This morning, we had to say goodbye to my good friend of 11 years, Buzz Buzz (also sometimes known as “Buzz Buzz Buzz” or “Buzzy Buzz”, or simply “Buzz” if you prefer brevity). Buzz has been a fixture in my life since the day I stole him in 2006.
Yes, I’m not proud to admit it, but I stole a cat. But it was for a good reason.
Back in those days, my ex worked for the Humane Society. They didn’t yet have a real foster program, and when really great but unadoptable pets came in, there wasn’t really anywhere for them to go. Employees would take them home and rehab them to get them to a place where the shelter could adopt them out without liability. That’s how we got Buzz. He had a chronic sinus infection that simply would not go away. Due to that, the Humane Society was going to have to put him down. My ex stepped in and took him home, hoping to rehab him and get him to a state where he could find a good home.
Well, he did. It was my home. I fell in love with him and couldn’t let him go.
It’s called a “Failed Foster” — when a foster cat doesn’t make it back to the shelter, because the employee (or foster parent) decides to keep them. But before the official foster program was started, there was no way to legally hand these animals over to the foster parents. Everything was done with a wink and a whisper. It wasn’t shady or anything, it was just the way great animals who, through no fault of their own couldn’t be adopted, had a second chance.
During the day, he’d play the role of welcoming committee for any new animal that came in after him. He was everyone’s big brother. He showed the new fosters around the house and made sure they felt welcomed. He helped the more skittish of the bunch understand that the gigantic hairless ape with the tattoos and buckets of food (me) was only there to take care of them. At night, he’d take up residence on my chest and sleep and purr. I never had the heart to move him. He was just too damn adorable. When I’d roll over at night, he’d just take a few steps northward and find a spot on my head, sleeping there for the rest of the night, night after night, for 11 years.
Back when I was married to an employee of the Humane Society, and there was no OFFICIAL channel for great animals to find homes after going from “unadoptable but lovable” to simply “lovable,” he made dozens of foster animals feel welcome and helped them acclimate for the days, weeks, or sometimes months they were at our house. Eventually an official foster program took root there, and these days, there are hundreds of foster parents on the roll at the Humane Society. It’s awesome. But back then, Buzz was absconded with and taken into custody quite illegally. And I’m not sorry at all.
One day, I was at the shelter and saw Buzz’s record. Because he was never officially adopted or processed (again, because there was no LEGAL way to do it back then), I marked him ‘DECEASED’ so that there wouldn’t ever be a question as to where he was. I never wanted to give him up. I shouldn’t have done that. I don’t regret it though. I burgled Buzz and made him mine and now, this morning 11 years later, he’s passed on.
So really, all I did was prematurely update his record, knowing one day this would happen. Right? I mean, that’s a great justification. Don’t try to erase it with logic or “reality”. And if you do, don’t think less of me. Or, if you do THAT, try to make it a short experience.
After the divorce, Buzz moved into my friend Mike’s tiny one-bedroom apartment with me, Julius (my other orange cat), and Haggis (the 17 year old veteran dog we lost earlier this year). We all slept in the living room. Mike objected at first — there really wasn’t room for all of us. I did something bad; I showed up one day with the cats and said it was just a temporary thing, knowing fully it wouldn’t be. I knew once Mike saw Buzz and Julius, he wouldn’t be able to send them away. I am a bad person, I know. But it was for the right reasons. I have been thankful every single day since we moved out that I did that to Mike, and thankful even more that Mike took them in. He knew what I was doing, and let me do it anyway. That’s how it goes with people who have been friends for 20+ years. We don’t talk these days, and that’s also how things go after a divorce and massive life upheaval. I hear he has a kid and a wife now. I hope he’s doing well.
Buzz survived a period of my life that a marriage, many friendships, my house, my career, and most of my possessions did not. He is a survivor. But far more than that, he was a constantly positive force in my life. No matter what happened, or where we were living (even in my truck for a while), or what was going on, there he was, ready to sleep on my chest and get pets for hours at a streak. He ended up becoming very close with my girlfriend Meghan, and the two shared a bond that made me tear up more than once. He adopted her, much the way I had adopted him… Without any fanfare or paperwork. It just happened. And life for all of us was better for it.
A few months ago, Buzz developed a mass in his sinus cavity. It grew very rapidly. He had some surgery to remove it and it didn’t really work. A biopsy revealed a rapidly malignant carcinoma. We exhausted all of the options that weren’t cutting out the portion of his upper jaw bone where the mass had spread, subjecting him to a day of surgery, months of recovery and chemotherapy, and the rest of his life without an upper right jaw.
He didn’t really mind the mass. Every day, he’d find a way to chase sunbeams (even on the cloudiest of days) and attack dangly strings and tassles from sofa covers. He spent the last month of his life much like the first 131: sleeping on my chest and head, sneezing on me periodically.
I didn’t mind.
The last few weeks, his bad days began to outnumber the good. Even on the worst days, he still responded happily to pets, purring loudly and, due to the chronic sinus condition he’s had since birth, Buzzing (which is where he got the name). This weekend, he didn’t perk up the way he usually does when a reflection of a sunbeam danced across the floor, or when the tuna pouches were opened, or when his brothers approached and wanted to play. It hurt to admit, but his quality of life was no longer such that keeping him around became a purely selfish thing. That is cruel.
I will steal a cat. I will force that cat on a friend when I move in after an ugly divorce. But I refuse to be cruel.
I imagine Buzz in kitty heaven right now, eating bags of tuna and getting pets from Prince and David Bowie. And seeing it typed out, “Bags of tuna” just looks… Weird? I said that because tuna comes in envelopes now, I guess? And Buzz likes tuna, and my brain is like “what’s bigger than an envelope? Oh a bag!” and now I have a mental image of a grocery bag filled with tuna meat sitting next to David Bowie as Prince reaches down and grabs a hunk and feeds it to Buzz. Oh, and in kitty Heaven, David Bowie is free to embrace his “Fursona” and wear a cat suit and go by David Meowie. So now you have that in your head: David Bowie in a cat suit (furry, not ninja-type) holding Buzz while Prince feeds him tuna meat from a sack.
Also, all of that forces another weird thought through my head: we don’t really say “chicken meat” or “tuna meat” or “lamb meat” when we want to eat those things. We just order lamb, chicken or tuna. But we never order “cow” — maybe because dairy comes from cows too? And that could get confusing:
Me: “I’ll have the cow.”
Server: “Liquid or solid?”
Me: “Solid, please.”
Server: “Cow Cheese or Cow Meat?”
Me: “…Well, neither now. That sounds terrible. I’ve lost my appetite.”
Server: “Salad, then?”
Server: “Which kind?”
Me: “Cow, with sprinkled cow.”
Also, ordering a cheesesteak would be super weird. You’d have to order a Philly CowCow.
Anyway, rest in peace, Buzz. You were one of my best friends ever. Say hi to David Meowie for me.