This is not a post I ever wanted to write.
Our beloved Buddy Katzmann Schmidt left us this morning. He was doing what he loved, frolicking around the house and enticing Winston to forbidden chases, when he lept from the stairs, suddenly collapsed, and went limp. He was gone before we could get him into the car.
Buddy was more dog than cat, more human than dog, maybe something else entirely. I've always thought that either of the first two comparisons might be somehow insulting to him. Still, it's hard not to make them. He trotted up to us when we called him. He'd sit in front of me and meow when he wanted to play Koosh-on-a-wire, just like a dog would. There was a time when I felt bad for bringing him inside permanently, so I taught him to walk around the yard on a leash. When I'd call Winston over to play, nine times out of ten Buddy would race in from another direction and sit between us, stopping the big guy in his tracks. "Buddy, goddammit, stop screwing with him." And then, invariably, Buddy would jump up onto the ottoman next to me and watch Winston and I play ball. It was as though he wanted to help with the training.
He didn't do typical cat-like things. No jumping on the counters or climbing across the back of the sofa and slapping at the back of your neck while you were trying to watch television, no clawing the upholstery, no sudden bites when he'd decided that he'd had enough of you. Buddy never had enough of anyone. He never demanded love, but he never walked away from it, either. In our ten years with him, he spent countless hours next to us on the couch, sometimes tucked under our arms, sometimes just resting against our legs, and never had enough of us.
Buddy would have been eighteen next spring, a good long life for a cat. But it's never long enough.
It's two in the morning. I have to be at work in six hours. But I can't sleep, because he's not curled up at my side. I'd hoped that typing this out would make me tired, that this was what I needed to do before finally being able to settle in next to A.B. and Winston, but it's not helping.
I'm haunted, not by my last sight of him, but by the memory of him in the days before. On Friday, he sat behind the chair I'm sitting in now and meowed at me. When I turned around, he hopped smartly to his feet and marched into the kitchen, where I kept his favorite toy. We played for a few minutes, and I marvelled at how well he still moved. "Nice chase, Buddy! We'll play again on Monday when I get home from work." It was an after-work think, Koosh-on-a-wire.
Last night, at the BadRap charity event, I talked about him to dozens of people, telling them what a neat cat he was, how he had Winston firmly under his control. We all laughed at the thought. "You should get that on video and share it with the group." Buddy was an inspiration to many cat-loving pit bull owners. I promised that I would remember to record the next time Buddy cut Winston off on his way to a ballgame. But, of course, I never did record it.
This morning, Winston and Buddy were both on the bed. Winston was laying across Accountant Boy's ankles, and Buddy stretched out to face him, laying across my feet. "Look! Buddy's learning a new trick! He's doing The Winston!" We stayed in bed for a long time, not wanting to move them. Later, I looked behind the recliner to see why the vertical blinds were askew. Buddy looked up at me, slats surrounding him, pale sun lighting up his bright, green eyes. He looked stunning. "I should get my camera. You look so handsome. I'm so happy that you're my cat." I told him that all the time, several times a day. "I love you, Katzmann." That look, him staring up at me inquisitively from behind the recliner, was the last look we ever shared. I reached down to scratch his ears, then went upstairs to get dressed. I was up there when A.B. shouted desperately for my help, even as we both realized that there wasn't anything that we could do.
All I can see when I close my eyes are images of my beautiful boy, happy and active, defiantly youthful and vibrant. They're wonderful images, all of them. I'm lucky to have so many. I can't believe that I won't see him again. And I can't sleep.