Sam and his brother, Buster, were at a pet adoption day at the Livermore Farmer’s Market when I stopped by on a bike ride from Berkeley. I had just lost my cat, Argyle, and wasn’t yet thinking of a replacement, but there they were, just asking to be taken home. Since I couldn’t carry them home on my bike, I asked the adoption people if I could come back by car later that day. The foster family had named them Clinton and Gore (!), but I had other names in mind. That night, while I slept, Buster came to me and told me not to be ridiculous, their names were Buster and Sam, and he was Buster.
For much of their lives together there was a mostly friendly rivalry, with Sam usually coming out on top because he was bigger. Sam was a voracious, fast eater, and Buster a much more deliberative eater. So while Buster was alive, Sam ate in the basement with a cat door between them. Buster learned to use the cat door right away, but it took Sam forever. Every morning and evening, when he was hungry, I’d sit on one side of the door with him and toss kibbles through. Sam would look very interested, but couldn’t figure out what to do about it. If I held the door slightly ajar, he’d push through and get his reward, but just didn’t connect with how to start the push himself. Finally one day, I could literally see the lightbulb go off over his head and he went through by himself. Then he came back. Then he went through again. After I wandered off, I could hear him for some time going back and forth in triumph for figuring it out.
I think they had been abused as kittens. When they came to live with me, they were about 11 months old, and Sam was already missing a front fang. I was told he’d learn not to catch his lip on his tooth, but he’s maintained his crooked smile for almost 19 years. Both cats were also terrified of men, but got used to my husband when he moved in, and now David’s lap is his favorite place. Buster died two years ago, and since then Sam has been Mr. Clingy, wanting to be in a lap 24/7, if he can get it.