A final visit from Buster

Published 11:17 am Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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Note to readers: A few days ago, Paul and I lost our cherished little cat of 17 years, Tippy. And it seemed to me so many of my friends also just lost a pet. For this reason, I’m offering this ‘best of’ column this week for, hopefully, a bit of comfort. Whether or not you believe it doesn’t matter—I’m here to tell you it happened.

When Paul declared he had experienced not so much a sign but an actual visit from a cherished pet, I looked up with a start.

You have to understand that in the 27 years we have been together, Paul has only recalled two dreams, and he didn’t actually recall them but leapt to his feet on the bed in a panic during the middle of them.

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“What’s going on?!” I had cried in alarm.

“OJ Simpson’s climbing through the window!” he yelled, then immediately realized that while the trial was being broadcast nonstop on television, that particular night in our West Hollywood home was relatively quiet and safe.

His second nightmare also included people climbing through the window, all armed with cameras and snapping photographs.

In the 25 years that followed, nothing. Paul is the deepest sleeper I’ve ever known and falls into REM sleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. If he indeed dreams, he has no memory. And being a rather methodical Virgo, he is very much a detail-oriented and organized chap. I’ve been known to jokingly refer to him as “Ward Cleaver” from the ancient “Leave it to Beaver,” complete with cardigan, the only feature missing being his contentedly puffing away on a pipe.

So when Paul announced, “I had something really weird happen last night,” it had to be significant.

And it was. A week before Christmas, Paul had lost the love of his life, Buster.

Buster was more dog than cat, and he would come running up to greet him as soon as he heard his car come down our long, traveled drive, yowling excitedly by the door. He was also inherently disobedient. Regardless of how many times he was ordered — or squirted with a water bottle — he would jump on the kitchen counter and eat or chew through any wrapped food. He once found a vet’s wrapped deli sandwich she had put in the tack room of the barn to eat after seeing to one of the horses. When she went to retrieve it, she found Buster, having chewed through the aluminum foil, devouring it.

“Hey!” she yelled.

Without missing a beat, Buster turned to look at her and burped.

He was a naughty cat, but Paul adored him and quietly grieved the loss.

“It was about 2 a.m.,” Paul began, “and a cat jumped on my legs and, for a second, inserted its claws on my legs to wake me up. I thought it was Duke or Mia, but they were asleep on either side of me.”

(It should be inserted here that Paul was sleeping downstairs in the guest room as he had had his knee scoped the Friday before and couldn’t yet manage the stairs to the master bedroom.)

“You never wake up,” I said.

“I know,” Paul nodded, “but a cat jumped on my legs, woke me up and I saw Buster sitting on the end of the bed. I saw him as clear as day. And to the left was the outline of a Jack Russell, which could only have been Bonnie, and several cats behind them. They were all purring and rubbing their heads together, and Bonnie was rubbing her head against them…”

He paused for a moment and smiled. “Honestly, if they could have had noisemakers, they would all have been blowing them. The only way I can put it was that they were grinning — big happy faces, every one of them.”

“Buster came to say goodbye,” I said, believing it all wholeheartedly.

“Buster came to say goodbye,” Paul echoed, “and to tell me he was all right. Happy. Throwing a party!”

Perhaps it was merely a dream, but it really doesn’t matter because the comforting emanation was like a balm for Paul’s grief and a warm wave of affection seemed to settle over what had felt like a rather empty house as we had mourned Buster’s larger than life presence.

Do all cats go to heaven? I suppose that remains to be debated. But Paul will tell you he knows for a fact that they all come to the foot of your bed.