Au Revoir Buddy

I miss you so much, Buddy Boy.  And, I am so sorry we had to say Good-bye.  But, the tumor in your throat was growing.  There was no hope.  The vet said you would suffocate – a horrible death.  I wanted to spare you that.  You were such a loyal, loveable companion, indeed my special buddy. 

Buddy was put to sleep on Oct 20, a peaceful, painless death.  He was 11 years old, and during those years he went through most of his nine lives.  He owes those years to several guardian angels who rescued him. 

Chris, an assistant to the military vet in Stuttgart, Germany, trapped Buddy’s mother with seven kittens (including Buddy).  They were feral, the mother having been abandoned by a military family who moved back to the states.  This is the fate of too many cats on military installations.  Chris rescued many starving felines.    Buddy and his brothers and sisters, about three months old, were wild, fearful and ferocious.  Chris’ mission was to tame them.  Wearing extra heavy gloves, she forced the kittens to eat out of her hand, thus becoming accustomed to human contact.  It took patience, dedication and time. 

Chris knew I had been considering getting another cat to be a companion to my cat Molly.   She felt Buddy was special.  She wanted him to have a good home.  She offered him to me when he was ‘ready” for adoption.  He quickly adapted to his new home, becoming affectionate and loving. I was smitten. 

Buddy’s second brush with death came just a few months after I got him.  We lived in a second floor apt, with a large balcony/terrace adjacent to a giant pine tree.  Molly would climb down the tree for outdoor excursions.  Buddy did the same, but shortly after his first foray, he did not return.  I searched the neighborhood, called, put up signs. 

After a lapse of several days, he tried to make his way back up the tree.  I was on the balcony and was overjoyed. But, he didn’t make it.  A hind leg was dangling from his body.  He fell back down and ran away.  We spotted him hiding in the backyard, but he wouldn’t let us near him.  It was as if he had become feral again.  We put a dish of food out and after several tries, managed to throw a blanket over him while he was eating.  His leg had been broken, probably caught in a fence, according to the vet. 

After that, Buddy became an indoor cat.  He had many endearing habits.  His favorite pose was lying on his back, his front paws curled up.  He loved to get on my lap and knead, cat fashion.  And, as a special sign of affection, he liked to chew my hair. He was also a glutton.  Buddy devoured all food.  He always hung around in the kitchen when I was cooking, and I often spoiled him with bits of meat or fish.  He especially loved licking the almost-empty containers of crème fraiche, yogurt, and the bowl after I had whipped cream. He’d end up with a white face. 

Buddy’s remarkable and miraculous rescue came many years after his second brush with death.  I took him to Sigrid Ruckaberle, the cat lady of Stuttgart, because we were preparing to go on a vacation.    Sigrid, like Chris, trapped and rescued many feral cats in military housing areas.  She had more than 20 cats herself, all rescues, but she also boarded cats.

I got out of the car in front of her house (about a 1 ½ hour drive from our home) and picked up Buddy’s cage.  He pushed the door open, bolted and sped like lightning up the street. The door had obviously not been fastened securely. My heart sank.  I knew I would never catch him, and he was so far from home.

Sigrid was also upset, but, she was confident she could catch him.  I could not go on vacation knowing that Buddy was wandering in the wilderness, so far away.  We canceled the trip, and every day, for 10 days, I drove back to Sigrid’sneighborhood, walked all around, calling Buddy.  I knew he would not come, but I thought if he heard my voice he would meow and I could at least locate him.  I asked all the neighbors time and time again if they had seen a back cat with a white mark on his chest.  They got sick of seeing me, and finally one neighbor got nasty and told me to stop coming on his property.  I gave up my search, but continued to be plagued by worry and sorrow. 

Sigrid, meanwhile, had been putting out food dishes in several neighborhood locations.  The food always disappeared, but any number of cats or wild creatures could have been eating it.  She also set cat traps.  She caught a hedgehog, but not Buddy. 

After six weeks, I had given up hope and set off on a short trip with a friend, still thinking too often about Buddy.  When I came home, husband Bob told me to sit down; he had some good news and bad news.  I was certain the bad news was that Buddy’s body had been found.

“The good news is that I have a cat outside in a cage.   The bad news is that I don’t know if it’s Buddy,” he said.  I raced to the cage.  It was my Buddy.  Sigrid, after all this time and tireless efforts, had caught my baby.  I was thrilled, overjoyed, and ecstatic. 

Yet, one more time Buddy escaped.  We had gone on a vacation and left a young neighbor in charge of feeding Buddy and Molly.  I told her she could let Molly out, but not Buddy.  When we came home after a week, no Buddy.  I quizzed her.  She said I had told her that Molly could go out so she left the balcony door open for her.   ???  How could she have not realized that Buddy would go out too? Again, I was frantic.  

I consulted Sigrid who assured me that he would not venture far. We put food out, it disappeared.  After about a week, we saw him.  But he always ran from us. Again, he reverted to his feral past. We monitored the food dish.  And, we used the blanket trick again.  While he was eating, we threw a blanket over him.  He was wild. He scratched and bit me.  But, once we got him in the apartment, he was his old self again. 

Some years later we moved to a rural area of southern France.  Here the neighborhood is safe with lots of territory for cats to roam.  Buddy was permitted outdoors.  He never ventured far, but obviously enjoyed his freedom.  He knew the sound of the car.  Whenever I returned home after an outing, he would be waiting for me at the edge of the driveway. 

Now he’s gone….no friendly cat to welcome me.  I miss you, Buddy. 

Buddy was the third male cat I have lost to cancer at the age of 11.  Molly lived to be 17 ½.  I have two young female cats I rescued as kittens from a shelter to replace Molly, but they are completely “sauvage” as the French say.  Real outdoor cats that only  appear to eat.   

As this is Christmas time, this story needs a happy ending.  Welcome Sam, a big, sturdy gray tomcat who has been living in the streets of nearby Cereste. Friends Martin and Jessica have been feeding him, but they already have four cats and now a new baby, a beautiful girl named Sam. They could not adopt another cat.  Sam (I named him), who is very affectionate and loves to be caressed, needed a home.  He’s my Christmas present.

For a tasty holiday dinner, see Holiday Pork Roast under Recipes in the far right column. 


12 thoughts on “Au Revoir Buddy”

  1. Leah it’s a fascinating story – thank you for sharing it. I can understand why you were so attached to Buddy, but I’m not too sure about the hair chewing!
    Bernard Stradling


  2. So sad to lose our friends, but I am glad you have offered a home to Sam. I believe we show our love by bringing in these companions for life. We lost our adored Petra – miniature schnauzer – at 16+ this fall. I’ll be flying to Austin in January to pick up a new puppy. Axel and Spur are _not_ amused!


    1. Yes, it’s hard to part with these special friends. Good luck with the new puppy. Adjustment to a new addition takes time as I am finding out with my “girls” and Sam. They are not happy cats.


  3. I cry with you over the loss of Buddy and am so glad you have Sam. We have a new cat in our lives also — Edna, a calico, and so precious!


  4. I’m so sorry about Buddy, but you know, it shows that sad things will be followed by good things. Our baby Sam was born at 20 oct…… We’re so happy we’ve found a good place for Sam (thanks for the name!!!) He will perfect fit into your family!!!


  5. What a beautiful epitaph for dear Buddy! I feel you pain, but having Sam for the holidays as we celebrate the lengthening of days will definitely point you in the right direction. Bienvenue Sam!


  6. oh Leah, so sorry, I’ve been there so many times. Gives meaning to the phrase Breaks your heart.
    You think you won’t fall in love with a dog again, but then you do. As you found.


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