Farewell to a furry friend

RIP, Buddy: Columnist and his fam­ily say good­bye to a beloved pet

Northumberland Today - - SCENE AND HEARD - 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 but­ton­sized 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, nineinch 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 inky­dinky 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, “Tick­tock, 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

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