Friday, August 17, 2007


the second apartment i had in san francisco was on the corner of geary and polk, across the street from a drug rehab, a laundromat and a parking lot. my bedroom windows were also street level to the busiest trannie corner in san francsico, 24-7. a three year relationship had just ended and i was looking forward to a new phase in my life... and i was lonely. i think this was '97 or '98.

i thought i should get a cat and found myself wandering the rooms and cages and aisles at the sf spca.

there was a room that looked empty and before i opened the door, an spca employee mentioned in passing that he didn't think there were any animals in that room. but i went in anyway, i didn't mind checking. i walked around and got to the very last aisle, where i saw two fluffy paws stretching out of the very last cage. so, i walked all the way down and there she was. "reina" was her name. she was an adult cat and looked himalayan mixed with some main coon. she kept stretching her paws out to me through the cage and so i reached out to touch her and immediately wanted to rescue her and take her home.

i found another employee and she told me that this cat was popular that day, that a few people wanted to adopt her but that they couldn't get the cage open. she was waiting for a custodian or a locksmith to break the lock. she said she'd try to open the cage again, but not to get my hopes up. with her first attempt, the lock unlocked and the cage opened. the cat leaped into my arms and crawled around my neck and tried to sit on my head. papers were signed and i boarded a bus with a cardboard box full of fluffy catness.

on the way home, i saw an advertisement for yerba buena gardens and realized i didn't like the name "reina" all that much but "buena" was nice and sounded similar. so from then on, i called her "buena".

she was the most loving and most intuitive cat i've ever known. she was quiet and playful - a juicy, girlie, flirt with big, clear, blue eyes and brown stockings.

buena looked after me through many good days and bad nights, a handful of failed relationships, breakups, health scares, a tattoo, hangovers, fashion do's and don'ts, the laserdisc years, employment lay-offs, swing dancing, a burglary and finally dating and marriage to her arch rivals - the thin man and his young, uppity cat, bailey. she moved five more times with me. our last move together was here to chicago.

before we left the bay area, she was already sick. it turned out she was older than i or the sf spca had originally thought. the veterinarian who looked after her in san francisco was unsure of what was really ailing buena besides old age. her back legs were failing her and she was having trouble missing the litter box. it felt like buena was slowly and painfully breaking off pieces of my heart. everytime i thought, we'd have to bring her to the vet to put her down she'd make a miraculous recovery. her legs would regain their normal strength and her bathroom habits would improve. it was a similar recovery that encouraged me to move her to chicago with us. i took her on a plane with me just in case she couldn't handle the cross country truck trip that the thin man, his dad and bailey were embarking upon.

as soon as we landed, buena took a turn for the worse. i opened the door to our new apartment and tried to make the empty echoing place as comfortable for the two of us as possible. and after a sleepless vigil of two days and two nights, of dragging legs, full bowls of untouched cat food and fresh water, and pristine box of cat litter - i called my brother and asked for help. he picked us up and drove us to the local emergency vet.

we cried all the way there. we cried in the waiting room like all the other owners and their howling pets. everytime, i looked into her eyes, i expected to find fear or pain and found peace and quiet. she often tried to get up and failed. i knew she just wanted to be at home. i felt so conflicted. i wanted to leave. but, i wanted to make sure she wasn't in any pain. i wanted her to be free but i wasn't ready to let her go. finally, the vet leveled with us and assured us that it was better for her to be put down. i hugged her and nodded to the vet. he left and returned and explained the procedure. i held her close and whispered into her ear, "thank you for taking care of me so well and for so long. i'm going to be okay now. you can go. i love you and i'll never never forget you." i looked into her eyes, the vet continued, her pupils got bigger and as the vet listened for her heartbeat he quietly told me that she was gone.

my brother and the vet and the technician left us alone for a little while and i laid her body down on the metal examining bed, my shaky hand stroking her small head, trying to gently shut her eyes. then the technician came back and explained all of our options for burial. shamefully, i asked them to dispose of her remains because we just couldn't afford anything else. but i asked if i could cut some of her hair. she brought back a pair of office scissors and an empty pill vial. i cut a bit from the tips of her ears, and some from her belly and some from her tail. i still have the vial tucked away in my sock drawer.

while my brother drove me back to the new empty apartment, he turned on the radio to break the silence. i rolled the pill vial back and forth in my hands remembering that first day, seeing her paws stretching out of her cage... and this song came on the radio and it reminds me of the night she died every time i hear it:

after looking thru a photo album this afternoon, i realized that that was six years ago tonight.

buena, i miss you terribly. but don't worry about me because i really am doing ok. i really wish you could've met the paloma, the porkchop and the newish cat, stella (she drives bailey CRAY-ZEE!) and i really hope that wherever it is i end up, you'll be there waiting for me.


Rachel said...

Sweet. It must have been so hard to let go, even knowing that you were doing what was best for her.

And I can't believe you lived on Geary and Polk in 97. I used to walk up Polk from BART on my way to work every day. We probably crossed paths a couple of times.

Irene said...

Your story is very similar to the day that I picked out Madison (grey maine coon mix) from the local pet store. We still have Madison and she's 12 years old. I do not look forward to the day that her health starts to go.

Angela said...

It sounds like Buena was a very special cat and friend, glad she was there for her when you needed her.

Anonymous said...

I'm tearing up. I'm so sorry. It sounds like she had a great life with you. How tragic to bring her all the way out here for her to pass away so soon after, but I'm sure she was happy you were with her the whole way.

samokdaddy said...

I haven't had the opportunity to have a pet like Buena in adulthood. J and I have been thinking about getting the kids a pet. I could feel the bond you and Buena had. I do want Goobs and the Bun to have that same tie to a petthat you've had. My only worry is that my brother's wife and kids have touchy allergies and we love having them at our home as much as possible... I wonder how much one of those egyptian hairless kitties goes fo???

mamazilla said...

rachel - we probably did cross paths! i walked to work everyday too... well, down geary towards embarcadero... :)

irene - oooo! i hope i get to meet madison one day... she sounds like a cutie. :)

angela - hi there! i have to stop by your blog and see what's up with you! i've been very neglectful of my blog reading. i hope you're well! :)

halfmama - i was a WRECK writing that one... the thin man said he got choked up too... sometimes i really do think that she hung on just to make sure i was ok in our new place. she was the bestest cat evah! :)

samokdaddy - whoa. those hairless cats are frreeeeakie! i'd own reptiles or fish before i'd own one of those... ;)

honglien123 said...

I teared up with this one. What a wonderful tribute to your friend. (Pet seems like such an inaccurate word here.) Strangely or not so strange, it reminded me of a movie called Fluke which was about loved ones reincarnated into pets and animals (along with some other cheesy plots). Not a bad movie really.

I love that song btw. It reminds me of lost loved ones too.

mj aka sugarmama said...

Thank you for writing that. I felt my heart breaking all over again because it reminded me so much of a childhood pet that also died from old age. My mom used to say - Pisarro is now your guardian angel and that always made me feel better.

kirk said...

Yuk. I feel for you like you don't know. I had to put my dog down and I felt all the exact same things. It's amazing that a pet can carry such weight and spirit! They are such loving creatures and I think that's why putting them down is almost as hard as losing a person. Thanks so much for sharing.


flahute said...

I remember that apartment, and Buena, and dinner and pool and that other game that you refused ever after to play with me at the Edinburgh Castle.

I need to come to Chicago ... or you need to come to SLC.

Miss you terribly, Bunny ...

Anonymous said...

Couldn't have been in '98 my dear, 'cause when I met you in 8/97 you were living in that cute little flophouse hard by the transvestites, bums and other flotsam carried from block to block by the tides of San Francisco vagrancy.

I liked Buena too, although I was none too fond of the hundreds of pounds of fur she left behind anywhere she sat. Whener I came over to your apartment I used to look for places devoid of cat fur to sit my ass down, but never found one...

She had a really funny yowl. I always liked hearing her talk, and you were always very good at "bringing her out." She was a wonderful cat, and a good friend to you.


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