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Puppy

Pixel portrait of an orange tabby cat
Buddha
1997–2011 Pixel portrait by rstevens

“If my cat doesn’t like you, I probably won’t be keeping you around.”

I can’t remember the first time I met Buddha, but I can remember when I felt like he accepted me. I was visiting Angie in College Station, and had just lay down to sleep. He crawled up on my chest, started purring, and put his head under my chin. I still remember how his cold little nose felt on my neck. After awhile, Buddha’s breathing slowed and his body relaxed. The purring eventually stopped, and I realized he had fallen asleep. Happy kitty.

The first time I made a real connection with Buddha, we were traveling in the car. I was riding with Angie to her parents’ house in Clute, and Buddha was along for the ride. We put him in the carrier and hit the road. He expressed his displeasure, meowing and howling, and my heart went out to him. Soon his displeasure turned to real discomfort, and he showed it by soiling the towel in his carrier. We stopped and cleaned him up, and I didn’t have the heart to put him back in the cage. He didn’t stay on my lap, but soon was curled up by my feet on the floorboard. Happy kitty.

Buddha peed on a lot of things, especially shoes and bags. He barfed everywhere; he had a sensitive stomach. But he never peed on any of my shoes, and not all of the men in Angie’s life can say that. I guess he did like me.

Buddha liked to escape. It’s not that he didn’t like it inside, he just liked to explore. At least, he thought he liked to explore. While he was adventurous at heart, Buddha was also a scaredy cat. As soon as he hit the yard, his eyes would go wide and he’d slink around on his belly. We’d chase him down, wipe off his muddy feet, and scold him. With hugs. We could feel his heart pounding with adrenaline. It was a ritual. We learned to watch the door when we opened and closed it, to make sure he didn’t sneak by.

Buddha was also a ninja. Many times he’d sneak out the door without anyone noticing as we carried in groceries or took out the garbage. We often wouldn’t notice he was gone until either we spotted him standing on the back porch looking in the window or couldn’t find him at bedtime. That’s when we’d always miss him, since as soon as Angie climbed in bed, he’d normally be there to sprawl across her book, knead the pillow with his paws, or curl up on her chest. Before we’d search outside, of course, we’d have to search all the hiding places inside, shaking the can of treats near every possible nook and cranny. Buddha would eventually come out of his hole, stretching and yawning like nothing was amiss. Happy ninja cat.

Buddha was always the cat most loved by the children. He was the most gentle-natured of our three, and he put up with all the poking and prodding and dressing-up without complaint. They loved it when we left Buddha in charge when leaving town for the weekend. After he’d warmed to them—it took years—he would frequently share their beds. Buddha loved to jump onto Simon’s bunk and curl up at his feet. Our happy puppy.

Toward the end of his time with us, Buddha was no longer as spry as he used to be. He wasn’t as quick to run out the door or jump up on the bed. He didn’t curl up in anyone’s lap. As all God’s creatures must, Buddha got tired. He no longer seemed happy.

On one of his last days, we let Buddha out onto the back porch. He didn’t go far. He just flopped onto his side, and rolled around on his back, enjoying the cool concrete.

Happy kitty.

Photo of an orange tabby cat wearing a towel around his neck like a cape
Buddha dressed for the cat parade