June 19th, 2008


I've just lost my best friend, the kid brother I never had, my favorite comedian, and the handsomest fellah I've ever met.

Buster passed away yesterday during a bronchioscopy to determine what was causing his recent wheezing. It turned out he had a large malignant tumor in his trachea, and the walls of the trachea were so cancerous that they basically gave way during the otherwise-routine procedure, causing air to escape into his esophagus and his heart to go into cardiac arrest.

Buster was 15. I got him in November of 1992, when he was three months old. I'd never had a cat before, and as an adult had never had a pet bigger than a goldfish. Buster came from a friend's litter, and he came at a time I really needed something new; I'd just finished a movie that had paid well but been a generally miserable experience, I hadn't yet started fiction writing, and I'd just broken off an uncomfortable relationship. Buster was a handful as a kitten, but as he aged he became the Errol Flynn of cats - dashingly handsome, adventurous, a bit on the arrogant side, a lovable troublemaker. Whenever I took him to the vet clinic, all the doctors and interns fell in love with him ("he has the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen!", gasped one particularly smitten female vet). He had his own set of continually amusing quirks: He loved spaghetti, on cold nights he liked to crawl under the covers and nestle in by my side, he liked to sit on my lap and bury his head in my armpit, he'd sit in the hottest spots on the hottest days, he liked to be carried around held high so he could see things above his usual sightline, and he liked to attack the other cats with this utterly ridiculous sideways hop. He had some faults, too - he could whine for hours, and nothing would appease him - but his delights far outweighed his exasperations.

A while back he developed both allergies and hyperthyroid, but both conditions were theoretically not life threatening and controllable with medication. I expected him to be around for at least a few more years to come. Yesterday morning he was having slight breathing difficulty, but was still charming the vets and waving his magnificent tail for all to admire.

I was downtown celebrating the high school graduation of my best friends' son when I got the news yesterday. Needless to say I was in no mood to party, and begged out to find out what happened. At least it was quick and painless...for Buster.

I actually credit Buster with saving my life once: He woke me up 30 seconds before the '94 Northridge earthquake hit. I remember waking to feel him standing on my chest; he'd never done something like that, and even in the dark I could tell he was giving me a strange, wide stare. The instant the quake hit, I was already awake, grabbed him and rolled from the bed - just as a bookcase fell onto the spot where I'd just been. If anyone ever tells you animals don't know quakes are coming, tell 'em you know for a fact it's not true.

Buster also served as muse on at least one occasion. One of the first short stories I wrote and sold (to Steve Jones for the first Dark Terrors book) was called "Love Eats". It's about a lonely woman who adopts a cat she names Love, and then discovers that the cat is a horrendously finicky eater (which, by the way, was never Buster's problem - he even ate jalapenos). I probably don't have to tell you what's the one food Love will reliably consume. At the story's climax, the woman literally offers herself to Love to ensure his survival.

That's just a story, of course. Buster was orange, Love was gray. The woman bore no resemblance to me. Of course not.

But y'know...it's probably just as well that choice never came up with Buster.

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