BUGGY AND ME: A LOVE STORY
Veterans Day 2011: how could a day that started so right-end up so heart-breaking wrong?
The day started as usual about 5:15 a.m., feline fur child Sabrina steadily makes her way up my body as I lay in bed. She stops to knead me and to stretch out her paw to greet her brother Buggy who sleeps on the top half of my pillow. She nestles down content on my chest while Buggy stretches out his paw to touch her. I let them purr content in each other's company until I roll over to turn off the alarm. Now up, I check my computer and find some great news... I have sold a doll quilt to a woman in France! I am now an international textile seller. I hurry to get ready for work, and like every morning, I feed and water "the pride" and scoop out the litter boxes before giving everyone in sight a pat before I run out the door to catch my bus.
The work day goes well. I get a call out of the blue. It's about a reading assignment which will translate into extra cash for me. What better timing than just before the holidays? After working my day job, I stay a couple of hours later to work on restoration projects. Life is great!
When I get home, Tom informs me Buggy has been acting strange, and I should watch him. I pick him up and take him upstairs and we lay together on our pillow. An hour later Tom is shouting at me, for I had fallen asleep. "Lois come down, I think we're losing Buggy." As I scramble to my feet, Tom informs me how Buggy stumbled and fell, his high pitch shrieks of pain, his milky eyes, his labored breathing. Tom rushes out to get the car while I scoop Buggy up in my arms and we drive to the Northeast Indiana Veterinary Emergency Hospital. Moments later we are inside where a vet tech appears, quickly appraises the situation and scoops Buggy out of my arms and disappears.
The next hour is a nightmare. His core body temperature is registering in the low nineties when it should be over 100. How can it be that he was acting so normally that morning could be so sick now? Carol Scott-Myers, DVM gently informs us that cats are very good at hiding their pain and distress from those they love. She has seen this too many times. Blood work is ordered. Waiting for the results I return to the waiting room and try to distract myself with a magazine. I'm informed Buggy is on oxygen.
I call son Robert busy at work at McDonald's. I leave a message for him to prepare for the worse. In July after a long battle with kidney failure, his feline fur child Vanilla was put to sleep, he was with him to the end. Nothing like this...so sudden... no warning...
Tom calls me back into the exam room. The blood test results are in. The good news is they are pretty normal for a 15 year-old-cat. The bad news since nothing showed up on the blood work whatever is wrong would be something grave and most likely beyond hope. Palpitation uncovered no masses; it could be brain cancer or something worse, that only scans, X-rays, and a neurologist could determine. I stop Dr. Scott-Myers and ask, "What you are saying is whatever is wrong his quality of life will never be the same and right now, he can't survive without being on oxygen?" She affirms the graveness of his situation and I tell her in Buggy's best interest, the compassionate thing would be to euthanize him and she agrees.
Authorization forms are signed and a few minutes later they bring Buggy out so we can say good-bye. Stretched out on a blanket I gently stroke the top of his head and quietly tell him how much I love him and how I want him to be at peace. Suddenly he starts choking and gasping for air. Without the oxygen, he can't breathe but for a minute on his own. I would not be present for the actual euthanization. I didn't want him picking up on my distress making his last minutes on earth worse. I leave the room and leave another message for Robert. A few moments later Tom comes out and tells me he went very quickly. We go back in and I see my beloved Buggy at peace.
The next day, it all seems so surreal: it all happened too quickly. Sabina looks lost. Later I find her sitting on the top half of my pillow where Buggy used to sleep. It breaks my heart. Buggy is the one and only pet I have ever chosen. I picked him out of the dozens of cats at the Allen County SPCA. Once we found out he had a sister there, we sprang Sabrina too. Buggy was always at the door waiting to jump into my arms. He would wrap his arms around my neck in a grip to let me know he was not going to be put down anytime soon. Buggy was my quilting buddy who when he wasn't busy watching the thread would take a snooze on the quilt in the frame, his body making the quilt sag as he slept content in his self-made hammock under the glow of the lamp.
I am reminded of the movie "My Dog Skip" based on Willie Morris' autobiography. In the end Skip dies and is buried under the elm tree, but the narrator's closing line is "That wasn't totally true for he really laid buried in my heart."
Buggy, you wormed your way into my heart many years ago, and there you will remain.
Lois Eubank is the creator of the One Step Ahead of the Dog Project to benefit the ACSPCA. Quilts benefiting the project may be purchased December 10, 11-6 p.m., 124 W. Wayne St-Upstairs. Hop the Holly Trolley!