So long for now, Sergeant Spatula

Spatchy in specs

Today marks the end of an era. For the first time in almost 17 years, I find myself without a furry companion. We lost Pete more than two years ago, and today we said goodbye to our beloved pastel calico cat.

Sergeant Spatula came into our lives just after my first cancer surgery more than 14 years ago. We were living in upstate New York where I was a pastoral intern when my friend and my daughters conspired to bring this palm-sized bit of fluff and sass into our lives. She was born to one of Crazy Cat’s litters (yes, that was really her name) in friends and parishioners’ dairy barn, and complaining vociferously from her flea bath she entered our home (well, actually the Methodist Church’s parsonage) and hearts to stay.

Sergeant Spatula

Affectionately known as “Spatchy,” the Sergeant received her name and rank from my daughters, who were evidently in a military kitchen implement naming phase. Life with Spatchy was quite an adventure. In her first year she managed to pull down the Christmas tree, bolt outside during a storm and climb some 30 feet up in the neighbor’s tree, and regularly perform acrobatics by climbing pants legs and curtains. She could open doors and cabinets and drove my mother to distraction with her uncanny knack to know just where mom wanted to sit and beat her to it. She was, however, cute and cuddly, and that covers a multitude of feline misdemeanors.

Although she loathed the pet carrier, she was a stalwart traveler, moving from New York to North Dakota to Tennessee and finally to Pennsylvania. She put up with the indecencies heaped upon her out of pure love for her humans, allowing herself to be carried like a baby, wrapped up like a kitty burrito, dressed in humiliating Halloween costumes, and have her nails clipped to try (mostly unsuccessfully) to prevent the shredding of my husband’s leather sofas.

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The cat definitely had the proverbial nine lives. In North Dakota she ingested 18 inches of decorative ribbon with wire edges. Several hundred dollars, a long car trip, and an emergency surgery later, the Sergeant pulled through and came home with the pictures and ribbon retrieved from her gut to prove it. In Pennsylvania she was accidentally sprung from the back porch during  a package delivery. For three weeks we posted signs around our small town, followed up on every lead, put food out near potential sightings, and refused to believe that she had become coyote snack. To our great joy a skinnier but relatively healthy Sergeant Spatula turned up chilling on the den sofa one morning.

Despite her combat-themed name, she was a lover not a fighter and claimed not one mouse kill to her name. The chipmunks tormented her through the glass storm door, and so did the neighbor’s cat, Hugo. We are fairly sure, however, that she had a secret crush on him but was simply too proud to admit it. She also served as sermon inspiration and writer’s muse, usually by plopping her corpulent self on top of my keyboard.

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For the last several days she was clearly not herself. She hid her illness quite well, something the vet tech said cats were prone to do. After the ribbon incident in North Dakota she was always a picky eater, and she was aging, so we tried a procession of new foods with varying success. For the last 48 hours all we could get her to eat were a few bites of chicken baby food and vanilla ice cream.

A trip to the vet revealed advanced kidney disease with no real option to prolong her life without additional suffering, so we made the difficult decision to not allow her to suffer for our sake. That wouldn’t have been fair.

The staff at Colonial Park Vet Clinic deserves a shout out. They were wonderful and helped make her transition as smooth and easy as possible, and they honored our grief so very well. I am grateful to them.

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Why all this fuss about a cat? If you’ve never had a beloved animal companion, I’m not sure I can explain it. If you have loved and lost a fur friend, you know exactly what I mean. In fact, this old world would be a whole lot better if we loved each other like our animal companions love us. We have so much to learn from them.

Thank you, Sergeant Spatula, for the joy and laughter you brought into our lives, for the love we shared, and for the lessons you taught us. You are already so deeply missed.

10 responses to “So long for now, Sergeant Spatula

  1. I lost my precious calico about a year and a half ago, at the age of 18. Their loss always is a grief — and one that lingers — but the grief always is a measure of the joy they brought us. I’m sorry for your loss, but glad you gave her such a wonderful life.

  2. I’m so sorry for your loss💕 Many cats, several dogs, hamsters, a rabbit, and a bird gravesite exist at church parsonages in MN and ND, attesting to the love between Gods creatures and our family.

  3. My heart breaks for you. Such a lovely article & beautiful tribute to you four baby. It has taken me almost 30 minutes to read this because as I’m crying for you loss my little runaway fur baby has been all in my face purring and try to comfort me. She has been butting her head on me & my phone making it nearly impossible to read your words & almost impossible to type…lol. yes, they are such beautiful loving creatures and this would be a better place if we were more like them. Praying God’s peace & comfort during this sad & painful time. So sorry for your loss.

    • Thank you so much, Linda. I’m thankful your little runaway came home and continues to provide you with comfort, joy, and love. I remember how grieved you were during your kitty’s “walkabout” time.

      • Sharon – What a tribute to Pete and Spatchy. How fortunate they were to run your household for many years, growing up with your girls and comforting you and Rob along the way. Take comfort in knowing that you made their world a better place, too. There’s another fur ball out there, just waiting to meet you when you’re ready.

        Thank you for sharing your beautifully written sentiments. You, and your words, are gifts to those of us who know you and always enjoying reading them!

  4. I have so far never been without a furry family member. All have left their loving mark on our lives. So sorry for your loss.

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