Earning My Familiar

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: Use It or Lose It

When I married my husband, I also acquired a middle aged cat. A huge cat, Sammy had to have some maine coon in him. He started out as my husband’s cat, but eventually I took ownership. It didn’t come easy though…

Sammy was a strange cat. He was half cat, half dog in someways. He would play with the dogs like he was one of them, but when a person didn’t do exactly what he wanted, his attitude was all cat. He walked on a leash outside, taught my dachshund how to stalk a mouse and play with it without killing it (inevitably the mouse would have a heart attack from fright, the poor thing), and if we didn’t put the right food in his bowl, he would throw up in it then proceed to sling litter across the basement floor. Classy.

Eventually, my husband and I made the decision to move from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. A plan was formed where I would come down first and start getting everything established here, while he wrapped up loose ends in Pennsylvania. I would bring the cat with me and whatever else I could fit in the car to get me started and he would follow in two weeks with the moving van.

So, I packed up the car, stuffed Sammy in the carrier in the front passenger seat and started off on the ten hour drive, pulling onto I-95 just south of Philadelphia. Sammy didn’t start mewing until we crossed the Delaware border. For anyone unfamiliar with the region, we had been in the car for a total of ten minutes.

Every time I stopped at a rest stop, gas station, fast food joint, I would grab Sammy’s leash, hook him up and walk him on the grassy area. I think I almost caused a few accidents with cars staring at the cat on a leash and not paying attention to other cars. Each time after finishing his business, it got just a little harder to get him back in the carrier. The hisses turned guttural, the claws came out and I had to stop at a drug store for cleaning wipes and antibacterial ointment. But still we forged south. By the time we got to the North Carolina border, Sammy was howling nonstop, only pausing to take the occasional breath. Three. Hours. To. Go.

Now don’t get me wrong, I completely understood and sympathized with Sammy. If I had been a big old cat like him, I wouldn’t have appreciated being cooped up in the little carrier for ten hours either, but it was the only safe way I had of transporting him, so what could I do? I tried at first to reassure him, but after the first five hours of “shh, little kitty, it’s gonna be okay”, I was fuckin’ over it, man!

So I cranked the stereo as loud as I could and sang at the top of my lungs for the final three hours of the trip. I don’t even think I stopped anymore. I just needed to put both myself and the cat out of our misery and that was not going to happen until Sammy had a few rooms he could bounce around in.

Finally, we pulled into my friends’ driveway, where I was staying for a few days while I signed the paperwork on the house rental. I lugged the cat carrier into the house, set it down in the living room, opened the door and quickly jumped back. Sammy came tearing out of there like a bat outta hell! He finally settled underneath a futon sofa and refused to come out for anything, so I stuck a food and water dish under there for him. When I woke up the next morning, I found where he used my friends’ potted palm tree as a litter box. I repotted the tree for her.

Eventually, we got into the rental house (though that is a completely different horror story for another day) and over the next two weeks of living with only each other for company, Sammy became my cat. It was kind of amazing, because I really didn’t think we were gonna make it through that one and still have a decent relationship.

I found out a month later just how true that statement was. As my husband and I were driving around, exploring our new home, my husband pointed the sign for the animal shelter right on the main highway about thirty minutes before arriving in our town. I stared at it.

The animal shelter was in a rural, wooded area and the sign was not well lit. I hadn’t noticed it before because when I first drove down, sunset had happened long before I past this quiet little spot.

And that’s a damn good thing, because if I had seen that sign, I’m not sure Sammy would’ve made it home with me that night.

Note: By this weekend I will have a picture of Sammy to accompany this story, but was shocked to realize as I was going through my phone and social network sites to find said picture, that Sammy passed away of old age before I had a smartphone! I’m going to have to go through the albums and scan a picture in this weekend. What oh what did we do without our smart phones? 🙂

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