He first appeared on our patio several years ago, a large gray and white cat, bedraggled and hungry, sitting on a chair, waiting for a handout. Against friendly advice, we raided our cat’s Meow Mix and poured him a generous portion. From then on, he became ours; and as my husband Joe said every morning. “There’s my buddy!” — and Buddy he was for the next four years.
From our neighbors, we learned that Buddy belonged to a family on our street who moved away and abandoned him. Joe wrote them, inquiring about the cat’s history, but we never received a reply.
The first few weeks were difficult. He was definitely an outdoor cat, and we could not invite him inside for fear that he might harm our little, shy female, Daisy, who had been declawed by her original owners. Buddy was adjusting to his new environment, but trusted no one. He bit Joe one day, and hissed at anyone who approached him. We were able to get him to our vet one time, who pronounced him healthy and about 7-8 years old.
Winter came with a vengeance with several big storms. Joe fixed up a bed in the large carrier with several blankets/quilts; a large tarp to cover that portion exposed to the weather; and overturned patio table as a windbreak. I still remember Joe crawling underneath the tarp on frigid mornings, feeding Buddy, brushing him, and giving him his favorite cat treats. We were concerned about Buddy being warm enough, and after boning up on heating pad technology (almost impossible to find one without an automatic cutoff), we found one only online. This is the only $35 heating pad we ever had! Fortunately, it worked! Buddy was warm for the next four winters, and we slept more soundly as well. After we enclosed the patio, he had a much improved dwelling. In a few months, he responded to our ways and became affectionate — always purring and happy to see us. He especially enjoyed being brushed and petted. He would occasionally wander off, but return to eat and sleep. Although he became part of our family, he was definitely Joe’s Buddy. We often remarked that he seemed to have a quizzical expression on his face, as if he was wondering why we were talking to him and lavishing so much attention on him. Maybe he had low expectations as far as humans were concerned.
During his fourth summer with us, Buddy disappeared. There had been a violent storm one June night, and many branches fell into our yard. Maybe he just became overly afraid. We searched the neighborhood physically and on-line, constantly concerned for his welfare, and enlisting the help of our neighbors — to no avail.
On the 22nd day, he wandered back into the yard, and we were thrilled. The prodigal cat had returned, but it was not the same Buddy. He was much thinner, poorly groomed, walking very deliberately, occasionally stumbling. For two days he slept often and ate voraciously, but there were ominous signs. After he stumbled off a step and fell over, Joe was convinced that he had a neurological disorder, or vision problems. Picking him up and putting him in his carrier, we proceeded to a vet. There, she confirmed our worst thoughts — Buddy had no visual capability, possibly from a stroke. We then had to make a gut-wrenching decision, but there was only one option — we had to let him go. Good-byes are never easy, and we drove home that night shedding a few tears. We told each other that Buddy would never be in pain again.
And so in the end, we could not save Buddy. Back when I was a child and we had lost a beloved pet, my mother told me that God had a special place in heaven for our pets, where they would always be happy. Fanciful thinking, of course. But in case she was on to something, I’d like to think of Buddy up there (with 20/20 vision) chasing mice and fireflies. And having a great old time.