Thursday, July 19, 2012

Past Deadline: Sure is Quiet, Buster

On Saturday, we lost one of the furry members of our family.

The aptly named Filibuster, “Buster” for short, was possibly the chattiest creature to inhabit the house, next to Groom-boy, that is. He could go on and on. And on.

This black and white fluffy cat joined our ranks 15 years ago and was the underdog, for sure. Some people didn’t think we needed a second cat, but I campaigned for him, which is somewhat surprising considering I didn’t (and still don’t, really) consider myself to be a cat person.

At the time Groom-boy and I were both working full time as reporters at the Perth Courier. We were gone all day and a lot of nights, so when a friend was pushing kittens I thought it would be a brilliant way to keep the pre-existing MacGregor company while we were away.

So Buster came to an apartment where there was already an established cat (only by a year or so) and a rabbit with an attitude. Oreo, the bunny, was also black and white and was bigger than Buster at the start, so we had a fluffy kitty cowering in the bathroom for a while.

Maybe that’s why he felt he had to speak up. He was one noisy cat! He also had what we delicately call “clinker” issues due to his long hair, not to mention the typical hairball concerns (the Daily Clean-up) that make cat ownership so much fun.

All of these things amounted to some name calling – I mean terms of endearment – that varied in levels of profanity depending on whether children were around or whether it involved yowling in the middle of the night.

Buster hated to be brushed, but needed it more than our short-haired tabby, who loves it. Buster also didn’t take kindly to being petted anywhere below the shoulders, which took some getting used to for the toddler set, but which taught some good early messages about handling animals. He definitely let you know when he’d had enough of the touchy-feely thing.

That all said, however, Buster became my cat, possibly because I tend to root for the underdog or maybe because I fell in love with his brilliant green eyes or maybe because we had some grand conversations. Besides, of all the laps in the family it was mine that he chose.

He and MacGregor also became close and we have scads of pictures of them curled up and cosy together. Brothers.

This past fall, we took the cats to the vet for a checkup. At the time we decided to run a routine blood test on Buster to see whether his diabetes, which had been under control with diet for quite some time, was still in check. The test showed that was fine, but his white blood cell count was off. Turns out we had caught the early stages of leukemia – not the usual feline kind but a serious version that, if treated, would require chemotherapy at a vet’s in Ottawa.

Buster was 14 at the time. There were no guarantees he would live and there would be some quality-of-life issues. It was a tough decision, but we opted against treatment.

It was many months before the symptoms appeared. I snuck him tuna and other treats he wasn’t usually allowed to have. He stuck close by, often sleeping beside me while I worked at my desk. I spent great amounts of time scratching his chin and cheeks and ears just the way he liked it, and he gazed up at me with those big, green, loving, trusting eyes.

We miss you, little Buster. The kids are sad. And it sure is quiet around here.

Published in The Perth Courier, June 14/12

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