It was the summer between my 7th and 8th grade years, as best I can recall, when my mom took me to get Scamper. It was shortly after my regular visitations to my dad stopped. We went to the pound that day. I remember a wall of kennels full of kittens. I reached in to one and pulled out a black one. Then, a small, cowering, orange fuzzball caught my eye. I set the black one down and picked up the orange one. He had white paws, chest, and mouth, expect for a little “tobacco stain” on his mouth. He scooted up in my arms and put his head against mine and that was all it took. He was mine. He could fit in the palms of my hands that day.
I remember how he got his name. It was my mom’s idea actually. He was playing or searching out things or doing whatever cats do, darting around the place. Mom said, “Look at him scampering about! Scamper!” I loved it. And I have loved him.
The memories flood back in of those early years. Even of silly ones like my 2 year old nephew (who is now in college) throwing Scamper up in the air like a big ball of confetti. He has always been so affectionate. He’d crawl up on me or Mom’s stomach and start kneading it. Then the water works started as he drowned us in drool…an apparent sign of deep affection. A couple years after getting Scamper, Mom brought home a calico cat from a woman who’s child developed allergies. Her name was Beth, which I promptly changed to a more fitting and unique name of Callie. There’s no doubt about it, Scamper was king of the house and they would fight a lot. It didn’t help that Callie was so skittish. She never liked to be held all the years I had her. There were many a night when a cat would appear in the backyard and Scamper would get angry and howl and fluff up. Then for some reason he’d fight Callie. After a few spankings, he knew he would get in trouble for fighting with his sister. When I’d come stalking into the room, he’d shoot off. He loved going out back, which I let them do supervised. Scamper never hissed but a handful of times in his life, usually because he was upset by another cat.
Next to leaving Mom when it was time to go to college, leaving Scamper was one of the hardest things I’ve done. When my mom moved to Searcy my sophomore year, the cats were in an outdoor cage with a dog house while their house was being built. Mom didn’t tell me about it until later, but one night a big storm came through and knocked over their cage. She ran out to them deathly afraid they were gone, but they were in the little house snuggled up together. After Mom had a shop built, they were kept in there. The minute I had my own place after OBU, I had them back with me. It’s been 3-4 years now since I lost Callie to kidney failure. We buried her on Mom’s land.
For more than half my life, I’ve had this friend who has always been there. My source of comfort; my companion; my baby, really. Going on 18 years. A couple of years ago, Scamper developed a pretty serious problem within his colon. Dozens of special foods and one medication after another, we were only able to ever control it enough to give him a good quality of life and enough time to reach the litter box. And that didn’t always happen. His most recent health issues were his kidneys. His eating habits changed and when I took him in, the beginning signs of failure were there. Over the past few months he lost over half his weight. In the past couple weeks, he barely ate, was tired all the time, and just didn’t have the quality I wanted for him.
Last night, I cried myself to sleep as he tossed and turned, never able to get comfortable. At some point in the night, I heard him fall off the bed. He stared at it for a while but didn’t–or couldn’t–jump back up. This morning, I looked at his food bowl…it was the same level it had been for two days. I tried to give him some of his favorite treats and he wouldn’t even consider them. He looked so tired and that is when I knew. I couldn’t keep him like this just because I wanted to hang on to him. It was the single hardest thing I have ever done. My hand shook so that I could barely sign the authorization forms. My mother shielded my eyes from that which I could not bear to watch as I cried so hard I could barely breathe.
I don’t know how it could have been possible to love him more than I did for all these years. But now he is gone and I am at a total loss. It is so surreal to me. I’ve rarely had to deal with the pain of death in my life especially not as an adult, and I don’t know how to do so, other than to try and put it out of my mind. But every place I look, I remember his fun, quirky, loving nature. I just want to hold him again. But I can’t. I want him to rub his cheek against mine. But he won’t. I want to hear that unique hello-meow when I come through the door. But it won’t be there. To have him at the foot of my bed to sleep. But it will just be me tonight. Meowing at the door to go out, walking across my book as I tried to read, not letting me sleep late because he wanted to be fed… With relief, I know he is no longer hurting, that his sicknesses are over…but oh, the pain of losing my best friend is too much.
Please, time, pass quickly and take away the hurt.