For Love of Samu
Our dog, Milo, was adopted by my husband and I soon after we were married. I remember bringing him home in our convertible like it was yesterday. That crazy beagle-spaniel mix just sat there, tongue hanging out, letting the wind tear through his coat.
It seemed like the best day of his life, and we were beside ourselves. Milo was our first baby, you see, and we took him everywhere we went and spoiled him with way too many treats. We even called him “baby” and allowed him on our furniture, although we’d sworn up and down we’d never do that. We bought him a five-star dog bed that we put right next to our fireplace. As far as dog lives go, I think Milo’s was right up there Gary Fisher’s.
Unfortunately for Milo, our human babies came about a year after his arrival.
Oh, he tolerated them as best he could, but let’s face it, he pretty much hated their guts from the get-go. I couldn’t blame him. His needs had taken a backseat to our parenting and he wasn’t getting nearly the amount of walks and tummy rubs that he used to be able to demand like a Lord of the Manor.
By day, when the kids were at school, he was a cuddly, affectionate dog. He slept at my feet as I wrote and licked my husband’s ankles.
But at night, Milo became a beast.
He growled at my son, taking food out of his little hands and leaving him crying without the least bit of remorse. He bit our second daughters toe, drawing blood. So, there! He seemed to say. He growled whenever our youngest daughter even walked into a room.
Our kids desperately wanted a relationship with Milo – wishing he’d sleep in their beds, play with them outside and do all of the things their friend’s dogs seemed to do. But Milo would have none of it.
Still, after a long illness, when we had no choice but to take Milo to the vet and have him put down, I sobbed and heaved, hardly able to pull myself together. I couldn’t even be in the room when he got his shot. That I had to leave to my husband, who petted and whispered to Milo as he slipped into infinity.
Hardly a heartwarming story, but it’s the best I can do.
That’s why I have another one for you. This one is from Michelle Gwynn, and you better get out your handkerchief. This is a pet love story that should go down for the ages.
“Sometimes, love walks into your life and changes it in ways you never expected. In my case, love walked right up to my front door one chilly morning in October, 2002. He had big green eyes, white fur with gray spots, and a loud meow. It was love at first sight.
I was destined to be the local cat lady, and when another feral cat I cared for brought this poor stray to my doorstep, I just couldn’t say no. I named him Samuel Duane. Samu for short. Yep, there’s a story behind the nickname.
The morning Samu came into my life changed everything.
I put out extra food that morning, and took a moment to let him sniff me. I reached out, and he rubbed his head against my hand. He was friendly. I left for work. Eight and a half hours later, I arrived home, parking where I usually park. This time, someone was waiting for me.
“Well, hello there,” I remember saying.
He was very happy to see me, acting more like a hyper dog than a cat. He bounded along beside me all the way to my door. I didn’t quite know what to do with him. He wanted to come in, but I already had two indoor cats, Sophie and Emmie. I was cautious about letting another cat around them without first having him checked out by a vet. Plus, I still didn’t know if he belonged to anyone. Since he was friendly, I figured someone had raised him. I gave him some attention, but kept him outside.
Yet he stuck around.
Finally, after I’d determined Samu was truly on his own, I had his nails trimmed, had the vet treat him for fleas, and brought him home. This time, he got to come inside. It was a test.
Mr. Charmer made himself right at home, and Sophie and Emmie seemed okay with him. Well, damn, now I had to name him. I considered his personality, his distinguished looks, and decided he looked every bit like a Sam. Of course, I’ve never been one to settle for simple names. He needed a full name, including a middle name. Sam became Samuel, and because he was so darned nice, had to be named after my favorite uncle, Duane. Samuel Duane was now an official member of my family. He didn’t even seem to care about going outside anymore. He’d found a home.
I swear, Sam was like the Walmart greeter of cats. Every person who came to visit received his full attention. Even non-cat people fell in love with him. I had to check bags when friends left after a visit to make sure no one was smuggling my cat out.
Then one day, my nice cat showed a nasty side. My brother came by, bringing with him a tiny little black Labrador puppy he’d recently found. Like me, he just can’t let a stray animal go uncared for. My mother happened to be holding the puppy when Sam began snorting like a bull, yowling, and arching his back. All the short hair on his now chubby body stood up like a porcupine. He did not want to share! He kept leaping at my mother’s hands trying to get to the little dog.
I put him outside on my screened-in patio. He paced back and forth, mad as heck.
When my brother left, taking his pup with him, I let my cat back in. I made the offhand comment that Sam, with his big gray spot on his white back, looked like a killer orca swimming to and fro around its prey. Sort of like Shamu, but in this case, Samu, the Killer Cat!
From then on, he was Samu.
He slept on my bed next to my hip, followed me everywhere, and had me wrapped around his paw. Samu even learned how to blow kisses. The only kiss-blowing cat I’ve ever known. When I kissed his head, he would click his teeth, making a funny chirping sound that vibrated his chops. He also had a very unusual love for baths.
We went along like this for six years, happy, healthy, a family. Then, he began to experience problems. Samu developed kitty constipation. He’d try, but no payload. On those occasions, I took him to the vet for what amounted to a cat colonic. He’d get his pipes flushed, and with a change in diet, and medication, he did all right. But then the problem came back, it was far worse. More tests were run, and it was discovered that my boy had a condition called Megacolon. This meant his small intestines lost their ability to move things along. The colon actually loses its elasticity, and stretches out, hence the ‘mega’ portion of the name. Stuff would pile up, but not move. Humans can also develop this problem, but there are viable surgical alternatives for people. None for cats.
Dietary changes weren’t helping. The medication no longer worked. Continued enemas weren’t a feasible treatment option. He was hurting, and there wasn’t anything I could do.
Reality struck me like a knife in the heart. I spent the entirety of the next day torturing myself. The vet said there was no surgery that would help him. No more treatment options. I knew what this meant, but I wasn’t ready to face it, and yet, I couldn’t bear to see him suffer. He was whining in pain each time he tried to use his box.
With the world’s heaviest heart, I called the vet clinic. An appointment was made for 2:15 that afternoon, but the morning was all ours. Samu sat on my lap, and we did ‘kisses’. I let him eat whatever he wanted. For a little while, we sat outside on the patio soaking up the sun. I took as many pictures of him exploring and sniffing my plants as I could. I told him how much he meant to me, how he’d changed my life, made me happy, and was a good brother to Sophie and Emmie.
The cruel clock kept ticking.
On the way to the clinic, I sang “You are my Sunshine” to him, horribly off-key, past the lump in my throat. Inside the waiting room, I was quiet. I just couldn’t speak. When they led us to the special room at the back of the clinic, they kindly sedated him so he would be calm. There, I held my baby, scratching his ears, and kissing his head. He was too wonky to kiss back by then.
When the doctor came in, I couldn’t breathe. He knew what I’d gone through trying to find a way to save my little buddy. Quietly, he said, “Okay, I’m going to push the medicine, and he will simply go to sleep.” I panicked, but held my tongue. I kept hold of Samu, his little head laying over the crook of my arm, and told him how much I loved him until he was gone. In that moment, my heart, or what was left of it, broke. I howled from the depth of my soul. Tears blinded me, and I couldn’t be consoled.
My Samu was gone, and all I felt was pain.
For the next two weeks, I couldn’t leave my room. I just wanted to be alone. I didn’t want to eat, or see anyone.
After the third week, I remembered my camera. Desperate to see his sweet, furry face again, I downloaded the pictures. There he was, chewing my fern, rolling in the sunshine, and even sitting on my lap, his favorite place to be. Samu’s last day was a good one despite his gastric discomfort. It was Samu’s day, and all about Samu. I added these pictures to all the other pictures and videos I had of him, taking a stroll through the memories. I could see how happy he was, and how many people were happy to have met him. Everyone wanted to take a picture with “Michele’s cool cat, Samu.”
In his short time, he put a lot of smiles on a lot of people’s faces. In that same short time, I learned what being a pet mom to a fur-baby was all about. As the weeks turned to months, and the months became a year, I finally found a way to be at peace with the hardest decision I’d ever had to make. I realized that to love someone means to put their needs above your own. Samu needed an end to his pain.
To hurt so much when love leaves only means we have loved well, and with every fiber of our beings. It means we were the lucky ones.
As for Samu, then, now, forever, I will always love you.