Meet Sam the Sham

Published 8:00 am Friday, December 25, 2009

It was November 2008 when a kitten with a broken leg wandered into the backyard of Tribune Managing Editor Tim Engstrom’s house. And it wasn’t long before Humane Society volunteer Kari Ulrich paid for the veterinary care and adopted the kitten.

They sat down at the Tribune office on Monday to share the story. The conversation was recorded on video now available at Here is a transcript from the video:

Tim: Well, it was about this time last year, last winter anyway, that I came home from work and there was a cat meowing outside. And, you know, I was on the phone and then I got off my phone and there was this cat meowing outside. Howling! At first I thought, well, you know, animals outside they come sometimes. So what happens happens. But it kept howling — meow! you know — so I went outside to see what’s going on. We have a bush on the back side of our house, the type of bush it’s called, it’s called a burning bush.

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Kari: OK.

Tim: And I went to the burning bush, and behind it was this little tabby, and I reached out to kind of get it and it hobbled from the bush over to the clothesline. And I went over to get it and this time it didn’t try to run away or anything, and I could see it was, you know, hobbling. So I picked it up gently, and it was meowing still, and I carried it. And it’s raining. This is a cold rain. It’s like the snow had kind of melted because the rain was just, you know, it was warm enough to melt it but it was still very cold. And I put the cat on the porch, and I gave it some milk. Because, you, that’s what cats are supposed to drink.

Kari: Cats drink milk.

Tim: I gave it a saucer of milk, and then went and called my veterinarian for our dog — we have a dog named Alta — and so I called the office of Steve Elwood out there on Highway 13, and he, well, his, the person who answered the phone, recommended not giving the cat milk. And so then also recommended, sort of explained to me, the options of if I bring it in, and you know, there’s also the option of going through the animal control officer, and this was at a time that Albert Lea still had the animal control officer.

Kari: It was right in a transition when the Humane Society started working at the pound helping clean kennels and that.

Tim: So I called the police — well, I got rid of the saucer of milk and gave the cat water instead — and I called the police and an officer came over and I explained to him the story. He’s just a regular officer, not Christa Stieler (who had been the animal control officer), just a guy on the job and he was going to put the cat in the back seat as if it was being arrested or something, you know. But he talked to me and then I explained I think the kitten had a broken leg, it looks like something had happened, I’m not sure what, but it was in need of medical help. I said I would like, you know, we’re really more of a dog family, but if it comes down to it, I don’t want this cat to be euthanized. If it doesn’t find an owner, I will take it. So please relay that to Christa. And so he did. And he brought the cat down there. And that was the end of my part of the story. What happened after that?

Kari: Well, that’s where I came in. It was my first day volunteering at the pound. And right away — we had an orange cat, a tabby, for many, many years that had diabetes that had passed away. And he was one of my first cats. So when I saw the orange tabby right away I’m like, ‘Oh, it’s a baby Burma.’ It’s what we had. And I noticed he was walking on three legs, and he got around, but he just didn’t seem very comfortable. So I asked Christa at that time, ‘May I take him to the vet and get his leg fixed?’ So we called Dr. (David) Wessling, and he got him in that day. That was the first time at the pound, seeing a cat with a broken leg, it was, you know, heart-breaking, and the Humane Society doesn’t have a lot of money to, you know, they’ll do the basic necessities, but that was an expensive visit. So we got him into Dr. Wessling and got his leg set, and he got a pink cast. And after that I decided he couldn’t go back to the pound. So I talked to Christa, and she talked to you to see if it was OK if I adopted Sam. So that is how I got Sam. And he did great. He got along with my other cats, and he’s part of our family.

Tim: How did you come up with the name Sam?

Kari: Out of the blue, actually, my dad had a dog named Sam and that had just recently passed. And so I thought, ‘We’ll name it after Sam.’”

Tim: Christa, er, I mean, Kari recently sent me a picture of Sam as a pillow.

Kari: Yeah.

Tim: And you know about Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, you know, the band?

Kari: Yes.

Tim: You know, “Wooly Bully”? So I sent an e-mail back to say, “Sam the Sham!” So now I think of —

Together: Sam the Sham.

Sam today is a happy and active cat. The video continues on. You’ve read the beginning. Now watch the video and see full-grown Sam for yourself.

About Tim Engstrom

Tim Engstrom is the editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. He resides in Albert Lea with his wife, two sons and dog.

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