Sammy Gardner: February 24, 2012 - July 4, 2017

Sammy Gardner was born in Chicago on February 24, 2012. He was one of three kittens, two boys and a girl, born that day to a mom I've never known anything about. When he and his siblings were found by volunteers from the Illinois Animal Rescue within a few days of their birth, their mom was no where to be found and it was assumed that she had been killed.

Sammy, his sister Zoey, and I became a forever family about three months later when I adopted them from a lovely foster family who sent them home with handmade fleece blankets. I hadn't even been sure that I was ready to be a cat mom again because it had only been about seven weeks since Betsey and Ross had died, but we instantly fell in love and I knew that I had to be their mommy.

For five years and two months, Sammy, Zoey, and I have been a family, but today Sammy suddenly went into heart failure and I made the painful decision to let him cross the Rainbow Bridge.

Just this morning, Sammy was trying to knock photos off my living room wall, which always entertained him to no end because of how much it frustrated me, and climbing on top of the refrigerator where he loved to sit and watch over Zoey and me — I'm fairly certain he also judged us from his perch. Yesterday, he tried to take a stroll down my condo building hallway, but I was too quick. He cuddled with both Zoey and me, walked away, his breathing changed, and he became lethargic and non-responsive to his name. It truly happened just as quickly as that.

I rushed him Blue Pearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital in Northfield, but by the time we got there, it was too late. Sammy was still with us, but my decision was clear once I spoke to the vet. Sammy lived a good life and passed away in my arms with my tears streaming down on his little body.

Sammy will be remembered for his snuggles and the way he greeted me at the door every night. He loved to sleep next to me in bed and was a major force in helping reduce my anxiety. Without Sammy and Zoey, I can honestly say I wouldn't have made it through the summer of 2012. They provided unconditional love and helped bring me out of my horrible depression. Sammy purred louder than any cat I've known and our home will certainly be quieter now, but Zoey and I will adjust.

Sammy and Zoey have seen me through some difficult and painful times in the past five years, times that could have broken me. I promised today him that I'm in really good space, that I can take care of myself and Zoey, and that he could cross the Rainbow Bridge in peace.

In his last moments, I thanked him for letting me be his mommy, thanked him for being my boy, and told him that Zoey wanted him to know that he was her best friend. I also told him he was brave, had lived a full life, and one day, we'd all be reunited.. Just as sure as I rescued Sammy and Zoey, they rescued me. I assured him that although Zoey and I would miss him every day and would never forget him, we are strong and we'll be okay. Sammy made our lives richer.

I also told him that Betsey and Ross were waiting for him on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge because today would be their 21st birthday (how's that for some crazy-ass timing?) and I'm sure they're waiting to start their celebration until he arrives. Knowing them, they have lots of catnip and tuna, which Sammy's never had and will love.

Sammy is survived by his littermate and best friend Zoey, who at this moment is snuggled up on the cat tree where Sammy spent many hours every day. In addition to Zoey and me, Sammy is survived by Christopher, who loved him like he was one of his own and always brought Sammy and Zoey kitty treats while I was away. Sammy is also survived by many friends who touched his life and whose lives he touched.

Zoey and I are grateful to the incredible staff at Blue Pearl; their compassion was evident from the instant I rushed in with Sammy. They gave him expert care, were most concerned with making him comfortable while trying to stabilize him, and were reassuring to me that I did everything possible for him today; I couldn't have known he was sick and it probably came on instantaneously so there is nothing for me to feel guilty about. When I realized taking any extraordinary measures were for me and not for him, they gave me all the time I needed to say goodbye and let him die in my arms. It was a beautiful goodbye.

I'm also grateful to the staff at March Animal Hospital, who all provided his routine veterinary care for the past five years. Zoey and I will be in later this month for her annual physical.

For now, Zoey and I are going to get used to life just the two of us. Like Sammy, Zoey is 5 1/2 years old and I'm not sure how she'd adjust to life with a new cat in the house. I'll never say never, but for now we need to mourn Sammy and be good on our own.

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    A native of Chicago's Northwest Suburbs and resident of the North Shore, Little Merry Sunshine comes by her name honestly. The story goes that as a child, she was always so happy that she even slept with a smile on her face. Her mom nicknamed her Little Merry Sunshine. It stuck, along with her insatiable desire to focus on the good in the world and to leave it a little better than she found it. She does this by sharing her passions and dreams, what inspires her, and maybe you too, and furthering the discussion about how we can listen to our better angels. You can reach her at LittleMerrySunshineCN[at]WowWay[dot]com.

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