Opinion Column

RIP, Buddy: Farewell to a furry friend

Victor Schukov

Victor Schukov

One afternoon, many years ago, my 13-year-old daughter blew through the front door and zoomed up the stairs with a ferocity that unsettled every hanging picture in her wake.

"Daddy! Daddy! Guess what I got?" she yelled.

Breathless, she presented me with a closed shoe box. Having just awoken from a deep nap, I replied, "Shoes?"

Then from out of the box drifted a peepy meow, the kind a cat would make if it were shrunk to one-thousandth of its size. My daughter swung open the lid with a resounding "Ta-da!" to reveal a darling beige kitten with button-sized eyes.

"It's a boy cat," she proclaimed.

My lips made the motion of wanting to say something meaningful, but all that dropped out was a groan.

I reached into the box and picked up the fur-festooned ball bearing and tickled his underbelly. Four sets of fully grown claws, nine-inch nails, rendezvoused on the soft side of the finger I use to hail taxis. I swallowed a bowling ball and gingerly lowered "Slash" down to Earth. With legs too short for his torso, he bounced like a Superball into the next room.

"What are you going to call him?" I asked, painfully observing the lines of Nazca etched across my digit.

"Mom wants to call him Pee and Vinegar cuz he's very playful."

Then, ignoring the eight pints of blood I had by now left on the carpet, she grabbed the new kit on the block and rushed off into the basement to join my wife in setting up "Slice and Dice" with his food bowl, commode, fluffy bed and cable TV.

A half-hour later, my daughter returned and announced, "Mom has a name for him. She put him in his litter box and he went right away, so she's calling him Einstein."

Despite my immediate need for a transfusion, I bandaged what was left of my finger and went downstairs to visit Cat the Ripper. He was nowhere to be found, probably hiding behind a piece of lint.

Naturally, my family spent the rest of the day playing with the inky-dinky mouser, which was mostly about watching him shoot from one end of the room to another at a speed that resembled more that of inter-dimensional travel.

That night, the little one pined for his native fiords, so to speak. My wife suggested that we place a (surrogate mother) clock in the kitten's bed. I tried a wristwatch but it kept slipping off of the cat's wrist. An egg timer proved too silent, a cooking timer too jarring, a time bomb too intimidating. We finally settled on taking night shifts, sitting by the cat and going, "Tick-tock, tick-tock"¦"

Anyway, my wife finally named him Buddy because of his friendliness. And for the next 17 years, Buddy was a beloved member of our family. Wherever the family congregated, Buddy would stroll in and lie down amongst us, "speaking" at length when spoken to, hopping up on to a lap when invited and - always one who worked for his keep - gently purring and kneading a family member's tummy until both cat and human were asleep.

Our little Buddy recently passed away. We cried for days.

So as another year slowly rolls through its last quarter, I really miss my dear, old friend.

Sleep tight, Buddy.

Victor Schukov's regular column usually appears Thursday