Sam by John S. Campi Jr.

I remember playing with our friends Siamese cat Jessie
when we would visit.
I grew to enjoy Jessie more each time we would visit.
She was an old gentle
well-behaved cat that really appreciated attention.
Jessie was an important member of Arnold’s family
because the middle-aged couple had no children.
I grew to enjoy Jessie so much
that I decided to purchase our own Siamese cat.
At first I was a little apprehensive about selecting a Siamese cat
because our family always preferred dogs.
Then I thought it over and decided it was well worth the chance
after remembering how much I enjoyed Jessie’s friendship
and our time together.

I searched for a Siamese cat
by looking at different magazines and publications.
I located a breeder of Siamese cats
in a small suburban town called Montvale.
Montvale is approximately a 2-hour drive
from our central New Jersey location.
I called the cat breeder and planned the trip
to select our Siamese cat.
My sister and niece went along with me for the ride.
The breeder’s name was Irene.
Irene’s home was pleasant and neat.
I remember Irene being very personable and friendly.
She talked with us for a while and then introduced us
downstairs to see the cats.

I was amazed! There were dozens of beautiful cats!
There were Seal Points Chocolate Points and all white Lilac Points.
The room was very clean and full of joy.
There were gorgeous adults and
many adorable Siamese kittens.
I was in heaven!
I remember the cats all being very friendly and gentle.
You could tell Irene and her family spent
quality time caring for the animals.
It was difficult to decide what kitten to choose.
All of them were so attractive and well mannered.
I tried to select a female kitten but none were available.
Finally I chose a chocolate-point male kitten.
Irene assigned a temporary name to each kitten.
My kitten’s temporary name was “Moose.”
I decided to name my new kitten “Sam.”
My grandfather’s name was “Sabatino” which is Italian for Sam.
I thought this would be a good one-syllable name for our cat.

Sam was almost all white as a kitten.
His beautiful blue Siamese eyes were striking.
I truly think Siamese cats have the most magnificent eyes
of any creature including humans.
Siamese cats impress me with their beauty.
In my opinion the most beautiful is the classic Chocolate Point.
They are mostly a light tan color with brown tail legs and face.

I paid Irene $300 for Sam.
We prepared to take Sam home and started off on our 2-hour journey.
All of us got into the car and
we placed Sam in a small cardboard box.
I can still remember Sam crying all of the way home.
It was a soft short cry that you couldn’t ignore.
My niece Michele consoled Sam while I drove the car.
She picked up Sam and gave him a gentle pat of her hand.
“Now now Sam It’ll be alright” said Michele.
I couldn’t wait to get my new family member home and
get acquainted.

Sam was never any trouble growing up.
One year after we purchased Sam our son Stephen was born.
Now I had everything I needed
a beautiful one-year-old Siamese cat and my pride and joy Stephen.
Sam grew very close to our son Stephen.
When Stephen was in his crib
Sam would jump in and cuddle close by.
Sam was always gentle with young Stephen and
we were never concerned about the two
of them snuggling together.

The years passed and Sam and Stephen grew up together.
Sam was always a part of Stephen’s life.
It seemed like both of them learned something new each day.
Sam loved to play with a ball of paper.
He would hit it with his paws and chase the ball across the room.
Stephen would throw the paper ball and
Sam would retrieve it to be thrown again and again.
They could both play for hours when Sam was young.

One of the funniest moments was when Sam climbed
atop my tall dresser and snatched a $100 bill from my organizer.
Sam ran around the house and decided to release the bill
behind the living room sofa. I couldn’t believe it!

Another favorite play toy Sam enjoyed was the plastic strip
that is removed from a gallon container of milk.
Sam would hit the strip with his paws and
return it to you so you could throw it again.
The charade always ended the same way.
Sam would eventually take the plastic milk top strip
to the kitchen and
hit it under the refrigerator.
I would move the refrigerator out of its location to clean and
find scores of plastic strips in the area.
It was fun watching Sam as you opened
a new gallon container of milk.
He would sit and wait for you to throw the strip.
Anytime an open box or bag was nearby
you knew Sam would be close by.
He loved to leap into the box and take a look around.
If a paper or plastic bag were left on the floor
Sam would eagerly wonder inside and look around.
If you wiggled your fingers against the outside of the bag
he would jump toward them and try to nip them.

Sam always slept with me until we purchased a small bed for him.
The bed was shaped like a small teepee and
had a small opening on one side.
We kept Sam’s bed on the cedar chest at the foot of our bed.
The inside of the bed was soft and Sam grew to appreciate
the warmth inside the private space.
If you placed your intruding fingers inside sometimes
Sam would give you a gentle nip warning you
that this was his territory.
It was a playful kind of nip that never really hurt.
Each night Sam would curl up with me for about one or two hours
then he’d visit my mother for a time.
After visiting mother for about thirty minutes to an hour
Sam would then retire to his own bed.

I remember the times when one of us was sick.
It would always be comforting to have Sam
cuddle tightly against your side or near your arm.
He just made you feel better by being there.
It was Sam’s unconditional love that just made you feel better.
He asked nothing from you but your presence.
He was like a tranquilizer to me.
Whenever he cuddled with me the worries and
stress of the day simply vanished.
My mother and I were always the closest to Sam.

When Stephen was very young he was active and
didn’t concentrate on Sam as much.
As Stephen neared ten years old
he seemed to appreciate Sam and paid more attention to our pet.
Stephen and Sam became especially close
as Stephen become eleven years old and Sam was twelve.

Sam would greet me every day when I’d come home from work.
Sam definitely new his name and would almost always
come when you called him.
He would leave his warm bed at about 4:00PM and
say hello to my mother in the Family Room.
He would cuddle on her lap and then jump to the sofa to greet me.
Sam would raise his back and
his body language would request you pet him.
I would proceed upstairs to get changed and
Sam would race me up the steps.
Then he would spring onto our bed and want to play.
He would follow us around the house like a shadow.
You could always feel him nearby.

Sam was like a clock.
You would always know when it was mealtime.
In the morning he would greet me at about 6:00AM.
Sometimes he would awake you with a lick
from his rough sandpaper like tongue.
He’d say hello and then follow me into the bathroom.
He would sit atop the toilet seat cover and watch me shower and shave.
Then once I dressed he’d follow me downstairs and
sound his typical raspy ‘meow’
which was his way of asking for breakfast.

When I would leave in the morning
sometimes Sam would sit in the full view glass
front door and watch me depart.
He was truly special.
Anytime you were fixing or working on something Sam would appear.
He would come up to you as if to say “What are you doing?”
It was a classic case of curiosity and the cat.
Walking around the house I always found myself
looking down at my feet periodically to see if Sam was near.

If I worked on repairing frustrating miniature Christmas lights
he would jump on the workbench to see what I was doing.
I’d always stop and take time to fuss over him and
give him a scratch and petting session.

Sam never left our comfortable home
so his coat was always clean and soft like silk.
I liked to sit and watch him groom himself in a warm sunny place.
He would reach every area of his body.
Sam would lick his paws to reach areas around his face.
His movements were precise and gentle.

During one warm and dry summer
I saw a small speck on his tan fur coat.
What was this small-black thing?
It jumped and I tried to catch it. Somehow Sam had a flea in his fur.
I want to the store and purchased a quality flea shampoo and
gave Sam a careful bath in the solution.
Once his fur was wet I observed the flea jump from his fur.
I was able to grasp the flea and flushed him down the drain.
Sam was always a joy to handle.
Even in the tub of water he was calm and behaved.

One of Sam’s favorite playthings was a ready-made bow
for attaching to gift-wrapped presents.
Christmas time was special with Sam.
He would inspect every present and take the liberty of removing
the nice bow from a present carefully wrapped by my wife.
Boy this made Denise mad at first.
Then she started to actually enjoy watching him play with the bows.
Denise would provide bows to Sam to toss and play with.
It was entertaining having Sam toss the bow around and
then deliver it to you from his delicate mouth.
I would throw the bow and he would scurry
after it and toss it about.
I will sorely miss Sam at Christmas time.
Sam would investigate the presents and parade
through the ripped gift-wrap discarded on the floor.

The only mischief I recall from Sam were the few times
he would get into the garbage container.
If we had chicken for dinner he would sit nearby and
wait for a chunk of meat to come his way.
After we would retire for bed
he would knock over the garbage container to dislodge the lid.
If you caught him with a piece of chicken bone
he would make a wild dash for the corner
of the kitchen under the built-in bench seat.
He would hide in the corner of the seating arrangement
until you relented.
Access to this area was easy for Sam
but difficult for us to reach.
We would find old clean bones in this area
when we inspected it periodically.

When Sam was about ten years old
we really experienced some excitement one night.
“Daddy Daddy come up here!” yelled Stephen.
“Help help Sam is behind the wall in the bathroom!”
When the builder constructed our home
he cut out a large opening in the back
of each vanity sink cabinet in all of the bathrooms.
This provided access to the plumbing and
resulted in a long narrow deep path between the walls.
Sam had opened the cabinet door and
wandered into the open area behind the bathroom wall.
Stephen was crying and very upset.
I also started to get excited and thoughts of the firemen
knocking down my walls to rescue Sam entered my mind.
“Sam here kitty-kitty. Come here Sam,”
I said as I begged him to exit the dark and narrow pathway.
Boy I really thought this was trouble.
Finally I thought of shaking Sam’s dry food container and
he slowly appeared from behind the vanity cabinet.
I cut boards and sealed this area behind
each vanity the very next day!

Sam liked to follow you around the house
especially in the kitchen.
One of his favorite stunts was
to open the corner cabinet door and climb inside.
Once inside he would go to the back of the large cabinet and
tease you to reach him.
If you ignored him he would eventually come out.

Every time we would go away on vacation
I’d dread leaving my best friend Sam.
We would have our friends feed and watch over
Sam while we were away.
When we would return home Sam would come downstairs and
give us his famous howling greeting.
One thing I never tired of was the beautiful sounds Sam could make.
From his raspy meow greeting to his louder howls
he was always a joy to hear.

We recently went on vacation to Cape Cod Massachusetts
during the summer of 2001.
We returned just before July 4th and
everyone was happy to see Sam again.
Little was I to know; I’d never forget this vacation.
A few weeks before we left on vacation
Sam started to be finicky and
was only eating certain food.
I switched foods because
he seemed to prefer dry crunchy cat food.
Then he stopped eating altogether.
I made an appointment to take him to our favorite cattery
so the veterinarian could check him out.

I have to stop writing this story now.
The emotion overcomes me when I reach this point of the tale.
I had an appointment to see our veterinarian on July 20 2001.
Mom Stephen and I brought Sam to the vet.
I had been delaying this moment
because I was worried what I might hear.
We placed Sam in his carrier with a small
soft blanket and got in the car.

Sam was fairly quiet and gave an occasional meow.
Stephen and Mom comforted Sam by reaching in the carrier to pet him.
“Now now Sam. I’ll be aright,” Stephen said.
I could tell Stephen was doing all he could to hold back the tears.
It was very had for all of us.
We arrived at the cattery and went inside.

The vet was very polite and kind.
She asked about Sam and told us
she would like to take a sample of Sam’s blood for testing.
She also mentioned Sam appeared to be dehydrated.
She demonstrated this by gentling squeezing Sam’s fur on his back and
showed us how it tended to stay folded even after releasing it.
Sam was drinking water but when I checked the litter box
he showed almost no signs of eating or drinking.

The vet explained that it is common for Siamese cats
to experience problems at Sam’s mature age of 13 and a half.
She mentioned the results of the blood test would be available
from the laboratory tomorrow at 9:30 AM.
She was blunt and expected the test results
to confirm her suspicion of kidney disease.
I don’t know how I held myself together at that point.
I just felt I had to be strong in front
of my twelve-year-old son Stephen.
Stephen and Sam had literally grown up together
with Sam being one year older.

Sam was always there for Stephen and
they had really gotten to be close over the last three years or so.
None of us had expected this day to arrive for another few years at least.
I made plans to put Sam down and also arranged for the cremation.
I wanted to make these arrangements now
because I didn’t want to discuss the technicalities
when I brought my best friend in the next day.
I figured if the lab results were good
I’d merely cancel the arrangements.

We drove back home with Sam and all of us fussed
over him all day and night.
I took as many photographs of Sam as possible.
Then I took a video of him playing with Stephen.
Sam didn’t act as if he were ill.
I filmed him crawling into a plastic shopping bag.
He rustled the bag when I wiggled my fingers against the plastic.
Even while he was sick Sam seemed like
he just wanted to please us.
The only time Sam showed he was ill was
when he tried to jump atop our cedar chest.
I spent every waking hour with my friend.
I had this sickening feeling about the news I’d receive on Saturday.
My stomach hurt beyond belief.
I have to stop typing this part of the story
every so often to gather myself.

This is the worst feeling I’ve had since the death of my father.
That Friday night I didn’t sleep well at all.
Sam curled inside my underarm as a lie down in bed.
It felt so good to have him near.
I had the sinking feeling it would be the last time
his beautiful soft body would be nestled near me.
It was painful to think I’d never see him again.
Sam awoke and wanted to go downstairs.
I carried him and thought he had to use his litter box.
I placed him near the box opening and he gently climbed inside.
When he exited I placed him in my arms and
brought him back upstairs to go to bed.

It was Saturday. The day I dreaded more than anything.
All of us spent as much time with Sam as possible.
I didn’t leave my friend for a moment.
I did not look forward to the call from the veterinarian
which I expected at 9:30 in the morning.
The phone rang and my stomach dropped.
Much to my dismay the call went like I expected.
The veterinarian explained a healthy kidney usually
is associated with a lab test number of two or so on the scale.
Sam’s kidneys showed a reading of fifteen on the test,
which meant his kidneys stopped working altogether.

I told the vet I wasn’t surprised and that I’d see her at 2:30 PM with Sam.
God I hated the thought of bringing Sam to the vet.
Somehow it felt as if I were killing him
even though I knew this was the right thing to do.
I spent almost every minute with Sam that terrible Saturday.
I kept hoping time would stand still.
I dreaded seeing the clock strike 2:30.
How could I bring my dear friend to the vet to be put to sleep?
Finally the time had come.
I decided to hold my friend while Denise drove the car.
Mom and Stephen sat in the back seat.
I was only a fifteen-minute ride to the veterinarian.
Sam was unsettled in the car.
We always placed Sam inside the carrier
when taking him in the car.

I just wanted to hold him this very last time.
We arrived at the office and waited for five or ten minutes.
This was about the worst experience I’ve lived through.
The staff greeted Mom Stephen and me and lead us to a room.
A stainless steel table was inside the room and
a bench was positioned nearby.
I continued to hold and caress my Sam all of the while.
I kissed and hugged him and said goodbye.
Even now when it has been more than four weeks later
I am upset thinking about this moment.
I’ll have to stop writing and continue the story again later.

The staff explained they would give Sam
an injection to send him into a deep sleep.
Then they would inject a drug to stop Sam’s heart.
I held Sam during the first injection.
He was relaxed and entered into a deep sleep.
Stephen and Mom wept and we all hugged Sam.
I held my dearest fried in my right arm and
felt his tongue against my forearm.
Then the staff injected Sam with the remaining drug.

It took about a minute or two and Sam’s heart stopped beating.
He was gone.
I felt terrible leaving my friend at the veterinarian’s office.
We all left the office and drove home.
My home feels like it will never be the same.
I’m in the habit of leaving the doors open in the house.
I expect Sam to jump against one and enter the room.
Even when I finish mixing a serving of tuna
I feel compelled to put the dish on the floor and
let Sam carefully lick the bowel clean.
Whenever I see a bright ray of sunlight hitting a spot
on the carpet floor or on one of our beds I think of Sam.
He loved to curl up and bask in the warm sunlight.
Picturing him peacefully soaking in the sun’s warmth
makes me feel good inside.
When I come home from work I miss him waiting for me at the door.
When we return home from shopping or a long drive
I expect to hear Sam inside the Family Room.
He would always hear the car pull up and greet us with a vocal hello.
It will never be the same.

Sometimes I can’t believe that I’m feeling this intense
especially when it’s been more than a month since his passing.
Right now I can’t imagine having another pet.
Sam was so special!
The family and I feel he can’t be replaced or equaled.
Sometimes I’m embarrassed to be a big strong guy with such feelings
but I just can’t help it. I know this feeling will dull with time
but I miss that little talkative fur-ball very much.

I loaded an image of Sam basking in the sunlight
on my computer desktop.
God the image is so real I can almost touch him.
I still can’t decide if the image makes me happy or sad.
When I take a long look
it brings a tear to my eye.

John S. Campi Jr.


John S. Campi Jr.