I always thought that “Spangles” was a great name for a cat but it wasn’t until last night, on the eve of Spangles’ demise, that I found out how our daughter Suzan and her husband Joe came up with such a clever moniker nearly 16 years ago. They were living and working in Georgia at the time and visiting friends one evening near Atlanta when they heard a meowing sound coming from beneath their feet. A quick investigation revealed a frightened little orange kitty with big eyes and an attitude had taken refuge there. But the deck was too low for anyone to make a rescue. All attempts to lure it to the light failed. They were about to give up when one drunk fellow knelt down and, for some reason, started calling the little bugger “Spangles”and to everyone’s amazement, she slowly inched her way forward into his waiting hands. There was much discussion about what to do with the stray cat but no doubt about what to name her. Suzan and Joe already had a male cat called Tempest and weren’t too keen on adding another to the family..especially with their small apartment., but when everyone else passed on adoption, Spangles wound up going home with them anyway. It turned out to be a good arraignment. Tempest soon got used to the notion of being the Alpha male..the big cat of the walk.. and Spangles seemed more than content to serve as his companion and official groomer. They both survived a grueling move clear across country to California where they became Hollywood cats. All was well until shortly after our granddaughter Zoey was born. Suzan discovered Tempest’s lifeless body on the floor one morning. Without warning, the king was dead. Suzan and Joe were devastated, of course, but poor Spangles was just lost.
It took a while, but eventually she took a shine to that new little girl in the house and the feeling was mutual. Zoey was given the cat’s permission to pull her tail, grab little handfuls of orange fur or perform a double-arm squeeze that caused the poor cat’s eyes to bug out. In exchange, Spangles was allowed to snuggle up on her new little friend’s bed each night; an arraignment that has lasted throughout Zoey’s childhood. About seven years ago, the family moved across country again..this time to Lincoln, Nebraska. Spangles had no trouble adapting to her new surroundings. In fact, she thrived there; growing even larger and more beautiful with each passing year and developing a purr as loud as a thousand snowblowers all roaring at once after a Midwest snowstorm. She also had an ear piercing meow which she used to full effect early in the mornings outside our bedroom door when Linda and I would spend a weekend. After I’d let her in, she’d leap up on the bed and..with her engine revved up full blast, would pace back and forth between us until finally settling down at our feet allowing us to sleep a bit longer. By the time everyone was up and having breakfast at the table, Spangles was right there staring at my granddaughter waiting to be handed her daily treat; the remaining sweet milk from Zoey’s cereal bowl. Life was good and Spangles was in the cat bird’s seat.
Then, the other day, I received the following e-mail from Suzan:
Sad News. Spangles has been declining quickly. The vet thinks she has a tumor. We’re going to have to put her to sleep. Planning for Saturday Morning. We’re all emotional but have talked through it a lot and poor Spangy is just so weak it’s the only humane thing we can do now. Please say a little prayer for us..it’s going to be really hard. Love to you both. Suzan.
Spangles was 16. A good long life for a cat and, of course, ending her suffering was the only option.. but I can’t bear the thought of how this demonstration of mercy is bringing such misery and tears to our loved ones..especially Zoey who, at age ten, has been so close to that old animal all her young life.
This is one of the reasons Linda and I don’t have a pet. She still gets choked up thinking about having to put her dog, Sadie, down over two decades ago and would hate to go through that again. But, I’m pretty sure that even Zoey would say that the heartbreak of today and in the weeks to come is a tiny price to pay for all the wonderful years she shared with that big old orange ball of fur.