When my 18-year-old cat Sam first came into our lives as a kitten, we had him neutered and didn’t want him to feel badly about that. So we had a brass tag put on his collar that read, “Sam the Man,” lest he ever be in doubt.

This past Monday morning, after a weekend of watching my pride and joy quickly succumb to old age and system shutdown, we reluctantly took him to Johnstown Animal Clinic for a dignified end to a wonderful life.

The folks at the clinic were very kind and made the process as stress-free as possible. Still, both Herman and I are so choked up at his passing after all these years that it is still difficult to talk about.

So instead, let me tell you a couple of tales about what Sam would get up to.

When Sam first came into our home, we lived at Herman’s refurbished camp in the woods above West Caroga Lake, and Sam would constantly try and sneak out for a wander through the woods. This often happened when I was being transported to physical therapy by the now-defunct Dexter transport with driver (and friend) Jack. When I burst into tears as Sam dashed through the open door as I was being maneuvered in my wheelchair onto the van, Jack would try and stop Sam or wind up chasing him into the woods.

As anyone who has tried this knows, a cat that doesn’t want to be caught is impossible to catch. So I would tearfully wait and have Herman constantly look from window to window or circle the house to see where Sam was off to.

Honestly, Sam never went far and always returned, on his own, often within a couple of hours. Usually his first order of business was to use the litter box (forget all that perfectly good woods land out there).

His favorite place to hang out was over my computer monitor in those days. Whether it was the warmth or the fish bowl screensaver I had on the monitor that attracted him, I don’t know.

In his last days, I know he curled up on the gas cook stove, with the pilot light giving his old bones the warmth he craved. Up until a week before his demise, he could still jump in my lap or up on the kitchen counter as Herman was cooking. (His first priority was always curiosity about what was on the menu for the next meal.) He loved corn stalks and of late, cat grass and catnip leaves, as well as canned cat food, which was easier to chew in his old age.

I enclose a sketch Herman’s daughter Cara (now an art teacher at Orange County High School of the Arts in California) made of Sam draped over the monitor, along with a photo of Sam. He will be missed.

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in New York City and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns and contact information may be accessed at her website,