We Remember Spunky
By Patrick Bousquet, 1992
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Once in a while, a special little one of God's blessings enters into a family's life and brings a special kind of joy to to all. Just such a little guy was Spunky. To talk of him, we have to travel back in time a few months.
One day, early in the morning, my wife, Mina, and I heard cats squalling in the back yard. We knew Oreo, our male cat, was entertaining a few friends again. Going into the back yard, I found three cats -- one white, one orange and white, and one smoke gray with orange splashes mixed in. I chased them off, but that evening they were back again. Once more, I chased them off. The next morning, the smoke gray cat was in the back yard once more. My wife and I decided to do nothing and see what would happen. The cat was still there a day and a half later.
Smokey, as we named her later, was real skinny and on the wild side. We decided to feed and water her and she ate two cans of food right away, but she kept her distance.
As the days went by, we would sit close to her dish and she would eat as long as we just sat quietly. Any movement and she jumped back. Finally, one day, my wife sat on the ground and held the food in her hand. Smokey came over and Mina picked her up and scratched her neck. This kind of broke the ice. Smokey started to let us pet her but not for very long.
Later, we would leave the back office door open. Slowly, Smokey started coming in. From there she ventured into the dining room and finally into the kitchen where she would take her meals with Oreo.
One day, Mina was petting Smokey's still skinny sides and she said, "I think Smokey is pregnant." I felt her sides and sure enough, you could feel little lumps, and as the weeks went by her pregnancy was more evident. Smokey was going to be a mommy. I want to say now, Smokey is a talker. She loves to talk and get her neck scratched. She will even stand on her hind paws and push against your hand as you scratch her.
Well, one Thursday evening, I was helping my wife can peaches and Smokey was talking more than usual, and once-in-a-while she would let out a squall. Mina and I both remarked, "This is the night!" Smokey was in labor and she was going in and out of the box we had fixed for her. This was also going to be an experience for our 8-year-old son, Jason.
We finished some canning and had everything cleaned up by about 10:30 p.m. All the time Smokey was talking and staying close. Mina went into the front room and Smokey laid down next to her on the couch. In the kitchen, she lay down by her feet or by her side. Smokey was really uncomfortable by this time.
At 1:45 a.m. I went to bed and at 2:15, Mina came to bed. She told me Smokey went into her box and cried and cried. My wife finally had gotten a pillow, laid down in front of the box, and laid her hand on Smokey. Smokey settled down finally and that's when Mina had come to bed.
In the morning, we found two beautiful, fluffy black and white kittens. But Smokey still looked plump. We thought we could still feel kittens inside Smokey. Later on, in the afternoon, two fluffy, orange and white kittens were born, but one was dead.
Right now, I want to digress a little. Every now and again, a litter seems to be well marked and just as pretty as can be. These three are like that. But little Spunky, he was just "special."
A few days later, we had to take Smokey to the vet's because she seemed swollen. It turned out that she had a swollen uterus and that may have accounted for the delayed birth of the last two kittens. As the days passed, we noticed one of the black and white kittens wasn't growing and he would breath hard. After a few days, my wife took him to the vet's and found out that Spunky had pneumonia. Spunky had very little voice but when he received an antibiotic shot, he let out a squeal. From this point on, Spunky had to be hand fed with a syringe along with nursing, and also received medication.
Spunky now had to compete with his growing brother and sister for his place to nurse. We had to keep a close watch on the little guy. He just wasn't growing very much.
Spunky was black and white with four white paws and black pads. He had a small white spot on his upper right jaw with a white line leading down to his white chest. His fur was soft and fluffy with little specks of gray in it. His large beautiful green eyes would look at you as you held him in the palm of your hand and say, "Hi." My wife would put him on his back in her hand and his little white paws would play with her finger and sometimes he would take a little bite.
As the kittens got older and started to explore their box, Spunky was the first one to crawl out and walk around to explore outside. He was the first one to start drinking and eating out of a dish. He tried to play with his brother and sister but after a minute he would go off by himself with his little sides heaving in and out. It was just too much for him; he just couldn't keep up. Because he was such a go-getter, my wife gave him the name "Spunky."
Once again, Spunky had to go to the vet's. He still had pneumonia and received another shot. At home, he slept with my wife for a number of nights, snuggled up next to her arm. When he woke up, Mina would have to feed him. About ten days later, he was doing well, walking a little, running, and sleeping outside of his box. He was drinking and eating well, too. We had decided to keep Spunky with us.
Yesterday, I noticed Spunky's brother rough-housing with him on two occasions and I had to take him away. I put him in his box and he slept most of the day. When my wife came home from work, she picked him up and he seemed sluggish. He held onto her finger with his two little paws as if to say, "Hold me." Later, my wife went across the street to help at a church dinner and I had a few friends in to watch an old western on video.
One of the men looked at the kittens and looked at Spunky in his box. He remarked how small he was and I looked in and said, "Yes, that's our special little guy." As I looked, I noticed something was wrong. Spunky was stretched out. His little sides were still and his head was leaning. I bent down and felt his tiny body. It was starting to feel cool. I lifted his little head with my finger and it rolled off and his beautiful green eyes closed; Spunky was gone.
A few minutes later, Mina called from the church, and I had to tell her that Spunky had just died. I picked up Spunky and put him in a little open bag all stretched out on my workbench in the garage. He looked like he would wake up any time. A few minutes later, my friend, Jack Harding put his arm around my shoulders and asked if anything was wrong. I told him about Spunky and I said I was all right. But, I had lied.
Mina came home shortly and I told her where our special little guy was. She entered the garage and closed the door; minutes later, she came out with red eyes and I knew she had been crying. We talked briefly and held up quite well.
This morning, Mina went to work as usual and an hour later, I put Jason on the bus to school. And now, it was time. In the garage, on the workbench, I looked at Spunky's tiny stretched-out body, his little eyes closed, and what looked like a little smile on his face, as if to say, "It's all right. I don't hurt anymore, I don't breath hard anymore, I'm at rest, I'm at peace."
As I looked at this lifeless form, I thought, "No more will Jason pick up Spunky with gentle hands and cradle him softly, carry him around, and pet him. No more would we have to watch where we stepped in fear of stepping on him, or see Mina hold him in the palm of her hand and play with him; see his little paws play with her finger."
I stroked his fur and it was still so soft to the touch; his little body still didn't feel very stiff. I touched his little paw and it had a a bit of wiggle to it. I finally broke down and cried as my hand stoked his fur for the last time.
I wrapped Spunky in a clean, soft cloth and then wrapped him again. I placed him in a large coffee can the long way, with his body stretched out, and sealed the lid. Out in the back yard, I buried "Our Special Little Guy" in the flower garden as tears still came to my eyes.
Now, as I sit here writing about Spunky only a short time after laying him to rest, tears still wet my cheeks. I turn to look out the window and there is Smokey, sniffing at Spunky's resting place. She lays down a few feet away and then goes to the grave again, lowers her head for a moment, and walks away.
Used with author's permission.