Scamper died around 9:00 Friday evening, with a little help from Margaret’s associate and close friend DogEDoc. The end could not have been any better for him: he died in his favorite place in the world, on the hood of our snake cage bathed in the warmth of the incandescent bulbs beneath, in no pain, being petted and stroked by us until he was gone. I will miss him terribly for the rest of my days.
I thought I would take a moment to relay some of the amusing bits of lore regarding Scamper that have accrued over his close-to-sixteen years. Not for you folks, really—as I have said numerous times before, I don’t write this stuff for anyone but myself—but to help me remember them.
We brought home two brother kittens in June of 1991. We named them according to the characteristics they exhibited at the time. Scamper was the one that would charge around the house for no apparent reason, while Scrum was a pugilist of the two, challening his brother on the furry field of honor with that hilarious, stereotypical sidewinding boing-boing-boing BATBATBAT attack that anyone who’s ever owned a couple of kittens will recognize. As things turned out, other names might have been in order. “Scamper” might well have been named “Lumber” as he grew to linebacker proportions. Looking at his potato-like physique, I later opined that I should have named him “Gourdon”. Scrum is still a bit of a scrapper, but he has no real lust for battle. He’ll take an experimental swipe, then hiss and bolt like a bunny as soon as things aren’t going his way.
They took on many names over the years—Gourdon and Archie, Lard Butt and Skinny Britches, Whirdle and Gickle (it’s onomatopoeic, maybe I’ll explain it some time)—but one of may favorite terms for them as a couple, referenced in the title of Margaret’s previous post, was “The Futon Torpedoes”.
Being only a few weeks old when they came to us, Scamper and Scrum were tiny things when we got them. Margaret found that the two of them could comfortably perch on top of her waist pack while it was strapped to her. Their handy portability resulted in a couple of amusing instances:
- During the first few weeks of their time with us, we allowed the cats to sleep in our bedroom (if “sleep” is the proper word for it; more on that in a moment). I awoke at oh-dark-thirty one morning with a strange sensation. Once I had it pegged, I gently woke Margaret and told her to take a look at me. When she turned over and opened her eyes, she saw me lying on my right side, with Scamper curled into a contented, furry little pill, fast asleep on the plane of the left side of my head.
- It soon became obvious that we would not be able to let the cats bed with us as a regular thing. Having spent eighteen hours of the previous day sleeping, by eleven that night they were up for some action. For Scamper this took the form of demands for attention, mostly by way of standing on your chest/shoulder/carotid artery, staring holes through your skull and blowing warm little kitty purrs into your face until you woke up/turned over/suffered a stroke. For Scrum, “action” consisted of opening things, a passion that he has pursued with zeal all of his life. With the studied, merciless single-mindedness of an Indian fakir with OCD, Scrum will open anything that presents an obstacle to his curiosity, be they dresser drawers, kitchen cabinets, closet doors, gun safes or bank vaults. Neither of these pursuits were particularly conducive to getting a full night’s sleep, so we started closing the door to our bedroom. Needless to say, the cats were not happy with the situation. One night I was awakened by a bizarre, breathy scraping noise coming from the door. I bolted upright just in time to witness Scamper pulling himself through the inch-and-a-half gap between the door and the carpeted floor. How he managed to avoid accordioning his ribs into bone meal I will never know. but I had to give him credit—and some extra people time—for his valiant efforts.
During the first couple of years of their lives, we lived in a trailer in the middle of a wheat field in Pullman. The 14 x 70 foot trailer was augmented with a 12 x 30 addition that served as a den/storage room. The addition was accessed through a large entryway from the living room, but there was also a small windowlike passthrough from the long central hallway. Scamper liked to hang out in this little cubby and “mug” people passing him as they walked down the hall, reaching out and batting at us with a paw. In fact, right up until the last few days of his life, Scamp would often be up for a round of “boxing”. I would assume the stance in front of their large carpeted cat structure (a sort of jungle gym for felines, with stands, tubes and platforms for their delectation) and Scamper would arrange himself on the topmost platform, turned on his side so that both front paws were available. I would then throw light, slappy punches at him and he would bat at my hands, often drawing a bit of blood if I weren’t exceptionally quick or careful. This is just the kind of shenanigan that his brother, despite his name, would never go for. He’d take one look at the odds, hiss angrily and bolt for the door. Pussy. 😉
Being on the husky side (much like his owner), Scamper was prone to overheating (much like his owner). The summers in Pullman were particularly brutal for him. There were many a day in July or August when I would find Scamp curled around the base of the guest bathroom toilet, his tummy pressed snugly to its water-cooled porcelain sides. Kind of icky, but who could blame him? He also took a passion for the sink in there, and I showed one of the better angels of my nature by never once turning the faucet on him.
At some point Margaret bought me a small stuffed gorilla (toy, not taxidermy). It sat on my nightstand for a few days, until I came into the bedroom one afternoon and it was missing. I eventually found it under the table and put it back in its place. Some thirty minutes later I happened to catch Scamp in the act as he was dragging the gorilla under the nightstand, where he would sit and clean it. I retrieved the somewhat soggy stuffed simian simulacrum and sequestered it in Margaret’s office, where cats were allowed only under adult supervision.
Scamper had an amazingly annoying habit when it came to cuddling. So long as he had the strength to do so, he would never, ever just sit the fuck down and be petted. I would be sitting on the couch and he would come up and stare at me until I snapped my fingers at him, then he would climb up on my lap. Then I would start scratching him behind the ear, and he would start purring. Then he would stand up, turn around on my lap until he was faced the other way, then sit down again. Then he would stand up and take a couple of tentative steps down my thigh, digging his piton-like feet into the soft, nerve-festooned crevices between the major muscle subgroups of my quadriceps. Then I would stop petting him, because I had blacked out from the pain. When I came to he would be standing between my thighs, starting imploringly at me. I would begin to pet him again, and he would start to purr, then he would walk halfway up my chest, knocking the wind and maybe my dinner out of me. Then he would turn around, giving me a bit of the old pink wink, and proceed back down my gut towards my lap. Where he would remain for perhaps as long as four minutes until a) Margaret came home from work, or b) he decided he needed a drink of water. Either way, his parting gift to me would be to vault off of my lap, using at least one of my testicles as a launch pad.
This same feline would spend hours motionless beneath the covers at Margaret’s feet, or perched on a cushion in her lap. But for me, petting this cat was a constant (and aerobic) exercise in frustration. And pain.
Scamp was an extremely loving and uncomplicated cat. All he needed to be happy was food, a warm lap, his brother and a scritch or two—hundred—behind the ears. In the tradition that we started with the Torpedoes’ step-sister Baird, we will bury Scamper’s ashes under a climbing rose, along with a selection of his stuff that he may need in the next world: his collar, his food dish, his catnip pillow and his favorite Troll doll. Godspeed and good rest, my kitty.