Thursday, October 13, 2005

Lucky Shamroc

Shamroc & Nyssa, 1993 Posted by Picasa
"As I grow old I will catch fewer mice. I will play less and less. I will sleep day and night. This is the time when you will need to love me most." ~ unknown
I remember the first time I saw him all alone in a cage at the pet store in North Dallas. I was married, we were in medical school and graduate school and living on a stipend and loans. We had moved into a low rent apartment in Carrollton, Texas; half way between my med school in Dallas and his graduate school in Denton. This little mall was just of I635 at the I35N interchange and it had small shops, a Montgomery Wards store, a Michaels craft store and the small pet shop. The little Siamese kitten had been there for quite a while. The card on the cage said "No papers, not full blooded Siamese. $10. As I passed he quietly stuck his paw through the grate and touched my hand, no claws, no meow, he just stared at me. His food had flies in the bowl and they had given him milk instead of water; it was room temperature. He was the only kitten or cat in the store and most of the cages held yapping dogs. That was it. I wrote a check for ten dollars from an account that had only $200 total in it. We took him home.

I named him Shamroc, because he was lucky to find me. He grew into a sleek seal point Siamese who loved to sit on your lap or on top of the sofa. He was more human than cat and at times more dog than cat. He learned early to ask for a treat and to come running when the words were said. His favorite....Jerky Treat...a dog treat. Shamroc loved to ride in the car and to date is the only cat I have ever had that did. All he needed was a pillow in the front seat. We would start out from Oklahoma on a trek to Roanoke, Virginia and in five minutes he would be curled up on that pillow asleep. If we stopped he would wake up, drink a little water, eat a little dry food, maybe use his litter box and then back to the pillow and sleep.

Shamroc usually came when you called and if you patted your upper chest and said "jump", he would jump right into your arms always trusting that you would catch him. He was unusually tolerant for a Siamese even submitting to be the demonstration cat for Paul's Physic class. Paul held him upside down and dropped him to a pillow. He always did all the right movements and landed on his feet. Later on, his little adopted sister Cassi (Cassiopeia) was drafted for this but was deemed useless when she simply splatted on her back on the pillow with the look of "Why did you do that?" on her face.

Shamroc was fearless, except he was afraid of mice or more accurately, gerbils. I had a gerbil named Bozo, who lived in an aquarium with a wooden grate lid. He had an exercise wheel, watering bottle, dish of sunflower seeds and limitless bedding to shred and nest with. Shamroc was fascinated with him. He would stick his paw down through the holes in the lid to see what this creature was. Bozo bit him, hard, on his sensitive paw pad. Well! That was that. Shamroc was afraid of Bozo. Bozo loved Fruit Loops and one year we gave him a small twig of the Christmas tree decorated with Fruit Loops. Bozo was in heaven; ate all the decorations and chipped the tree up for bedding. That year he also got a clear exercise ball. Do you remember these? There was a small twist open lid and the mouse or gerbil went inside the clear plastic ball with air vents all over. When the lid was closed, Bozo could be let loose to run wherever he pleased; where he was most pleased to run was at Shamroc. Bozo just wanted to see what this creature was but when Shamroc saw that big ball coming toward him with that thing that bit his paw, he took off in the opposite direction. This was some of the absolute best entertainment I had during four years of school. A gerbil in a clear ball chasing a cat around a small apartment.

Shamroc was my friend and companion through medical school, residency and seven years in Oklahoma. He was the only cat the vet had seen who developed "Cat Scratch Disease". After the small lump was removed from his back I did the pathology and it was a classic textbook picture, even though cats aren't supposed to actually get it. After the vet said that he wouldn't be able to get at his sutures, he bit them out in less than four hours. I had to get sterile gloves, suture, betadine, oven mits and towels (for Paul to hold him) and suture him back up. Don't ever try that at home. I got the sutures back in, but ended up with the needle in my hand twice and bites and scratches everywhere. To make sure they didn't come out again, I wrapped him from head to toe in Ace bandages to the point that he had to swagger John Wayne style to even walk at all.

Shamroc wasn't phased when Nyssa came along or when the marriage dissolved. I had custody of the cats. By the time we moved to Mississippi, he was a stately old gentleman. I began to notice that he didn't come when I called, his hearing was going. He was thin with a touch of liver failure but he lived for at least five years on low dose steroids for his inflammatory bowel and to help with his appetite and then he developed cataracts. He had two frightening seizures, the vet didn't know why, but I noticed that both were when a loud noise went off near his ear. I think he heard nothing but that the rare occasion when the sound was loud enough to get through, his auditory segment of the brain was over sensitive and sent him into a seizure. At the end he slept on my bed next to me at night but was more comfortable in a big cat bed in the garage where it was hot from the sun.

Then one day he looked at me through his clouded eyes and nudged me with his gray muzzle; and he stopped eating. Baby food, soft cat food, treats, tuna, nothing would persuade him to eat. It was time. He had lived in six apartments or houses, made countless trips, eaten tons of Jerky Treat and ran in fear from Bozos #1,#2, and #3. He had also been loved as much as any cat can be loved. Shamroc wasn't afraid, he calmly went to sleep for the last time the end of May, 1994 at the ripe old age of 19 and left a gaping hole in my heart.

Be sure to visit the cats and other creatures at Friday's Ark and check out Carnival of the Cats on Sunday, hosted this week by Where The Dolphins Play.

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