Sammy the airport cat died recently. Good-natured and friendly, he was a nondescript light brown Heinz 57 cat, with darker fur on all four legs that made him look like he'd just walked through a shallow mud puddle. He seemed old; he wobbled and stumbled around the place. He was totally blind in one eye and just about blind in the other. He was also as deaf as a post.
Toward the end, the only way he'd ever catch a mouse was if he was sleeping with his mouth open and a mouse accidentally walked in and got stuck. Even when he was awake a rat could have walked up behind Sammy and kicked him right in the ass. He'd never see it coming. He was a bag of bones...a cat skeleton wearing a thin fur coat.
For the last three years Sammy looked like he'd used up 9.99 of his lives. Yet every Spring I'd come back and that darned cat had...unbelievably...made it through another winter. He was a very durable cat!
I asked the Boss how old Sammy was. He scratched his chin and thought about it. ”Oh, I guess we got him when Ray was born,” he said. Ray is the Boss's grandson. Ray is twenty-one this year.
Sammy was old. Probably the oldest cat I've ever known.
The Boss used to live in the house here at the Brewster Airport. He and his wife raised three kids in this house. They're all grown up and gone now. Everybody moved away, and Sammy obviously felt abandoned, especially as his world narrowed with the infirmities of old age. Grandson Ray did live here for a while, and was supposed to be taking care of Sammy. We don't believe he was very diligent in accomplishing that task. Since I've been staying here at the airport, the task of feeding Sammy fell to me.
Sammy was never a house cat. From the beginning the Boss preferred that he live outside. Nevertheless he was used to always having people around. So he'd come into the hangar during the day and snuggle up to you, always getting under foot, starved for attention. For the last two summers I've been worried that one of the local predators (coyotes, camp dogs) would inevitably get him. But cats...even elderly blind, deaf cats are wily. Somehow Sammy survived.
Then last winter the Boss took pity on Sammy and let him live in the hangar. It would have been cruel to do otherwise.
I am not a “pet guy.” I tolerate dogs and cats, but I view them as a burden. So needy! I can barely take care of myself much less a pet. Plus, my here-and-there lifestyle does not lend itself to having a pet.
My friend Terry just bought a motorcycle and wants to go riding when I get back to Pensacola. Specifically he wants to go camping on our bikes. And I'm, like, "Okaaaay, but what are you going to do with Charlie Brown?" That's his dog.
“Well I'm going to get a case of some sort and bolt it to the frame behind the seat...”
...Right where the camping gear/equipment would normally go. But Terry can't leave Charlie Brown home, oh no! That dog goes wherever he goes. And that's a problem when you're going on a motorcycle.
I suspect that we won't actually be doing any motorcycle camping. But it's nice to dream, no? (I may do some motorcycle camping. I am not so encumbered.)
In any event, Sammy the airport cat lived a full life. Toward the end he was still doing pretty well, in no discernible distress or pain, still peeing and pooping all over the hangar floor (which guess-who got to clean up?). He'd never been trained to use a litter box because he was always an outside cat.
Then all of a sudden one day he came into the hangar and just lay down in the middle of the floor instead of under the break table, under our feet as usual. He stopped eating and drinking. He was having trouble getting up and getting around. The Boss and I could see – it was the end. Within twenty-four hours he was gone. It happened pretty quickly. He did not suffer, at least as far as we could tell. Which was good.
I wish I had taken a picture of Sammy. I always intended to but never did. I guess I just figured that he'd live forever. But nothing does, eh? Eventually, everyone and everything dies. So grab your phone/cameras and take pictures of your loved ones...yeah, even your pets. Put them up on Facebook so you...and we...will always have something to remember them by. I wish I'd taken a picture of Sammy...instead of that stupid camp dog, Waldo that hung around one summer a couple of years ago.