I don’t think I could have picked Buddah’s voice out of an audio lineup the first few years of his life. Eerily quiet, he didn’t say anything unless he felt some sort of annoyance or indignity, which was a bit of a relief given how vocal Max has always been. In the last few years, though, he began speaking more—complaining usually—and I settled in with the idea that I could tell which cat was bitching from across the house, and react accordingly, to whatever degree of distress it seemed they were feeling.
The two cats just didn’t get along. I honestly think that if Max had not gotten so sick when we brought Buddah home that it would have been different, but those were the cards we were dealt. Max was constantly annoyed, and Buddah was forever the mischievous little boy, looking to make trouble when he could. I thought it would never end, Buddah always picking on Max, who was basically defenseless as he got older, and we began relying on Feliway diffusers to curb the worst of it.
But somewhere along the way in the last year, they seemed to make their peace with each other. Buddah still picked on Max, but not nearly to the degree he did. Max stopped running at the sight of Buddah. He was careful, always, but not scared.
On September 24th, Buddah began vomiting. He’s always had a touchy tummy so I didn’t think anything of it, but it continued through that weekend, along with the realization that he hadn’t pooped. That was notable, given that for the last couple of years he’s used a puppy pad near the litter box, but not the litter box itself. That habit made it easy to see who was doing what, so once we got over the irritation, we relied on it. But still…he was throwing up—by Saturday it was just yellowish foam—and he wasn’t eating, and wasn’t pooping.
That Monday the vet was called and despite not having open appointments for a couple weeks out, they got Buddah in. Based on the symptoms, they did x-rays and an abdominal ultrasound, which showed a thickening in his small bowel, causing a partial obstruction. The next step was an ultrasound-guided needle biopsy, but after three tries the doc couldn’t get a good enough sample, and he wasn’t putting Buddah through a 4th attempt.
It was pretty clear that he had more going on than his small bowel being thick; I knew going in he had symptoms of lymphoma, and the vet agreed. It was likely that or a tumor, and we were not keen on putting a 15 year old cat through invasive exploratory surgery when the end result would be the same. We opted to treat him for lymphoma since that was the most likely culprit, and brought him home.
We had high hopes of getting a few comfortable weeks for him. But he just couldn’t bounce back. He had zero appetite, though some nausea meds helped, as did an appetite stimulant. Still, the best he could do was nibble, and his best day I think he took in 2 ounces of food in a 24 hour period. He began stumbling a bit, and I could see his entire upper body pulse with each heartbeat…and then he began nibbling a bit more which abated those symptoms, and my hopes went high.
It was a roller coaster of “yay, he’s eating” and “he pooped!” with “he stopped eating” and “he hasn’t pooped again.” Two days ago he ate about an ounce and a half, and then just stopped doing more than nibbling.
Last week I felt bad when I had to take UP away from him; his favorite place in the house was on top of the TARDIS, accessed by 8 foot tall bookcases. I felt guilty as hell about it, but he’d gotten up there and realized he was too weak to get back down, so stood at the top crying for help, and I didn’t see any other choice, not until he was better.
The guilt was compounded by the thought that Max’s interview
with Buddah had just been released, and in it Max promised we would always keep
UP for him because he needed it so badly. But…it was no longer safe. He needed UP like breath, but all I could see was him falling 8 feet to the floor.
Today he lounged on top of a recliner, struggling to get comfortable. And then suddenly, he was on the floor, a little stunned. We were terrified, but after a moment he got up and wandered away, dignity intact. But I told the Spouse Thingy then, it was time to take the cat trees away. If he got to the top of one of those and fell…?
I knew then what was going to happen, but it took me a few hours and an agonizing trip to Costco to refill his medications before I could say the words. He’d hidden under the bed while we were gone, and when we got home we tried to tempt him with food he really likes; he sniffed it like he really wanted it but couldn’t make himself take a bite, and then went into the living room to sit on the Spouse Thingy’s lap.
It was 4:30 by then, but through some tears I managed to say what we were both avoiding. We have to let him go.
I knew there was a line that I'd been looking for, one that divided what was good for him and what was good for us, and we were pressing up against what was good for us. Could we have gotten a little closer? Maybe. But it risked him being more than uncomfortable and unsteady; it risked deep pain.
I firmly believe in Better a week too soon than a day too late, but I think we made the decision at the right time, and at roughly 5:40 today, Buddah exhaled his last breath and headed for the Bridge.
I keep thinking that this was never supposed to happen, that Buddah was the baby and was supposed to be here long after Max. It happened so fast, so unexpectedly, and feels more than unfair. I feel like he was owed more years than he got, even though he made it to 15. But he had a great life, I know he did.
We spoil our pets, there’s no question.
But I feel like he was owed more.
Max is in the front room, in my line of sight, curled up by the front door on his special perch, one Buddah left alone. I don’t know if or when he’ll notice that Buddah isn’t here, and if he does I don’t know how it will affect him. He has his own issues that have consumed our lives since July…and that might be why I feel Buddah was owed more. He didn’t lack for time and attention or affection, but we have been distracted and catering to Max.
And there’s the sad reality; Max is 19 and very frail. Today is not one of his good days, though yesterday was decent. Tomorrow might be all right. We just never know.
This year just blows.
And I already miss that furry little pest.