Buster Keaton Anjin-san Ghidorah "Bud" Johnson (1986-2007)

Last night proved itself to be the first night out of five consecutive evenings since last Thursday where I did not check to see that my cat Buster had food or water before bedtime. It is the Halloween season, and I suddenly find myself haunted by a memory. A memory of a sweet, old friend, whose death warrant I reluctantly signed in a cold vet's office on Thursday morning last. Suddenly, tales of ghosts and ghouls don't seem so much like fun to me, becoming things that I no longer mockingly believe in for the spirit of a holiday, but rather something I halfway anticipate. Most of the food I have downed since then has lost its taste, or I've lost mine, and I have thrown myself into piles of musty old books I have not read in years, and cataloging videotapes I no longer have much compulsion to watch. But I can't get rid of them all the same, using them weirdly as a lifeline of desperation, in quite the opposite way that I seemed to muster the courage (followed by a question mark) to don an executioner's mask and will that sweet, old friend out of existence.

But he was hurting, and when the diagnosis of chronic renal failure set in, causing 75 percent of his kidney functions to cease, the balance came in recognizing that a cat living to four months shy of 22 is a pretty damn good life. Still carrying the guilt of sending my beloved dog (and sister to the cat) Blip off four days before I hightailed it to California (I squarely do
not recommend this as a course of action when moving cross-country), I signed the cursed papers, and then spent a painful and tearful half-hour kneeling before a cold metal table, holding Buster tightly, with his head tucked hard between my chin and shoulder mewling low, while Jen reached over my shoulder to lovingly rub the boy's ears, finding herself in much the same emotional mess as myself.

The progression over two days of believing he merely needed a couple of teeth pulled and a good dental makeover to "Hey, we think we've caught him in the early stages of a kidney infection" to "Well, we found
abscesses beneath his tongue -- there's not a lot we can do for that" to the kidney failure was monumental in its absurdity and swiftness, and it knocked me squarely out of basic brain functions until Monday morning. Not good when one has to write an entire magazine's worth of editorial and feature material; even worse when that someone, well behind schedule for other varied reasons, has to do it in a handful of days.

But the cat, Buster Keaton Anjin-san Ghidorah -- so named for obvious reasons to the pop culturally advanced (all relating to my own self-interests in 1986 -- interests I still hold now, for the most part) -- the cat, he was a most special boy, and worthy of the adoration and grief through which we meandered. And if I thought I mourned other pets who slipped away in the past, I was not prepared for the close combination of losing both Blip and he in such a short period. They were my constant companions over the course of two decades plus, and here, without my supply of longtime friends within spitting distance, Buster served as a reminder of things back home. I made jokes about the Anaheim address serving as his retirement home, knowing all too well that such statements were far more true than false. In this short span though, he became a New World traveler, first by plane from Alaska to here, and then a long drive through Arizona and New Mexico and back, which I am sure confused the hell out of him, but he was probably far happier with us than alone.

Watching him start to get a tad scrawnier with the passing months, and knowing that the on-again, off -again skirmishes with our dogs were probably not giving him much in the way of relaxation, added a touch of inevitability to the end of our idyll, and I grew sad even while sitting down to watch even the most raucous of comedies on the tube, Buster curling up in my lap the way he also did, reacting with freakish joy at the merest touches of his ears, neck, stomach and temples. Permit me to resort to a fit of Paul Bunyan-like myth-making, but Buster's purr (which I swear to this day I taught him, as he did not purr
at all for the first two years of his life) was by this point loud enough to drown out the most boisterous of drunken caterwauling. I counted myself fortunate to have been able to fall asleep with my ear to his chest one night two weeks previous to the end, for such slumber had always been of the most deep and abiding comfort to me over the years.

There is so much more I could relate -- how he was rescued with his siblings from a basement by Schmerin's sister; how he was taken into my care on the stage at UAA right before a play rehearsal; how, along with the myriad mice, voles, songbirds and spiders he carried through my window in showboating victory, he also somehow managed, without the aid of his forearm claws, to bring down a raven, still bigger than himself, and bring the flailing, writhing creature to me for approval; how, fed up with the attention I gave to Blip on trips outside, he started following us to "use the facilities" at the same time as she, and then endeavored to follow us on long walks over several blocks, almost lording it over the dog that
he required no leash, "So, what's wrong with you, dog?", and always remaining close at my heel; how he found himself trapped in the neighboring two-story apartment for four days, without food or water, and screaming and scratching for all he was worth until we finally figured out he hadn't crawled and gotten caught in the structure of our porch walls, but had slipped into the apartment when it was being aired out for presentation to possible renters; and how he lived for eighteen years on the corner of one of the busiest intersections in Anchorage, and had figured out that wandering across roads was a stupid thing to do, while so many other cats sadly didn't. And then, his greatest feat: convincing a non-cat person -- Jen -- that she was, at the very least, a Buster person.

I, too, was a Buster person. Still am, always will be.

I miss you, little guy. Goodbye, Buddy boy...


I don't know what to say, and in fact maybe I shouldn't. You probably don't want to hear meaningless sympathy. But really, I'm very sorry, and this is very upsetting. I'm up here, if you want to drop me a line or give me a call.
B-Train said…
I am soo sorry, if ya wana shoot the breeze or just need someone to abuse I am here for ya. I have many a fond memory of pet sitting both of them.

Mattman said…
I haven't been reading because of my own travels and issues, so I'm shocked and saddened to be reading this. I'm sorry I wasn't around to offer my comfort when you wrote this. I offer those services now, and hope all is well.

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