Friday, September 12, 2008

Leif & Scamp - 1987 - Age 12

Leif loved cats. When he was younger and we were moving all over the world, we couldn't have one, but when we moved to Fort Sheridan, Illinois (north side of Chicago) he saw his chance. Leif picked out Scamp at a pet store, the liveliest kitten he could find, the one that climbed up the cage to get at him. He picked well. Scamp was a beautiful and intelligent cat, and completely captivating as a kitten.

In the photo with Leif's beloved black leather Members Only jacket, you can see him cradling Scamp like a baby. In the one on the couch, you can see him cuddling that kitten with a look of the purest happiness and delight on his face. He loved that kitten!

Scamp was funny and entertaining and Leif enjoyed playing with him. Somehow he discovered that Scamp was completely crazy about tiny crumpled paper balls. He would bat them all over the floor like a first class soccer player. How he got the idea to show one of these little balls to Scamp and then drop it into one of his big, high-topped athletic shoes I don't know, but that was a hoot! Scamp wanted to get it out, and he dove into the shoe head and front paws first, and was scrambling around in there trying to get the ball. The rest of his body, back legs and tail were flopping around in the air. He did manage to get the ball and started playing soccer again. From then on, it became a favorite game to show Scamp the ball and where Leif (or one of the rest of us) was going to "hide" it and watch Scamp try to get it out.

Scamp also learned to "surf" in my low-heeled pumps. He would place his two front paws in the front of the shoe, and push with his back legs. How I wish we had a picture or a video of that!

Scamp was a very fastidious cat. Our house was crammed with breakable knickknacks and Scamp would leap up and walk everywhere (except on the kitchen counters or the dining room table, where he knew he wasn't allowed), and walk among all the breakables, but he never knocked anything down or broke anything. He was very industrious about his litter box habits, too, working very hard to be sure everything was adequately "covered."

We lived a couple of blocks from Lake Michigan, and Scamp would go for a walk with us like a dog. I remember one winter walk after an ice storm when he insisted on coming along, but his poor paws were being frozen from the ice cold water standing in places and the ice itself, plus jagged ice pieces hurt them. He would whimper and beg to be picked up, but after a few steps in someone's arms, he was begging to get down and walk beside us again.

Scamp was king of the neighborhood and "inspected" it daily, making sure everyone was behaving properly. There was a hunting hound dog that lived on the other end of our row of townhouses. The owner would put him out on a chain fastened to a stake so that the dog could only get around within a circle the radius of the chain. Scamp quickly figured out just how close he could get to the dog without the dog being able to reach him, and he would calmly walk up and sit down just out of reach. The dog would strain and go nuts trying to reach him, but it was as though Scamp were saying, "Ha, ha, you can't get me."

There was a small male kitten that lived somewhere in the neighborhood who took to following Scamp around. We never knew his name, but we called him Sidekick. Scamp tolerated him most of the time, but one day Sidekick got a little too uppity and Scamp sent him rolling with the swipe of one paw. The little guy got right up and trotted after Scamp, meowing, and Scamp apparently decided he could stay.

When Leif's friend Chris Stone's family was moving, they couldn't take their dog to the hotel with them so they asked if Chris and the dog could stay with us. We agreed but had some misgivings about the dog and Scamp getting along. When Chris showed up with the dog, Scamp took one look at the dog, a small terrier, and chased it to the basement and kept it cornered. The dog was completely traumatized. Once we removed Scamp, it took him a long time to come out of the basement. At that point, Scamp apparently decided that we had understood his point and he no longer needed to terrorize the dog. The two of them made a point of completely ignoring each other, wouldn't even look at each other, the rest of the time Chris and the dog were there.

One of Scamp's favorite games was to jump up and play under the sheets when we put clean sheets on our beds. Leif and I had fun taking pictures of him peeking at us under the sheets.

When Scamp was three years old, we moved to Puerto Rico. We had to leave him in a kennel for a month before he could be shipped to us there, and when he arrived, he was pitiful. He clung to us and didn't want to let us out of his sight. Once he adjusted and went outside, we quickly found out that he could no longer by an outdoor cat. The fleas in Puerto Rico were relentless and nothing we did could keep them off poor Scamp. There were other dangers where we lived, too, including packs of wild dogs that could have killed him, and so the proud outdoor cat had to become and indoor cat, and he hated it.

Leif continued to find news ways to amuse both himself and Scamp. By then he was a sophomore in high school and had been shaving for a couple of years already. He had an electric razor and Scamp hated it. Why, we don't know, maybe just the sound. One evening we had neighbors over for dinner, and afterwords we were all sitting in the living room talking and Scamp was keeping us company. He loved to chase a beam of light and we had a good time shining a flashlight beam around the room for him to chase. It was quite entertaining, but nothing compared to what was to come.

For some reason, Leif decided to bring out his electric razor. He turned it on, and Scamp immediately made his displeasure known. Leif turned it off and put it down in the middle of the carpet. Scamp went into hunting mode. You could nearly see him thinking. "Aha! It's sitting there still and quiet on the rug. I can get it now!"

He flattened himself low to the floor and prowled around it in a circle, making sure it wasn't going to attack, and then HE attacked, claws extended. He jumped on that shaver like he was killing a rat, attacked it with his claws, and beat the thing to death. He was totally intent on what he was doing, and completely serious. We were laughing so hard we had tears running down our faces.

When Scamp was sure he had killed that shaver, he sat down looking quite smug and proud of himself. Then Leif turned it on again! You could just see Scamp thinking, "Dang, I thought I killed that thing!" He was so upset. Leif turned it off and left it on the rug again, and Scamp again went on a killing spree. By this time, we had been laughing so much our sides and stomachs hurt. But poor Scamp was only to discover that the razor wasn't dead. Leif finally had to put it away.

Unfortunately, we have no photos or video of this escapade. It's too bad. Leif might have been able to win a "Funniest Home Video" show with it.

Sadly, Scamp only lived to be four and a half years old. He developed an enlarged heart and because of a blood clot, had paralyzed back legs. Four veterinarians said that he could regain the use of them and live a fairly normal life if we could get medication into him, but he struggled and fought it so hard that three grown men couldn't get it into him, and it was only available in pill form. There's no way to know what is in an animal's mind, but Leif and I believed that Scamp made up his mind to die, not knowing he could regain the use of this legs, and not wanting to live like that.

He was an affectionate and intelligent companion. We loved him for four and a half years, and he was mightily missed when he died.

When we moved from Puerto Rico to Kansas, Leif got me another kitten that he picked out and gave me for Mother's Day. That was Merlin, another interesting character, but not the wit that Scamp was.

When Leif got married, he and Nikko had two or three cats. I remember Sugar and Spice.

Sadly, though, when Leif developed asthma in the army, he also developed an allergy to cat dander which made his asthma worse, and he couldn't have cats any longer. I know he missed their antics, their cuddliness, and their affection.

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