It is a complex emotional ride when you lose a beloved family member. I
count my pets as family, not as just little four-legged, cuddly
companions. So when Buster passed away I was pretty broken-up. I had no desire for another little four-legged kid. But
families, being what they are, have a tendency of expanding--even if you
have to be pushed into it. And boy, I really had to be compelled to adopt the new member of my family.
Buster was my buddy, my little shadow, a living, purring, floppy blanket. Everyone commented that he was more like a dog than a cat--and I agree to a point. He was a "people person," a happy little guy that was loved by all. He never once bit or scratched anyone.
He was a stray when found by our room-mate, only about the size of my palm. As my wife (at the time) and I already had a cat (Lily), we couldn't really justify having another. So we fed him outside the front door.
One day my room-mate walks in and says, "I've fed Buster, so don't worry about it."
I look at him and say, "Who's Buster?"
I was aghast. "You named him?!?"
"Well, yeah. He looks like a Buster." He looked totally confused.
I chuckled and said, "Well, shit. You know when you name them, you've gotta keep them."
Next thing you know I'm getting Buster fixed and laser-declawed (much more humane than pulling out the knuckle--I would never condone that). And (aside from an adventure where he was stolen) he was with me for 16 years.
Buster's death came on quite suddenly. One day he was fine; the next day he began acting lethargic. I checked his litter box (everything appeared fine) and began closely monitoring his eating and drinking habits. Everything seemed okay, so I initially tossed it off as typical floppy cat behavior. He was over 20 pounds (not fat--just a BIG cat) and sixteen-years-old.
But the next day he began moving oddly. He was sort of clumsy and sluggish. Time to go to the vet.
I took him in that day and they decided to keep him overnight and take X-rays.* The next day the vet showed me the results and explained the issue. Buster had developed a giant tumor that ran along the right side of his abdomen. It was huge. The vet explained that it was nothing I would ever have been aware of and how cats hide their illnesses until it is generally too late to do anything to help.
Two days later he died. He was in no pain, just disoriented and lethargic. I sat with him in the final minutes, gently petting him until he stopped breathing. It took me a while to muster up the courage to go into the back yard with a shovel and find an appropriate spot to bury him.
Did I cry? Hell yeah, I cried. This was my child of 16 years. And sorry guys--real men are capable of shedding tears. Take away my man card, if you wish--I'll beat you senseless and get it back.
Given Buster's weight, it wasn't a small hole. And Stephen King's Pet Semetary kept going through my mind. If you've not read it... well, the cat comes back a bit different--and not in a good way.
Once I was done I gently wrapped him in towels and placed him in a plastic bag to keep the critters away (we have vultures, hawks, and eagles in the area, as well as raccoon and possum). I lowered him into the hole and slowly filled it, padded it down, and laid his favorite toy atop the grave. It was then and there that I decided: No more pets for me. I'm done. I don't want to deal with this again. Life is hard enough without having a family member that lives only a fraction of the amount of time as a human.
And after a few weeks the pain faded into a dull ache. Months later the ache still remains, but has become a wealth of fond memories as well. But I was dead-set on never getting another little buddy.
And then along came a multiple pet shelter adoption drive held at a local convention center. And that's where I met Princess...
To be continued in Part 2.
*As a side-note: I can't leave unsaid the excessive cost of going to the veterinarian. It is highway robbery--at least in this state. The X-rays alone were over $400. In order to possibly have saved Buster's life (and "possibly" cannot be overstated), it would have run $2500 minimum. I simply could not afford that. And given the amount of time between the X-rays and Buster's passing, I had no chance for a second opinion.