Sleep Well, My Buffy-girl

This is Buffy.


We got her when she was this big.


She was my first real pet; the goldfish that we got every week from Woolworth’s when I was little didn’t count.

We got her from a very nice lady-couple who lived in a former dairy farm up in New Hampshire.

We were going to name her Spike, but when they sent us her photo we knew her name was Buffy.


I was very concerned that I wouldn’t be a good pet owner. I mean, I had to keep getting new goldfish at Woolworth’s every week because they always died.

I read a bunch of books on how to own a cat. I wasn’t sure I was up for the job. I was afraid I would make her a bad cat. I mean, don’t you need to know things about cats in order to own a cat?

Buffy was a cat, not a goldfish, and she was a wonder. Very little, very independent, very keen to learn the ins and outs of the house. She learned how to use the litter box in two seconds, and knew where her food and water bowls were. She already knew everything she needed to know about being a cat.

And she seemed to like me.


There was something marvelous about having this creature, this non-human life form, in the house. She brought a different attitude to living and communing, one that was knowing and flexible. That cushion is taken, well, that one isn’t, I’ll curl up on that one. If I jump up enough times he’ll relent and let me sleep on his lap. If I stretch up high enough and hold onto her pant leg she’ll give me some cheese. If she won’t give me cheese, maybe he’ll give me ham.

It took me a long, long time to understand that even if she was the size of an infant, she was a fully-formed, instinctual animal. She knew what she was doing, even if I didn’t.

Perhaps because she was born in a barn, she was fierce in her desire to be outside. She would make rips in the screens, clawing to get out. Especially if we were outside.


We live in a nice leafy place, were all the yards are unfenced and run into each other. It was a good place to be a cat, lots of shrubs to hide under, and flat rocks in the garden to sleep on and get some sun.

During the warm months, Buffy would spend her entire day outside, just being. She had her places, and for the most part that’s where she was.


She was a cautious cat, always checking to see what was around before she went out the door. As soon as she heard a mechanical sound that was unfamiliar, off she went under the shrubs. But when I pulled into the drive way and got out of the car, she would run out from wherever she was just to say hi. She would often come in the house when I did.


We had three pet names for our pet: Buff, the Buffinator, and Buffanutter (from the Fluffanutter sandwiches I used to eat when I was little). When we were alone and I was whispering sweet nothings into her fur, she was always My Buffy-girl.

She liked to sleep.


But then again, she was a cat.

She was lithe, and mostly graceful. Apparently she had a small head, which I didn’t realize because she was my first cat.


You couldn’t make her do anything she didn’t want to do, but she would let you know when she wanted to do something, like go out.


When she wanted to sit on your lap, her purr was like an engine, loud and steady. There was no thing greater in the world than Buffy wanting to sit on your lap. Buffy sitting on your lap was like a proclamation that you were a good person.

I do believe I loved her.


I found her late on Thanksgiving day, broken and unresponsive at the turn into the street where all our condos are.

I thought at first she was all hunkered down, the way she did when she was about to pounce on something.

But as soon as she didn’t move as my car approached I knew something was wrong.

My guy brought her inside on the sturdy cover of an outdoor tote. We covered her body with a towel and put her in the downstairs bathroom; it has its own heat register and was warm.

Buffy never regained consciousness, never moved, never blinked an eye. Even me, with my happy and positive outlook on life, knew that there was nothing that could be done. “She’s not anywhere,” my guy gently told me, himself looking to find even one consolation. She wasn’t feeling pain, we guessed.

My beautiful girl, with the lovely long pale ginger fur and the white patches on her feet, didn’t purr. She didn’t stretch her neck when I stroked her head. She didn’t pull her paw away when I touched it like she normally did.

Buffy stopped living about 7:30 Thanksgiving night, after all the guests had left and the house had been put back to order. It was just my guy and me, and the other cat, the one I insisted we get because Buffy was probably lonely, being in the house all day by herself while the two of us were at work. Turns out, I was wrong about that, she was a loner, and didn’t appreciate another cat in the house, especially a rambunctious younger male cat who never understood why Buffy didn’t like to play. Had the other cat spoken English, I would have told him that biting Buffy on the bum was not something that she liked, and that’s why she didn’t play with him. But, he remained ever hopeful.


We buried her the next day in the garden.

In the 11 years that my guy and I have been together, I have only seen him weep three times: this was one of them.

We dug a hole under the forsythia bush she liked to sit beneath. It was, helpful, to be doing something for her. We removed all the loose rocks, and made sure it was deep enough that she would remain undisturbed. We placed some white tissue paper on the bottom of the grave, and my guy gently put Buffy’s body on top of it. We covered her with some more white tissue paper, and secured it with some of the smaller rocks. We put back the soil by hand, then tamped it down. We laid a nice garden stepping stone on the spot. We will get some creeping thyme come spring and plant it there.


I didn’t expect the grief. I didn’t expect the all-encompassing emotional pain, that tears your heart and almost makes you vomit. I didn’t expect to sob myself to sleep, grateful that my guy would just wrap his arms around and let me wear myself out. I didn’t expect to think about it all the time, to have my mind go back to what was taken from me whenever the task at hand was finished.

I didn’t expect to miss her so much. She was supposed to grow old with us, and when the end came it was supposed to be at the end. Somebody was not mindful in their driving — going too fast down a short side street with on-street partking — and in that randomness of life, for some reason Buffy was out there at exactly the wrong time. I know it was not intentional, but somebody took Buffy from me because they weren’t doing what they were supposed to do. Her life was not supposed to be removed from my life, not yet, and not like that.

When I told a friend of Buffy’s death, she told me that one of her cats is deaf and yet she still lets her out, “because the cat is so happy being out there.”

Buffy had a happy life, full of trees and leafy plants, and a house with a lot of soft places to sleep.


Sleep well, my girl.

7 Replies to “Sleep Well, My Buffy-girl

  1. It serves me right for opening your email at work. Now I’ll have to explain why my work has me sobbing. Your memoir of Buffy is a lovely tribute to a fine young feline taking too soon. Someday you’ll able to remember her without the tears. Buffy’s cousins, Jadie and Yuki send their regards.

  2. That was beautiful and has me tearful. I weep with you and send my deepest sympathies. Andy, Zoe and Samantha send their love too. May you find peace in your wonderful memories and comfort in being there with her at the end. love yous, Candy

  3. I’m so sorry to hear about Buffy. I had the same experience with my first cat, twenty-odd years ago. After burying him I planted a chestnut on the spot.
    Now a magnificent young chestnut tree named Ben stands there and has five bird-feeders hanging from his boughs. From morning to evening he is surrounded by sweetly chirping birds of all varieties. Occasionally I’ll ponder on how the chestnut tree would not exist but for that devastating day. Ben gave nourishment and support to the little chestnut and even now is giving life to those little birds. Because of him birdsong always fills our back garden and my little brother, who never met the original, appreciates why a chestnut tree named Ben is a very special tree.
    I hope your creeping thyme brings you similar comfort and joy in the years to come. Buffy will always be with you and in the hearts of those she touched. Even those she hasn’t, for she is now in mine.

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