Monday, July 2, 2012

My Ghetto Kitty

I keep thinking that I forgot to give Buddy his pill tonight.  He would have bugged me to give it to him.

"Haven't you forgotten something," he seemed to say.  "Remember me?"  If I sat at the computer, he'd paw at my right leg and cry like a kitten until I petted him.  Then, when the lightbulb came on, I'd get up to give him his pills.  He would have come into the kitchen as I opened the packet full of pill pockets.  Sometimes, he jumped onto the footstool that I keep to get things out of the high cabinets.  Lately, he'd been ambling away from me after I'd gotten the pills assembled in the pill pocket.  Then I'd stop and ask him, "Do you want this or not?  I have a cookie.  It's for you."

He wasn't deceived at all, but he'd walk back toward me anyway.  I'd had to stop giving him cookies because anything I tried made him throw up.  I tried every brand I could find.  No cookies, but there he was at my feet anyway. 

I'd place my feet, toes out, on either side of his haunches, pushing gently at his chest and tapping his back to make him sit down.  Then, I'd lean over him and look upside-down into his eyes.  When I opened my mouth, he would pause for a second then open his.  He knew I tried to do the next part gently.  I'd push the pill pocket deep into his throat as he tried not to bite down.  Sometimes I gagged him a little.  Sometimes he'd gnaw on my finger a bit.  Then I'd tell him he was a brave, sweet kitty and pet him down both sides until we'd both recovered.  I always wondered how I didn't shove the thing down his trachea instead of his esophagus.  It always worked.  He always cooperated.

Two or three times today, I'd look down and expect to see him there.  When I come in, he was always at the top of the stairs.  He liked keeping Teddy from coming up and today, when we got back from our walk, I felt that dynamic, still there.  Did I notice Teddy pausing on the stairs next to me?  Probably not, but I wanted to feel Buddy still there.

When I sat down on the couch, I wanted to put the pillow in my lap, pat it, and see Buddy's eyes look up at me as he jumped up.  I loved how he'd start purring before he even jumped up and his breath hitched a little as he landed.  Then, he'd stand there for a bit with his butt aimed at my face as if I was interested in that part of him.  He'd have to circle a couple of times until he got comfortable.  If there was a book, a notebook, or a phone involved, he'd rub it with his chin, no doubt hoping I'd drop it off the side of the couch in favor of petting him.  He liked a heavy two-handed rub.  Oh, I could rub his head the way a gruff uncle would rub the head of a boy who'd just had his hair cut short.  I'd put my hands on either side of his face and push his fluff back to see how tiny his head really was.  Sometimes when I did the rubbing just right, his eyes would dialate. 

Buddy could purr.  Most of the time, I could feel him purring in my belly through the pillow.  Usually, about that time, he'd roll onto his back and stare at me upside-down in adoration.  The best thing about Buddy was that he made me feel well loved and those upside-down moments were the best.  

I can't really tell you everything about Buddy - you'd never get it - but he practiced yoga every day, lying on his back and twisting to one side, he played with my earbuds or whatever toy I had in my hands, he came running whenever Mike opened a can of tuna, and he loved chicken fricassee as if I'd gone to all that trouble of boiling a chicken just for him.

Buddy was dropped off at my grandma's house after she gave her car away because she didn't feel it was safe for her to continue driving.  He didn't have any front claws.  How anyone could take the time to declaw a cat and then dump it out in a field with a single farmhouse is beyond me.  He survived four months that way despite the pack of coyotes that my grandma heard around her house most nights.  Other people had also dumped off cats and my grandma, being soft-hearted, fed as many as came along with their kittens.  For the coyotes, it was like feeding time at the zoo. 

Buddy lived.  One day, in an attempt to help straighten up, I pulled down a two-by-four leaned up against the garage on the inside. 

"Put that back up and leave it where it is," my grandma said.  She sounded almost like she was yelling at me.  She never yelled.  I didn't get it, so I stood there with the board in my hands, looking for a stack of wood to place it on.

"Put that board back up.  I need it there," she said.  I protested that I was trying to help. 

"You'll be helping if you put my board back where it belongs.  Buddy needs it."  Who the heck was this buddy?  She wasn't going senile.  That unspoken question really pissed my grandma off, though she never said it out loud.  Finally, though I didn't see anything, she pointed to a concrete ledge around the top of the garage walls.

"Buddy stays up there, away from the coyotes."  She said.  Though I didn't see him, that was my first introduction to Buddy.  He was shy.  It would take a few visits and a move before I saw much of him.  My sister convinced my grandma to bring him inside, though my grandma never made him a strictly inside cat, despite his clawlessness.  When she moved to the assisted living apartment, Buddy came with her.  Then, he became affectionate if I sat quietly enough.  He liked when I brushed him, letting me work at a couple of the mats in his fur.  He'd purr the whole time, though I could see what I was doing was uncomfortable for him. 

Then, he decided he liked Nick.  Nick came to see my grandma as an only child so he was naturally quieter than the other cousins.  He would play with the feather toy and Buddy got to walking right up to him whenever he arrived.  Buddy even followed him into the bathroom to be petted once.  That was enough for me.  I asked my grandma if, when she 'couldn't take care of him any more' I could bring him home.  We both knew that what I meant was 'when she died' because she'd never give up Buddy.  Long after she couldn't take care of herself, she insisted that she still needed him with her.  I believe she did.  His job was to be with her, to walk her to the bathroom, to sit at the bottom of her bed, not too close as to cause her pain.  He hovered. 

Because my grandma was in a lot of pain, it got to where Buddy was too heavy to sit on her lap to be petted.  He loved her, but in the end, the only way she could pet him was when she was sitting on the toilet.  When he came to our house, Seth, our other cat, showed him how to open our pocket doors so he'd walk right into the bathroom while anyone was there.  It was odd, but I could see how he'd gotten that habit of gathering his affection while his person didn't have anything else to do and could reach him more easily.

I loved Buddy when he was my grandma's cat, but he became my baby kitty when I brought him home.  He needed four kinds of heart pills twice a day, Lasix, Plavix, Atenolol, and Enalapril.  Only Hill's duck and peas blend of food stayed down for any length of time when he ate it.  Even then, he threw up three or four times a week.  I learned that keeping his fur brushed really helped with that problem.  The Furminator was the best at keeping him sleek and thus he wasn't throwing up as much.  When he was stressed by too much noise or the new puppy, he'd over eat.  He eventually got used to the noises in the house.  The blender I used every morning never chased him.  The puppy followed orders.  Even that loud boy from next door was sweet to him.  Buddy made himself a good home, made himself an important part of our family.  You have to be pretty important around here to get the first bite of tuna or to taste the chicken fricassee before the salt goes in. 

Goodbye sweet ghetto kitty.  I'll miss you.

Thank you for listening, jb


  1. I am so sorry to hear about Buddy.I hope you get over this soon.As kids we always had pet dogs, but I still remember the pain when one of them died...that is why i never kept pets in my adult life- even as my son would have loved to have a cat or a dog.The fear of losing them keeps me from it.
    If you would like to have a painting of your buddy, you may send me a few good snaps of him.I would be glad to paint/sketch him for you.

    1. Wow! That's really cool! How much do you usually charge for a watercolor of a pet?

    2. JB I did not think about charging you,I just thought it would make you feel better.I need subjects to paint, anyways, so you can send me the snaps anytime, no charge for Buddy :)

  2. Arti, you are very sweet. I'd like that a lot. Thank you.