Right after my wedding in 2005, we decided to get a cat. I wasn’t totally on board at first. My knowledge of cats was limited to Garfield and Heathcliff. I fancied myself more of a “dog person” and, if I’m being honest, back then I wasn’t even much of that.
When Tipsy arrived, though, it was a different story. She’s a beautiful little pet right off the pages of a kitty calendar. Even trips to the vet, where they see cats all day long, brought about comments like, “Wow. She’s a little cutie.” She was then, she is now, and she’s always known it.
Just as Tip was getting settled in her new surroundings, my new wife read an article about how kittens need friends. She insisted that it would be sad for her to be the lone feline in our house and, even though I felt this was all a slippery slope to crazy cat lady land, I agreed. Tipsy needed a buddy.
So, we got her one. And we named him “Buddy.”
Buddy wasn’t like Tipsy much at all. They shared similar features and he was adorable, but he was, well, rougher around the edges. His fur wasn’t as fluffy and he would have insane reactions to mundane things. The time I brought home an animatronic hamster that sang “Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting”, it damn near gave him a heart attack. He sprinted across our tiny apartment while everyone said a line that would become closely associated with him and his antics.
To give you an idea of how rough he was and how little sense we sometimes thought he had, my wife noticed early on that there was a brown spot on his face. It was in middle of a patch of white fur by his mouth. She came to me and said:
I think Buddy got food on his face. I have been trying to wipe it off. Poor Buddy.
After wiping feverishly for a while, we realized that it was just his face. Says a lot.
I never fully understood that cat, but I loved him anyway. He would find himself in sad predicaments during routine moments like feeding time. I’d pour a bowl of food and Tipsy, the alpha female, would rush to it first. So, I would pour some in the other bowl and, before he could get to it, she would quickly switch to that new one; turning her body to block him from the original. He would just stand on the side and watch with a sad little expression. As pathetic as it was, I would have to pick him up and place him down in front of the first bowl, where he would eat. I’d sigh.
I’m sure he thought we were weird too. He’d be sitting in the kitchen and I’d randomly look down at him and, in a corky voice, call out, “Mister Budford!” He’d squint back and offer a meow. He understood me even when I didn’t.
In recent years, my daughter began to discover the cats. She became their favorite person and they became her favorite things in the house. Although she might not admit it, Buddy was her number one. Less surly than his fluffy sister, the Buddy Rabbit was more eager to hop onto her bed and cuddle up at night. She would call to me to come see. Every time I did, it was the same scene. Every time I did, it was adorable. A girl and her cat.
Then, yesterday morning, Buddy died.
You’ll have to forgive me if all of this is still a bit raw. I found him when I woke up, laying on the floor, and it ripped a hole in me. I called his name, tried to convince myself that he was just sleeping, and eventually accepted the reality in front of me. The only saving grace was that no one else was around to see it. I was able to take care of all the arrangements before anyone else in the house knew and have one final moment with my little guy. It was just him and me. Like so many times before, I knelt down by his side and sighed.
The hardest part for me to understand is that we all knew this was happening. Buddy was 15 years old and had been losing weight for years now. He looked old and tired. He was the type of cat that you would see and say, “Wow. That’s a scraggly cat you have there.” We would talk openly about the fact that he probably wouldn’t last much longer. Her wasn’t just old, but he looked it. His death wasn’t a surprise. It was nature. It was reality.
Yet, here I was, utterly destroyed in the moment. Picking up my little Buddy who I had raised since he was the size of a baby shoe, I couldn’t help but feel like a part of me was going with him. He had been there for most of my adult life. Now he was gone.
I had to go around the house and tell everyone what had happened. That was hard too. All of it is hard. Life is hard. Hell, writing this is hard. At its core, everything that means anything is hard.
I like to think that he knew how loved he was. I hope so. He spent his life with us and we couldn’t have been happier to have him. He was my first Buddy and he’ll always be my best.