Buffy came to me about 12 years ago, via the humane society. My friend Sabrina first spotted her while doing some volunteer work at the center; she saw there was something special about the grey-striped kitty with the chill disposition and told me that I really needed to go and just give her a look. I had recently lost a cat to old age and my heart was broken–I was pretty sure that I wasn’t ready for a new critter. My Sophie had been a gift from #1 many years ago, when we were still in South Carolina, and the spunky little cat was the only thing I still had from that previous life. Losing her after 18 years together felt like I’d lost a part of myself, but I finally gave in and decided to go and check out this ‘special’ girl.
I met up with Sabrina at the animal shelter and we walked over to the living room set-up that is the showroom for about 20 cats of varying shapes, colors and sizes. I noticed a smallish, silvery-striped tabby lying stretched out comfortably on her back….on top of another cat. I laughed and Sabrina said, “You see her, huh?”
“That’s the one?”
“Yep…she’s something, isn’t she?”
I wasn’t gonna be had that easily though, and insisted that we do a walk-through to check out all the other available cats. Sabrina went along with it, but she obviously thought it wasn’t necessary. We started down the looping hallway lined with glass-fronted cages, stopping at each to read the placard put there to explain the idiosyncrasies of its resident (Pookie doesn’t like to be held, or Mittens is a quiet girl…etc.). Most of the cats were sleeping or playing, oblivious to our presence, and as we got farther along I could feel myself being pulled more and more strongly back to the fake living room where the uniquely relaxed tiger kitty was. Then it hit me…what if someone else saw her while I was dilly-dallying, pretending that there was any other cat there that I’d even consider? My saunter turned into a faster paced hustle, and Sabrina smiled as we rushed back to the cat she knew should be my new friend.
We asked to see the lounger and were led to a small side room to meet her. We sat and waited on a bench, and shortly the attendant came in with a box. She opened the lid and a sweet, curious cat face popped up. It was then that I noticed a pink, heart-shaped nose outlined in black, and two smiling green eyes with a crazy amount of personality. Within a few seconds I had two sets of claws lightly scraping my leg. “Say hello to Buffy,” the volunteer laughed, “I’ll leave you folks to visit for a bit.”
I swear it was as if that cat was auditioning for me…after she finished the ‘clawing disguised as a stretch’ against my legs she purred, stretched some more, rubbed her face on my hand and did all the adorable things cats are supposed to do, finishing up with her butt up in the air as an invitation to scratch her back quarters. I was totally smitten. Sabrina and I did note that she wasn’t afraid to use those claws, but she wasn’t rough or wild about it, and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. I was sold.
In the years since then, the Buffster and I went through a lot together. I learned to handle her occasional sofa clawing, and she loved me with an aloof but wide-open heart that made my world a much better place. She charmed everyone she ever met and was loved so much by her Aunt Linda (a fellow cat lady friend who house-sat for me and always treated Buffy like a princess). They played for hours with a special ‘cat fishing’ toy that I keep behind a glass door in my entertainment center, and Buffy would run to that cabinet whenever Linda came through the door. She knew a sucker when she saw one!
We also made it through a few human boyfriend types–Buffy tried to warn me about one of them, but I was oblivious (Note to self: When the cats don’t like ’em, back away). She was notorious for using her ‘butt in the air’ trick when she liked someone, begging them to scratch at the base of her spine, and my latest boyfriend was graced by this gesture more times than we bothered to count. (He obviously wasn’t the one she tried to warn me about!)
Along the way Buffy and I lost a cat friend–Zoe, the beautiful but dumb one that I called my “Anna Nicole Cat”. After that we endured the somewhat chaotic entry of Pickle into our lives. We barely saw him for the first month he lived here…he hid in the basement, petrified of both of us…but he finally cozied up to her, and the two eventually became buddies. After about a year they were inseparable; her favorite thing was to cuddle with him and let him groom her…and then turn around and box his ears. She was the boss, and he adored her.
After Pickle gave in to Buffy’s charms, he even started sleeping with us. He liked to snuggle up with his head on my pillow, and his sister would circle up into a ball right behind my knee. I was trapped, but happy with the arrangement, and I slept soundly.
Pickle and I are both sad right now. Our Buffy left us almost a month ago, and neither of us has yet figured out how things are supposed to work without her. He cries and looks for her, and usually tries to sleep on top of me these days. I toss and turn and wake up just enough to pat him and tell him it’s going to be okay. Eventually, it will be.
The afternoon after Buffy’s last trip to the vet was quiet and empty in our house. I sat on the couch, neither noticing nor caring about the few shredded areas of sofa material, scars from my girl’s errant claws. I turned on the TV but wasn’t watching it…I just felt alone. I shifted my gaze to see what Pickle was up to and, when I turned back, the previously closed glass door to my entertainment center was suddenly wide open. The same door that houses the favorite cat fishing stick and feathers, the toy that had been idle and untouched for some two months. That cupboard hadn’t even been open in a long while, but it suddenly just…was.
I smiled and picked up Pickle, holding him to me whether he wanted to be cuddled or not. He snuggled back against me briefly before he squirmed his way out of my arms, jumped to the floor and ran.
It really is going to be okay.