I was with a girl, this was maybe 2007. We went to the county shelter in Burbank to get a cat. A young male because my last cat was cool. The cat room there is a long row of tanks with plexiglass in front, air holes. 30 cats but no young guys until the very last cat in the very last row. Black and fluffy with a white star on his chest. Who’s this handsome fellow. He’s one of the bucket cats, the woman said. Two kittens found in a sealed paint bucket. The sister adopted already. This guy was aging out of “cute kitten,” maybe headed for the firing squad.
I put my finger on the glass and said: hey, bud. He put his paw on my finger. On the way out the clerk with the paperwork said do you know his name, and I said: Bud.
I got a call at work. Someone at the neighbor’s left the gate open; the pit bull got out. Neighbor took him to the vet. They thought he might make it. He didn’t.
Nine years it was you and me. Now you’re gone and without you I’m gone too. I can’t move your food bowl. I hear you outside wanting to come in, get brushed, sit next to me on the piano bench while I look at stupid shit on the internet, you groom yourself. That was what we did most nights. You just sitting with me. Just being with each other.
We’d go out in the park in the morning. I’d sit and write and you’d rub against my legs and stalk things in the grass. Puff up when a dog was coming but stand your ground. You knew I’d protect you. I’d walk back toward home and you’d wait for me to get twenty feet and then run after me, try to catch my legs.
My cars came and went; you knew them all by sound. Come running up the street when I’d come home from work. Run along the high cinder block fence at eye level with me. I’d go in the door and you’d run up the stairs outside. I’d go to the base of the stairs and you’d run down them and run into the door. You loved that game.
Cars broke, girls left me. Hard jobs, hard days, and I’d put my face in your fur and you’d purr and it would be OK.
When I first got you home I let you out of the box in a dark quiet room. So you wouldn’t be scared. First day or so I’d just sit there and talk to you. When you trusted me enough I put out my hand. I don’t think you’d been petted before. You walked around me in a circle with your tail up, beside yourself with pleasure. Six weeks ago I started brushing you at night to entice you in earlier. You’d act just the same.
When you were little and I fed you, petted you, I’d make that ch-ch-ch sound so you’d know it meant good things, and I called you in with that every night. I want to make that sound now. Have you come in. Where are you, I can’t sleep if you’re out. Coyote might get you. I’ll go out in the dark and walk around. Call for as long as it takes for you to come. You’d come running up, follow me inside. Get in bed, knead the blanket with your claws and lay with me in the cold. Bud you can’t be gone. I come home and it’s not home now. Just stuff. Coming up the driveway without you running in the corner of my eye, scared of running you over. You weaving yourself into my legs while I was on the toilet. You crunching Meow Mix next to me while I was in the bath. Rustling the blinds perched in the bedroom window sill, always next to me. You stayed with me.
I moved your food bowl and I want to collapse. Leaving the door open waiting for you to come bounding in. You can’t be gone. Don’t be gone. They let me say goodbye but you’d already left. Brain swollen up from being shaken, on a respirator with a clip holding out your tongue. They let me touch you but you weren’t there. They’ll give me your ashes in a clay pot. It will have a nice paw print, the vet said. An expert at watching people cry. But I don’t think she’d seen anything like it.
God, I wish it was me. But then how would your life be after. I was the only one you trusted. It was a joke with the girls: the cat hates you. The man across the street came with a card. He said Bud was in my yard for years but never let me pet him. When you got fleas I gave you a bath myself because you’d have hated the groomer. I didn’t want you to be scared.
I’m sorry you were hurt and scared when you died, Bud.
I moved your food bowl and I want to put it back. Closed the door and now you can’t come in. I’m not ready for you to go. I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you. I love you forever and I can’t let you go, I can’t.
You were a sweetheart. You were a tough bastard. You were a lap dog. You were a wild murderous savage; you’d uproot the gophers with their earth mover claws, laugh off the mockingbirds dive bombing you. You gave the dogs hell until they moved in with that killing machine. I think about killing him but he’s just an animal too.
You had a good life and a good home. You loved me and I loved you. I’ll let your ashes go in the park. When night comes and the wind blows in over the grass you’ll come home.
You can look into adopting a cat here.
You can support the Burbank Animal Shelter here.