“Who’s your buddy?” I asked my husband on Valentine’s Day, 1994.
A young male tabby sat in our driveway, watching Ray chop down an oleander bush that made him break out in a rash every time he brushed against it. The tabby had appeared seemingly out of no where, and yet there was something familiar about him. For that story, read Celebrating Buddy.
On June 18, 2013, at age 22, Buddy had a stroke and took his last breath. Despite his age, his passing caught me by surprise. I wasn’t ready for him to die. There were things we still needed to do together. Like take another nap in the sun. Lie on our backs in the grass while gazing up at the puffy white clouds dotting the summer blue sky. Stroll down the driveway to inspect the frogs that lived in the drain pipe. Those type of things that Buddy enjoyed.
But there was one thing I still needed to do, for me. And I never did it. I kept putting it off because I was caught up in my obsession to finish writing a novel that ultimately got shelved anyway. Caught up in problems that belonged to others because I was asked for help. Caught up in the upside down, sing-song world of Attention Deficit Disorder, which amounts to over-committing and spreading myself too thin.
I forgot to make an impression of Buddy’s paw.
I’d found an article about making lasting impressions in clay of your children’s hand prints. I don’t have kids, but I have cats. Lots of cats. And despite the many photos and toy/collar memorabilia that I’ve kept from all of my pets, I thought it would have been nice to have had impressions of their paw prints, too.
I bought the kit. It came with microscopic instructions and for whatever reason, it seemed like an effort. I mean…I was engulfed in the flames of my whirlwind writing/problem-solving/upside down world. I’d do it tomorrow…when I had time.
I didn’t recall that I had forgotten to make his paw print until the day Buddy’s ashes were returned to me in a wooden box with a brass nameplate and a place for his photo. And when I realized I’d forgotten, something inside me crashed. There would be no more tomorrows with Bud. No more insulin shots at 6:00 A.M. and 6:00 P.M., as there had been for 10 straight years. No more scrape of his thick claws on the pet ramp from the loveseat in our bedroom to his litter box at the bottom. No more yowls of panic when his sugar dipped and he needed food now! No more rib-eye steaks for his birthday celebration dinner.
We had Buddy with us on vacation in Gatlinburg one year, and brought back a doggy bag of rib-eye for him. He wolfed it like nothing we had ever seen before, smacking his lips, licking the plate. We actually went back to the restaurant the next night and got another steak, just for him. And every birthday thereafter, he got a rib-eye.
After Bud died, I recall looking at the paw print kit, pinned to my bulletin board as a reminder to do it. I nearly pitched it out, but then… I looked at Herman, at Opie…and at Dori, not even a year-old. And I made a promise to myself to get their paw prints. I made that promise in June, 2013. And every day for the next eight months I glanced at that damn kit, still pinned to my board--unopened.
Valentine’s Day 2014 would have been Buddy’s 23rd birthday. We would have celebrated with kisses on his forehead, and a gift of a catnip mouse that he no longer had the energy to play with, but would still cuddle so as not to hurt our feelings. He would get his insulin at 6:00 A.M. and again at 6:00 P.M. And a massage to ease the constant aches in his old bones. And for dinner Ray would bring home a rib-eye from a local restaurant, just for Bud. But since our sweet tabby isn’t here in the flesh to participate in our celebration of love, just for him… I did something else to celebrate his life, and how much I loved him.
I pulled that paw print clay off my bulletin board. I put on my glasses to read the microscopic instructions. And I made an impression of Herman's paw prints. Herman had turned 13 in January, and since November had been suffering with UTI's, and a heart murmur, and possible thyroid complications. I didn’t make an impression of just one paw. I had him stand on the clay so I would have both paws. Such tiny paws...with teeny claw marks! I then cut the prints from the larger clay, and put it in the oven to bake for 15 minutes. The whole process was not difficult. All told, it took me 30 minutes from start to finish.
Was I really so incredibly busy in 2013 that I didn’t have 30 minutes to take Buddy’s paw impressions?
No. I wasn’t.
Now…and into the future, when I look at Herman’s paw impressions, of course I will think of Herm. But I will also think of Buddy: the prints should have belonged to him. But since I’m a glass-half-full kind of girl and make it a practice to put a sweet spin of positive on anything negative… I will see Buddy’s prints along with Herman’s. Buddy’s paw prints from Heaven.