I remember Valentine's Day 1993 because the love of my life joined my family.
I'm not speaking of my husband, although he is indeed the LOVE of my life. I'm speaking of my tabby, Buddy.
We lived in a small patio home in Jacksonville, Florida with my Turkish Angora, Genny, and my Tortoiseshell, Mandy. I also had numerous stray cats thanks to a feral mother who was impossible to trap, and littered my neighborhood for several years until I lured her into a cage with grilled salmon sauteed in butter.
On that particular Valentine's Day, Ray was in the front yard hacking away at an Oleander bush. The thing was poisonous and he had a horrible skin rash on his arms every time he pruned it. I have a memory of standing in the garage, looking toward the driveway where Ray was sitting, sharpening a tool...and I saw he had a cat watching him. "Who's your little buddy?" I asked. "Don't know," he responded. "Haven't seen this one before."
At first I thought I hadn't either, but something about the tabby struck a familiar chord with me. A couple years before Angel, the feral littering my yard, gave birth at Christmas. Ray and I came home from Eve services to find six kittens crowding our front doorstep. "Is this a joke?" Ray shouted. The kittens scattered. Angel had been in the habit of bringing me her kits to take care of, so she could go back to being footloose and fancy free. The slut. The following week she brought her kittens back to me, this time into my yard, where she left them during the day. Naturally I fed them and provided a dog house for their shelter.
One of them had the roundest big eyes I'd ever seen on a cat. At the time I thought, this one will disappear. Someone in the neighborhood will adopt it. I couldn't. I had two cats inside a cupboard of a house. No more room! Sure enough, days later, I didn't see the buggy-eyed kitten with the others.
Two years later, the tabby watching Ray hack apart the Oleander had the same big round eyes. He also had a weird, reedy voice and I could hear him breathing across the room! I asked around as to who owned him, but while several neighbors knew him, no one claimed him. I got him neutered, vaccinated, and the vet determined he had a polyp growing in his nasal cavity.
|Christmas Card 1999 (1st shot, only shot!)|
For Ray it was also love at first sight, so adding Buddy to our cat family wasn't up for discussion. However, Genny and Mandy felt like their Girls Only clubhouse had been invaded by a boy, with all his weird breathing, yowling, and smells. He loved to chase them, and pounce. But his noisy breathing alerted them to his whereabouts and they were able to outmaneuver him.
Then, while I was in New York at a writers conference, Ray took Buddy to Gainesville for surgery at their veterinary training hospital. When he asked how Buddy was doing and the techs said, "He's eating like a little hog!" Now that he could breathe, everything smelled wonderful to him. On the way home, over an hour drive, Buddy sat in Ray's lap, joyfully rubbing his face against Ray's neck and chin. Ahem. Ray is allergic to cats. By the time he arrived home his skin looked like he had done battle with another Oleander bush. He said he didn't care.
Buddy's return home was not celebrated by my girls. In fact, they were horrified because now they could no longer hear him breathe, and were continually caught off guard when he pounced or chased.
Buddy's life with us has had more ups than downs. He loved to run, and often would dash out the front door after one of the strays, to lead us on a merry chase throughout the neighborhood. It got to the point where we kept a stadium seat cushion by the front door to block him when we entered. We called it The Buddy Buster.
Buddy's yearn to run was compensated when we bought a treadmill, and after we showed him how it worked, he would eagerly jump on and trot, usually when one of us held a milk ring in front of him. When we sold our house, the buyer wanted to buy Buddy after watching him on the treadmill. Years later, perhaps 3 years ago, we purchased another treadmill having sold our original one. Ray was in the process of assembling it when Buddy ambled over and crawled onto it. He remembered! We turned it on at a snails crawl and bless his heart, he walked down memory lane.
By the way, those plastic circles that held the top on new milk jugs were a huge hit with my cats, but especially Buddy. He carried one everywhere. And my cats loved to stash them around the house. I still recall how horrified I was when my friend's kids came over and discovered...thousands I'm thinking...under my sofa!
Buddy loved to fetch. Milk rings didn't fly so far, but a tiny toy gorilla did, and he would run after it, and bring it back to us in his mouth.
He also enjoyed what we called "Surfing Buddy" when he would ride the carpet runner while we pulled it around the room. Hanging Twelve was a fun past time in our house.
Buddy's personality never wavered. Fun, friendly, eager to pleased. He slept with us the first night he joined our family, draped over my leg in order to prop himself up to breathe. After a few nights I moved him to lie draped over my left arm, and that's where he slept for 18 years.
We moved from Jacksonville in 1999 to Richmond, Kentucky where we lived in a too big house on 5 acres surrounded by woods...at the top of the steepest hill imaginable. We moved not only our 3 inside cats, but also the 6 outside cats that I could not bear to leave behind.
In 2003 I noticed Buddy was drinking more and more water, and looked much thinner. He had diabetes. Insulin shots were ordered once a day, and for a time it had a sad effect on him. He didn't come upstairs to bed, and would sleep on the couch. He seemed depressed. It eventually occurred to me that he didn't have the strength to climb the stairs, so every night I'd carry him up, and put him in bed, and his normal cheeriness soon returned.
Every day after work I'd take Buddy outside to walk with his leash. I still remembered his mad dashes through our Florida neighborhood, and wasn't taking any chances when I had acres of woods surrounding us. At first we walked a short distance on our driveway, but eventually he seemed stronger, and I would take him to where Ray had a huge stack of wood from the numerous trees he felled. Sawing down trees had become Ray's favorite past time, but that's another story.
Buddy would eagerly jump onto the lowest log, then scramble over the length of the log pile, that stretched at least twenty feet. The walking helped his pancreas kick in, and one day, I found him crying with fear. I'd given him his insulin, unaware his pancreas was working. I rushed him to emergency, naturally this happened at night, after hours, where they treated him.This happened two more times over the course of the next ten years. It always caught me off guard.
The love of Buddy's life arrived in 1994. Holly, a seal point Siamese with Liz Taylor blue eyes, was found by Ray at work. She'd apparently crawled into a car motor...and lost her tail. It was bad. The vet didn't have hope she would live. She was only 3 lbs but clearly an adult cat.
|1st photo of Holly|
These days, Buddy is arthritic and his mad dash days are pretty much done. When he stumbled on the pet stairs trying to get off the bed, Ray bought a dog ramp and taught him how to use it. He sleeps a lot, eats a lot, pees a lot. His special diabetes food does horrible things to his BMs, but he's a joy and we celebrate every day he's still with us.
Because he receives insulin twice a day, Buddy now travels everywhere with me, staying at hotels when we vacation, or in a chalet when we went to Gatlinburg. He has traveled to Michigan more than twenty times, and is so familiar with the routine, knowing there is a fourteen hour trip ahead of him, he makes sure he has a BM shortly after the wheels are moving...which causes us to shriek, stop, and deal with the poop bomb. His travel buddy now is Herman, and while they don't indulge in cuddle piles, Buddy seems to enjoy having a companion on those long trips in the van.
At night he no longer sleeps draped over my left arm. His arthritis is in his legs and spine, making it painful for him to turn, much less walk. He sleeps at my feet on a warming mat, with several night lights burning so he can find his way down the dog ramp when nature calls. He has cataracts, is hard of hearing, but his nose still works and he loves rib-eye steak, something he had for the first time on vacation in Gatlinburg.
|my favorite photo|