Welcome Home, Buddy Wu!
The days that followed after Ricky Wu’s death were some of the hardest, saddest, and loneliest for me. I know, I know…he’s “Just a Cat.” But, that is just it, he was more than a cat. He was apart of my every single day routine from seeing his face first thing in the morning and the last at night, giving him his food before I even fed myself, and basking in lots of lap love and close cuddles. Coming home without the pitter patter of his bean toes tapping against the wooden floors and without his nasally Bronx meow to greet me left me completely bereft.
One of the first questions people asked me when they learned of Ricky’s death was: “Are you going to get another cat?”
I could not even wrap my head to even try to answer this question. My mere managed response was “Timing and Fate.” But, here’s the thing about “time” and “fate” is that in order to let timing and fate take place and do their thing, you also need to give a little push and put yourself out there. So, that is what I did. I began to fill out cat adoption paperwork with slight guilt poking at me of “How can you even think of adopting another cat? Betrayal to Ricky Wu!” and then would rationalize with “Well, just because I am filling out the paperwork does not mean that I will get any kind of cat tomorrow. It’ll happen when it happens.” I started to talk with fellow and active cat lovers in the communities. I quickly picked up a great deal about animal rescues versus foster to adopt and how they were all trying to survive. I learned lots about foster cat parents shelling out their own money to care for many cat communities. I was bewildered at the amount of paperwork that required references, your living situation, your home environment, and much, much more. This was harder than any job interview. When I commented how intense the paperwork was, active members of cat communities explained that people would abuse and use cats and other animals as bait for fights that were instigated by humans. I was shocked, but, at the same time, I was not shocked at the degree of humans hurting other humans or living creatures. Friends quickly volunteered to act as references for me and friends who had experienced the upsetting loss of a pet counseled me that when it was time for another furball to come into Casa Del Wu that it was going to be my greatest gift and honor to Ricky Wu rather than the worst betrayal.
The first call (or rather email) came from a friend that there was a kitten who had shown up at her friend’s place and the kitten needed a home otherwise it would wind up at the rescue. I was not ready.
The second chance came on this FaceBook Group of this 6-years-old Russian Blue Cat. I nicknamed her Betty after the late and great animal lover Betty White. Betty’s owner who had suddenly and tragically died. Betty needed a home right away or would end up at the shelter AND she (the cat and not the owner) would probably not be easily adopted because she was older. I put in my interest. I waited. Within a matter of a couple of days, I was told it was not a go because of a family friend who was close to Betty’s owner was going to take Betty in. Though sad, I was happy that Betty had quickly found her forever home and family.
Many more chances came to me in the form of friends tagging me, sharing with me, and posting. I was in this weird space and place of hesitation and trepidation. Then, friends began to ask me: “Well, what kind of cat are you looking for?”
All I knew is I did not want a kitten. Everyone wants a kitten. They are the most adoptable while the older cats are the most ignored and overlooked. Everyone kept saying to me to get a younger cat because I would have more time with the cat and could more easily train him/her than if I had an older cat. However, one of the many lessons Ricky Wu taught me was that it was the quality rather than the quantity of time. My broken record response was: “Timing and Fate. This is not match.com. I don’t have a list of what I am looking for in a cat. I just care about the personality and our connection.”
As the chances came to me faster than I could keep up, it was a daunting realization that I would have the difficult decision to have many cats to choose from. How as I ever going to decide? While processing all of this, I slowly began to bring up the bravado to pack and clean up Ricky’s belongings. I had his favorite fleece and blankets washed. I put away his toys. His vet office delivered his ashes and a personal card with a message from each person who had cared for Ricky. I bawled by eyes out. But, what made me dry my tears was this: I left out the kitty litter box, kept the canned cat food and treats, but, most of all, I left out the food bowls for my future cat. If I removed all these things then I knew I would never provide a warm home to my future kitty cat. That wouldn’t be fair to my future kitty cat. That wouldn’t be fair to Ricky.
By picture, I ended up falling in love with the looks of two cats. This was turning into Match.com. I decided I had nothing to lose by visiting both rescues. One cat was already adopted by the time I arrived. The other cat was an absolute sweetheart, but I could tell that he was not into me. The staff member asked if I wanted to see anymore cats. I was about to leave. I looked around the room of caged and cute cats and heard the sweetest meow from up above. As we well know, I am vertically challenged, so I could not really see the looks of the cat, but the meow was so sweet, persistent, and insistent as if it was calling out to me: “Don’t leave just yet.” As soon as the cage unlatched, I saw a flash of orange and, the next thing I knew, this cat was right by my side on the cat tree bumping its head against me and then rolling over to show belly that he allowed me to rub gently. His sweet meows went to content purrs. That is when I knew that we do not necessarily choose our pets, but they choose us.
His name was Cinnamon. He was all orange. Like a little tiger. Calmness came over me as I continued to pet Cinnamon and talk with the staff member. I felt like I had known this cat forever as he let me scratch his head and chin. I did not even hesitate to say that I would take him home. The staff said I could foster him for a couple of weeks to see how we got along. I took them up on their offer, but I knew that I was going to be a foster fail. I guess when you know, you just know.
While driving back home, he let out his lilting meows with more excitement than anxiety. I like to think that he knew he was going back home with me. I started to talk to him: “Sorry, I have to say that I don’t like your name Cinnamon. You are a cat. Not a spice. And, isn’t Cinnamon a girl’s name?”
He seemed to meow in agreement with me. The night before, I had watched “Different Strokes,” and so I asked Cinnamon: “Do you like the name Arnold? How about Arnold?”
Not a sound squeaked from the cat carrier.
“How about Marty?”
When I let him out of the cat carrier in my bathroom, without even thinking, I said: “Come on out, Buddy. Here’s home.”
He meowed in content. Buddy. Buddy Wu.
I tasted the name on my tongue. I asked Cinnamon Buddy: “Buddy. Buddy Wu. Do you like it?”
His ears perked up with me proclaiming his name. He slowly began to explore Casa del Wu with curiosity. Within a matter of days, he figured out the layout and was lounging on my window ledge next to Ricky Wu’s framed photo that my friend had made for me. I think they would have been good friends. Maybe even the best of brothers. Ricky Wu. Buddy Wu.
That first night, he slept by my head and his long, plush tail tapped my hair and head as if to say that he was home and loving it. Not even a week went by and foster came to an end. Not even a month and there is a new cat in Casa Del Wu. I still see Ricky Wu in photos and the memories continually rewind in my mind like a movie reel, but I am slowly smiling alongside my watery eyes and blurred vision. I think Ricky Wu would have been grateful, happy, and proud that I opened my home and myself to another creature that was in need of as much love as myself and all of us crave.
Buddy Wu in all his playful, active, and speedy orange ways has brought back a bit of comfort and joy again. He chose me. He never would be here if it was not for Ricky Wu.
Buddy Wu is here to stay.