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An Ode to Sam the Cat...

Story ID:7593
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Dillon Montana USA
Year:2011
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An Ode to Sam the Cat
By Chuck Dishno


About 1970, my wife Roz and I bought a house and 5 acres near Clovis, California. We had a couple of dogs and since we lived on a busy street we had the back yard fenced so that they couldn’t get out. This worked fine with the dogs but as we had a small barn complete with mice and the occasional snake. We thought a couple of cats would be just the ticket. It wasn’t long before we had several prolific and lazy cats that would rather eat the dog’s food than chase mice. They soon became more “house cats” than “barn cats”.

This arrangement was all right as we soon grew fond of them and their periodic batches of kittens. The problem with this arrangement was that they loved to roam and it seemed just as we would get attached to one it would get run over trying to cross the busy street. The mice must have tasted better in the neighbor’s fields. The final straw was when we lost a large “marmalade” colored cat named Reggie. We had named him after a hockey player who was always getting into fights. Need I say more?

Reggie was really a good cat and would sit and watch me run my printing press for hours. I think he liked the smell of ink and sound of machinery. One day, Roz brought his broken body into the backyard where my print shop was located. He died there and I buried him behind the shop so that he could be near presses he seemed to love.

A few weeks later I heard about a lady just down the street from us who raised Siamese cats. I had never thought about having a Siamese but went over to her house to see what they were like. She had many from which to choose and when she showed me all those kittens, most of them just bunched up in a corner of the cage, all except one who came over to check me out. He sniffed my fingers and began to rub his head on my hand. Needless to say, I was hooked. This cat actually wanted me and in his way, told me so. There was no way I was going to leave without that cat.

I paid the $35.00 for him and held him in my arms while I drove the few blocks back to my house. This was no easy task because my truck was a stick shift and the new kitten had never been anywhere but with his mother and siblings. To say the least, he was a bit wild by the time I drove into the yard. Of course, my two beagles came up to the fence to greet me and see what that funny thing was that I was holding. The cat frantically, tried to take off at the sight of the dogs. They were probably the first he had ever seen. Fortunately, I had a good grip on his legs but he twisted around and sunk his sharp teeth into the guy he had just picked to be his “new dad”. I wasn’t about to let go and neither was he. I hurried past the two excited dogs and into the back door where I let him go and then headed for the bathroom to bandage my bleeding hand. When I came out he was sitting on the floor looking as if nothing had happened. This started a great friendship that lasted for many years. When Roz came home from work, we decided to name him Sam. She said her family had a Siamese named Sam, so Sam it was. What a great cat he turned out to be.

Since Roz and I were both working, we didn’t spend as much time with Sam as we would have liked those first years of his life but when we found time to travel in our fifth-wheel trailer he always went with us. Over the years, we traveled 1000’s of miles with Sam and never had any problems.

At home, he ruled the roost. When my Mom came to live with us with her cat, Kallie, Sam wouldn’t let her out of Mom’s bedroom. As soon as she would peek out, he was right there to send her back. They never fought but she would growl and he would just look at her and seem to say, “Hey, this is my house, and you are just a guest, so shut up or ship out!” Sam loved Mom though and would go into her room to sleep on her bed or window sill much to the dismay of Kallie who would never take her eyes off him and would continue to growl until he left on his own accord. Kallie was part Persian and a really a nice cat with long fluffy fur. Her name, came from a book of poetry written by my great grandfather, L.P. Vienen titled Kalthea. It is a Greek word meaning “Beautiful and True”, a fitting name for Mom’s cat.
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Sam enjoyed looking out the windows at the birds, rabbits that came by. We never let him out though as we were afraid he would get run over on the busy street. I know he would have loved to get out and explore that great world he could see from the vantage point of a windowsill. He would growl at all the passing stray cats that happened to come near our yard. He thought he was really tough, at least from his side of the glass. His life on the “safe” side consisted of sleeping on a sunny spot, eating and greeting the family when we returned home from work or a trip. We also had two dogs that were never allowed in the house. They would sit on the patio and look at Sam through the patio door. I know they would love play with him and he probably would have enjoyed the attention. He never growled at them. I just think he thought they were big cats and belonged in the back yard.

The two dogs, Charlie and Patty, both Beagles, loved to gang up on the “barn” cats when they would venture into the yard. They would work together and herd them toward the edge of the swimming pool with their noses and on cue would push them into the water then stand back and watch the cat make for the other side. I’m sure; Sam watched all this and seemed to every minute of it.

When we bought our house in Montana in 1989 we decided to take Mom and Kallie to live with us. I left Sam in Clovis in our 5th wheel-trailer while I drove the Mercedes with Roz, Mom and Kallie to our new home in Montana. I stayed a few days then headed back to California to rescue my cat and close down my print shop

Sam had stayed in the trailer at a neighbor for about 10 days and the only one he saw was Betty who fed and watered him everyday. When I got there, Sam who had been silent for 10 days, couldn’t even meow. After a few feeble attempts he managed to get out a raspy sound but it didn’t take him long to get his full Siamese voice back and was he ever glad to see me. We moved out to a trailer park for about 6 weeks while I got the shop closed down then we headed for Montana.

Sam fit right in to the new house and soon found out that Kallie had moved in too. She had had the run of the house without Sam but as soon as he saw her in the hallway, he chased her back into Mom’s room with authority and never let her out again. He was still boss of the house as far as he was concerned.

The new house had nice windowsills to sit on and lots of birds and cats to watch over. There was also snow on the ground and when a big snowstorm would come, I would take him outside and let him stand in the snow for a few minutes. When I would take him back into the house and let him go he would streak around shaking his paws, wondering what the heck he had been in. I’m sure at that time he was glad he was an inside cat.

In the fall of 1990, Roz and I decided to take a 3-month trailer trip around the Eastern United States and see the fall colors in New England. This presented a problem of what to do with Mom. We decided (with her approval) to take her to Kingman, Arizona to stay with my brother Bud and his wife, Beulah. Of course, Kallie went along as Mom wouldn’t go anywhere without her beloved cat. We traveled to Kingman in my truck, pulling the 5th wheel with both cats in it. All went well and as near as we could tell, they got along just fine. Sam stayed under the bed while traveling and Kallie slept behind the curtains of the side windows.

After we dropped Mom and Kallie off at Bud’s place we headed for New England. Sam was glad to get rid of that furry cat and settled down for the long trip.

At each stop he would look around and see where he was. He didn’t like to travel too much and would hide under the bed, as soon I would clap my hands and say, “Let’s go”. Whenever we stopped for a rest or the night he would come out and check out all the windows.

One time we stopped in a rest area in Ohio right next to a load of pigs. As soon as Sam saw those noses sticking out of the truck and that entire truck, oinking, he headed back under the bed and wouldn’t come out until we stopped again. Needless to say, we didn’t stay long either, as the smell was too much. Over the years, we traveled 1000’s of miles with Sam and never had any problems.

When we would stop for the night, I would take Sam outside and let him sit on a picnic table. He loved this and I would rub him and he would roll and purr. He never did try to escape off the table. I think he knew where he was safe. These were great days for us.

At one stop there was a small lake a short distance away with hundreds of tame ducks and geese. I was sitting outside with Sam and was munching on a bag of popcorn. When I shook the bag, it was like a dinner bell for all those foul. They came running by the hundreds, quacking and honking all they way. Sam took one look at the hoard descending on him and panicked. He wanted back into the trailer right now. Roz rescued him and took him back inside where he watched the scene from a safe distance.

In December, we returned to Kingman to pick up Mom and Kallie. They were both glad to head back to Montana. We were glad to be home and settled right in for the winter. All was peaceful and I think even Kallie was resigned to the fact that Sam was there to stay.

We all went well until May 8, 1993 when Mom passed away. She died very peacefully in her own room on her own bed with Kallie by her side. Mom was 95 and had had a full life She went the way she would have wanted to go.

After her funeral, we could tell that Kallie missed her and Bud offered to take her with him back to Kingman. This was a mistake that I have regretted every since as it wasn’t Mom’s wish. She had asked me to have Kallie put to sleep when she passed on but she was such a nice cat and Bud wanted her so I relented.

I bought a cat carrier and Bud took her back and then in a few months, left her with a friend while he went to Oregon for a vacation. The friend thought she looked ill and had her put to sleep. I know she must have been miserable because Bud had a couple of poodles and they didn’t get along at all. If only I hadn’t given in to his wishes, I would have had her put away and buried her in the Dishno family plot with Mom. I hope they are together now and have forgiven me.

Sam now had the full house to himself and didn’t seem to miss that other cat one bit. He was approaching 15 years old and didn’t need the competition. He had always been a “talker” and getting old didn’t slow down his talking. He did seem to be loosing his hearing though and we found out later that he was loosing his teeth.

In 1995 I was a Lieutenant Governor for my Kiwanis division. On one of my trips to Helena, Montana we left Sam home as we only going to be gone for 24 hours. Unfortunately, That night the temperature dropped to around 24 below and when we returned the next day, we found that a water pipe had burst up stairs and water was running out of the ceiling and onto the hall and bedroom carpet. The first thing I saw was Sam standing in an inch of water yelling his head off. He seem to be saying, “Don’t blame me, I didn’t do it!” Repairs started the next day and in a few weeks we were nearly back to normal.

The next year, I was elected Kiwanis Governor of the Montana District and we traveled all over the state visiting Kiwanis Clubs. Mostly we went in our trailer and took Sam along. By this time he was almost 18 years and suffering from kidney problems. He was getting very senile and would walk around talking to himself in a loud voice. It was nothing to see him come down the hallway chattering up a storm to no one in particular. He had also become totally deaf and lost all his teeth. He didn’t seem to be in any pain though so we just loved him and fed him soft cat food, which he could eat easily.

In September of 1996 we took him with us in our trailer to Red Lodge, Montana to build a new Kiwanis club there. We stayed in a nice campground by a river and the second day we there I took Sam outside to sun himself on a picnic bench. His fur was all matted as he couldn’t take care of himself very well but I brushed him and he really loved the attention.

That evening, he just sat on my lap and wouldn’t let me out of his sight. I felt that his time was rapidly approaching and when I went to bed, I told him, “If you feel like going, just do it, it’s alright.” I then went up into the bedroom and went to sleep leaving him on the couch.

Early in the morning I had a dream that Sam was a little kitten again and running all around. I got up and found him by his water bowl. He had died a short time before. I think it was his way of telling me that it was OK and he was young again. What a friend. I woke up Roz and we cried over his beautiful body then put him in a box and then in the storage box of the trailer. A couple of days later we headed back to Dillon where we buried him under a bush in the back yard.

I missed my Sam cat very much and immediately started looking for another Siamese like him. I didn’t realize how hard it is to find a Seal Point male cat. I wanted one with a “voice” like Sam’s and wouldn’t settle for anything else.

After we built that Kiwanis club, we headed for Big Fork, Montana to build another. While there we stopped at a pet shop in Polson to see if they had what I was looking for. They didn’t have a Siamese but they did have a white Himalayan, Siamese mix kitten that immediately took to me and Roz loved her. We bought her and Roz named her Amy. She grew into a big cat and now weighs almost 18 pounds.

In December, after my year as Governor was over we went to Yuma, Arizona for a couple of weeks. While there I looked in the Phoenix paper and found an advertisement for a Seal Point Siamese male cat. I called and made an appointment for the next day to see him.

When we got there they had two males and one crawled up on Roz’s lap and went to sleep. That was a good omen so we bought him and went back to Yuma for the remainder of the winter. We named him Max and he has turned out to be a great cat and friend. I will write about these two characters later but for now this is Sam’s story.

I will never forget my 18 ½ years with my wonderful Sam. He brought Roz and I more joy than any cat should be allowed. I can only say: “Thank you, Sam, for the pleasure of your company.”