Alas, Buddha has left us


The most difficult aspect of having pets is not the time commitment, cost or mess. It’s the moment at the end, when you have to say goodbye.

Earlier today, M and I bid farewell to our eldest cat, Buddha. She died at 17 after suffering from kidney disease, an illness common to older cats. It was also what killed her sister, Brat Child, and her first adopted mother, my best friend Amy.

Born in Key West, Buddha was a descendant of one of Ernest Hemingway’s cats. Like others in her feline family, she was a polydactyl (six-toed).

Amy received Buddha as a present and originally named her Lily. A year later, when Ames unexpectedly died, I agreed to care for Buddha and Brat Child for the rest of their lives. Doing so gave me the loyal companionship of two wonderful animals; it also allowed me to maintain the belief that a small piece of Ames was still here.

Buddha in a box

Buddha loved to eat and loathed to exercise, two traits she and I had in common. When hungry, she would became rather vocal, loudly urging me to hurry up and serve her the “good food.” She also had the remarkable ability to tell the difference between cans of tuna and cans of anything else. It wouldn’t matter if she was fast asleep or on the second floor, once I started to open a can of tuna, she’d race to the kitchen and await her share. Over the years, she grew to be rather large and round-bellied, and at her grandest, weighed nearly 20 pounds. Her appearance, combined with her kind and loving demeanor, inspired the new moniker.

Buddha enjoyed playing on staircases — both straight and spiral — and lying in patches of warm sunlight, usually while perched atop a kitty condo or couch. When it came to affection, she reveled in having her belly gently rubbed and her bum firmly patted (“Beat me,” she’d demand, to the amazement of our friends, “and pull my tail. I like that.”) Due to this, several friends surmised that she was either a masochist, or had been a dog or a bear in a previous life.

Buddha - stairs

But Buddha was a cat in this one, and like other felines, she had a love/hate relationship with water. She absolutely loathed baths, which I was forced to give her when she became too large to properly clean herself. Yet she savored the act of drinking fresh water, preferably when it was hand-poured in a slow, drinkable stream. I purchased two stainless steel water fountains to provide the same service, but she would only drink out of them as a last resort. In truth, she wanted to be served. The rare exception occurred in December when she took great delight in drinking the water out of the Christmas tree stand (even though doing so was strictly forbidden).

When Brat Child died last year, Buddha took on the “matriarch” role in our home. As such, she had first dibs on laps during weekend cuddle sessions. She also sought my attention in the office, forcing me to stop working several times a night to pay her obeisance.

Buddha cuddles

Despite her charm and sweetness, Buddha was not the cleanest of cats. As she grew older, she missed the litter box more than she hit it, which caused us to invest in just about every rug-cleaning product on the market. And when we were out of town, she made sure her displeasure was known, usually in smelly deposits left around the house. Thankfully, we employed very understanding pet sitters, who took great pains to clean up the mess and give her the attention she felt was her due.

Her long blond, white, brown and grey coat often knotted, and had to be frequently brushed; however, when properly groomed, Buddha looked positively regal. She had stunning blue eyes that twinkled with mischief and curiosity. Their hue dulled as she aged but the light behind them only faded at the very end.

She will be missed.

Buddha gone

We’re all victims of our own hubris at times.

skull and crossbones stamp

It’s with some sadness that I report my own demise. Cause of death was poisoning due to an inability to think fast.

If you’re interested, my last words were: “I just needed 10 more minutes, damn it!” These were exclaimed rather than uttered once the location of the much-needed antidote was revealed.

Ironically, I died while celebrating a friend’s birthday. In honor of attaining the grand old age of 40-(mumble), Mark decided he wanted to fete the occasion with a death-defying visit to an Adventure Room. Foolishly, M and I agreed to join him.

This proved to be a fatal decision for all of us.

On Saturday night, we drove to an office building in Connecticut. Our appointment was for 10:30 p.m. and the parking lot was both dark and sufficiently creepy. We rode the slow OTIS elevator to the correct floor, not knowing that we were heading toward our doom.

After signing in, the three of us were escorted to a room and told of our fate. The three of us had just been poisoned and while the antidote was hidden nearby, we had only one hour to locate it. The door shut with a solid and ominous thud and immediately we began searching for clues.

Prior to our arrival, I discovered that only 30 percent of participants actually survive the Remedy Room. But I was cocky and unconcerned; surely we could solve all of the room’s mysterious obstacles before time ran out.

Alas, we were 10 minutes too late. But dying turned out to be pretty fun. In fact, I may have to try it again… someday.

Bruised but not broken


Cuts bleed and sometimes require formal medical attention. Scrapes are inconsiderate, making the patch-up process unnecessarily difficult. Sprains and broken bones simply cause suffering. But bruises, these are the wounds that tell stories.

Bruises are chameleons. They begin as pink or red, don a bluish tinge, shift into purple then transform into various shades of yellow and green before finally fading away.

Bruises generally only hurt when pressed, but they remain a visible memory of pain. If you experience something traumatic, say a beating or a car accident, a bruise will show the world how you’ve suffered. Consider it the ultimate witness; a bruise cannot lie and may even help you obtain justice.

Best of all, bruises make great writing prompts. Where did you get that bruise? Oh, that came from smashing my knee into the coffee table while hurrying to answer the door for the UPS guy. What? I didn’t want him leaving my new computer in the rain.

This one? This bruise I picked up when the power went out, and the cat stepped right beneath my feet as I was walking down the stairs. Instead of stepping on her, I let gravity guide me. Right into the banister.

The bruise on my shoulder? That appeared while rappelling down a well to save a little boy. The rope swayed with our combined weight and I hit the wall with my side. Kid’s fine though.

To be honest, I have no idea where this bruise came from. It’s possible I’ve started sleepwalking again, and dreamed I was a vigilante or superhero. I imagine the fighting was pretty intense. You should see the other guy.

(Note: A writing prompt on The 10th Muse inspired this post.)

–Photo by Mensatic

5 true confessions of a jaded mind

chocolate ice cream

* August has long been my least favorite month of the year. Perhaps because it’s so freakin’ hot and muggy.

* The happiest moment of August is when the fall catalogs start to arrive, particularly the ones that feature Halloween items. That’s when I know the relief of Autumn is on the way.

* If I spy a small animal — say a cat or a chipmunk — hanging around the house, I will leave scraps of food for it.

* I am delighted by good manners, common courtesy and kindness.

* I never tire of chocolate.