Ode to Spot
Spot was our first companion.
After my wife and I got married, the Navy took us to Goose Creek, South Carolina for a year of nuclear power training. Both of us had grown up in pet-friendly households, so we adopted a small tabby, and my love of the android Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation guided us to a name. Spot loved the outdoors, but the military had a zero-tolerance policy for unleashed pets outside. Between that and the resident alligators, we chose to keep Spot confined to quarters unless she was out for a walk in her harness. My wife says that Spot would walk on leash for her, but she never would for me.
Even so, she was my cat.
When we moved to Connecticut for my tour on the Philadelphia, she was happy until the boat went to sea. I would give the furry kids a pat and tell them to be good, and my wife would drive me to the pier. When she came home without me, Spot blamed her for my absence. My wife lost so many pairs of good shoes to that cat’s misguided vengeance, particularly during deployment.
Connecticut was where Spot was happiest when she lived with us. We lived across the street from Mohegan Park in Norwich, which was a wooded haven for all sorts of creatures. We kept her up to date on all of her shots and preventatives so she could go out during the day, and every night before we went to bed, my wife would open the front door and call. Spot would barrel out of the trees and beeline for the house. During her escapades, she would bring home birds, mice, squirrels, and even fully-grown rabbits, sometimes leaving a respectful offering for us or her canine sister Cordé. Both of them were deeply offended when we wouldn’t let Cordé enjoy Spot’s gifts.
There was even a time when Spot was perched on the porch rail, hunkered down in the gentle twitches of a hunter’s stance, staring at a whitetail deer that was strolling down the road. We knew that our feline David was plotting the best way to take down her Goliath. Thankfully, she never did.
Her favorite place in the Connecticut house was a kitchen window box. It became her spot after she repeatedly evicted the flower pots: It was where we fed her, it was next to the carpet-covered play tree where she bounced from platform to platform and rained terror on the dog from above, it received ample sun, and it gave her a great view of the bird feeder. In the warmer months, we would open the window, and she would watch the birds through the screen, luring them with a gentle chirping noise. After a while, she’d request to go outside, and then she’d sneak up under that feeder with her chirping, lulling the birds to the ground in a false sense of security, and pounce on her next meal.
When we moved to our next duty station in Millington, Tennessee, we were surprised with a near immediate deployment, and when I got home, it became evident that I was allergic to cats. It was something that left us with a tough choice. We could keep her, but would have to survive by constantly medicating me and confining the cat from certain rooms, or we could find her a new home. We firmly believe that the choice to adopt a pet is a commitment to family, and my wife’s parents offered to give Spot a home. That way, we knew that she was a in a safe place with family, and we could visit when we were in town.
Spot moved to Utah for a time, and then to the evergreen woods of Washington where she absolutely thrived as a hunter and a friend. One time, a group of red squirrels moved into the garage, and Spot did her job of exterminating them one by one. The last one, however, gave her pause. It was the youngest of the group, and when Spot tried to deliver the killing blow, it hissed at her. Spot adopted and raised the squirrel, and later escorted it to a tree filled with gray squirrels where it made a new home. From time to time, Spot would visit the tree and meow, and the red squirrel would run down to visit, much to the chagrin of the alarmed grays.
It was in Washington that Spot said goodbye on the evening of February 25th, laid to rest where her squirrels could visit. She would have turned 15 this April.
If I could send one message to the foot of the Rainbow Bridge, I would ask that they take care of the newcomer. She’s a playful and feisty devil with the angelic heart of a conspiratorial dreamer. Most importantly, she understands love and family.
Good hunting, Spot. Thank you for being part of our family. We love you.