Remembering Bluffy the Cat

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Remembering Bluffy   by Lorraine Rose

His ashes rest in a small cedar box on top of the bureau. Among the ritual items on his little altar, there’s a clay imprint of his paw. A small scented candle flickers each evening to honor him, next to a framed photograph of Bluffy in his prime. A feline tour de force. Bluffy the wild cat, Bluffy the freedom fighter.

I kept seeing him on the property here at my condo: This long-haired black cat, with a big bushy tail like a rock squirrel’s, his breed known as Norway. I figured he belonged to one of my neighbors. When one of my other cats tore through the basement window screen, I placed a Have-a-Heart trap at the back door, and instead of my intended quarry, I ended up trapping the long-haired Norway! He shot out of that trap like a black bullet when I released him. I posted ‘black cat found’ flyers around the neighborhood, but no one ever responded. Had he run away? Had he been dumped, like so many strays? I’ll never know. But he kept hanging around the property; and finally, he began to hang around my back door; and then one day when I opened it, he pushed his way in.

Assertive, unflappable, content with himself, Bluffy was a cat of enormous presence. He insisted on whatever he wanted. If I picked him up, he demanded to be placed back down. If I closed the back door, he’d decide to go out in the fenced-in yard. If I opened a kitchen cabinet, he and his swishy tail would blithely stroll in.

He used his voice and his eyes to make his cat commands quite clear. As his humble servant, I rarely failed to translate his wishes into action.

A few years after I had found Bluffy, we moved to California with our other rescued kitties, and our new home posed a whole new challenge to keep him contained. He was full of zest, generating from his deep well of muscle and energy. He’d race across the yard, parched dirt flying in little geysers, as he sprinted from bush to bush.

One afternoon, he scaled the six-foot fence that surrounded the house; he must have enjoyed roaming the neighborhood, a free spirit, while I searched for him, frantic, as evening turned to dusk. He finally came home on his own after dark. So, I added netting at the top of the enclosure called “Purrfect Fence,” which I’d purchased online. “Purrfect Fence” made the back area resemble a prison exercise yard. But it worked!

Following the deaths of my beloved feline Frankie and then Betsy, both seniors whose time had come, Bluffy chose to enter my personal space more regularly. I’d find him curled up on the bed; he’d sleep next to me every night and wake me up at dawn with meows insistent for breakfast.

His name evolved as our relationship continued to grow: originally a combination of Black and Fluffy, hence Bluffy, as his uniqueness endeared him to me more, the nicknames emerged, based phonetically on the original. He was my baby, so he became Blabby. Then that morphed into Blables. And then in time, that name mutated, perhaps after our 44th
president? So, I weep now for my Bloo-bama.

He loved heat. He’d lie on the deck in a summer chair curled up in the sun, snoozing for hours, and in the winter, he’d sleep close to the radiator or on my cable box. He loved it when I turned the space heater on; he’d lie in front of it and let the hot air blow his fur in all directions. In the end, when he was beginning to fail, he would lie so close to the hot radiator, I was afraid his fur would catch fire.

We often forget what our loved ones were like when they were young because aging is such a gradual process. Bluffy's aging was imperceptible until his first attack with an inner ear infection. I call it an attack, because it came on suddenly and rendered him almost unable to walk. He recovered quickly, and was able to fly back to New York with me when I divorced.

But a month later, he had another attack, this one more severe; he couldn't move at all. The kitty cat ICU at Guardian in Brewster pulled him through with antibiotics, although the illness left him stone deaf. And he never scaled fences again. Adjusting to our new way of communicating, he responded well to my hand signals for “come to mommy.”

He allowed me, without fussing, to carry him down the steps on what would be his last day of pleasure. After wandering around the basement exploring, he stood transfixed at the sliding glass door, cocking his head, following with his eyes the leaves fluttering in the wind and the chipmunks skittering by. He gave me his eyes one final time, uttering thanks in a silent meow.

A headstrong cat is often unwilling to be medicated. In Bluffy’s final days, he just couldn’t cooperate; it wasn’t in his nature. He would clamp his mouth shut! He’d wiggle and scratch, so I’d wrap him in a blanket. He’d hide his little face under the material, hoping since he couldn’t see me, I couldn’t see him. It tore me apart, and I didn’t want to put him through the stress of treatment any longer.

In the end, like many cats nearing death, he moved away from me; didn’t want to be stroked; wouldn’t look up. He’d checked out. It’s a relief knowing that by putting him to sleep, I assisted Bluffy - the freedom fighter - transition to infinite liberty.

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