Ever since I was a small child, I have always had a soft spot for animals. One hot summer day, when I was seven-years-old, my dad, my brother and I went to the ASPCA to adopt a cat. The cat room was cluttered with adorable and lively cats. Cages lined the walls and piled up high, towering over us. Amid the boisterous cats and chorus of meows, my brother and I spotted a tan cat in one of the back cages. The cat sat quietly in the cage with a disconsolate look in his eyes. We found his reticence endearing and decided with little debate that he was the right choice. As the staff readied him for our adoption, we began mulling over names for him. When the cashier rang up our purchase and said, “45 bucks,” we posited the name, “Bucky,” and instantly fell in love with it. We scooped up Bucky and headed home with our new pet.
Bucky spent the first week with us in hiding. He tucked himself underneath our beds and sat atop the dining room chairs behind the drooping table cover. We figured that he was simply shy and needed some time to acclimate to his new surroundings, but we later learned that his previous owners had abused him. I felt deeply saddened by these revelations and, in turn, sought to comfort and reassure him. I would often sit by him and occasionally reach a tentative hand into his hiding place and gently stroke his fur. I periodically fed him treats and attempted to roll balls back and forth with him. I wanted to show him the love and affection that he needed and deserved.
Eventually, Bucky came out of his hiding and settled into his new home, and the two of us became fast friends. We would play an assortment of games and run around the house together. He’d greet me at the door when I returned home from school and snuggle into the foot of my bed at night as I fell asleep. He eventually let me hold and carry him, and he would tolerate my frequent hugs and kisses. We developed a strong bond. I initially felt that I was the caretaker in this relationship, but, over time, I realized that we were both playing that role. I was exceedingly timid as a child and had few friends, and Bucky filled the void of loneliness inside of me. I began to love him dearly, and he warmly reciprocated. Eventually, I could not picture my life without him in it.
Our relationship remained quite durable throughout the years, but when the time came to enroll in college, it began to suffer its first cracks. For the first time in my life, I was living away from my home, my family and my furry companion, and we missed each other greatly. My mother told me that Bucky would regularly meow and paw at my door of my room. I returned home when possible and would always receive a warm and friendly reception from Bucky. But as I entered my second year of college, I began to notice a growing distance between Bucky and me. My time away from home seemed to weaken our once strong bond, and Bucky, in turn, grew closer to my father. On weekends at home, Bucky would spend more time in my father’s lap than mine, and I’d find myself falling asleep in an empty bed. But despite these fractures in our relationship, we continued to maintain a loving bond.
One day, I received a text message from my mother informing me that Bucky was not walking properly. By this time, Bucky’s fur had considerably greyed, particularly on his face, and baths became more and more infrequent. Nonetheless, I brushed off the text without too much thought. But a few days later, my mother sent me another text message informing me that Bucky was not eating or drinking. I began to grow concerned and decided to return home the next day. Upon entering the house and spotting Bucky, my heart sank. Bucky was very visibly frail and sickly. His eyes were sunken, his fur disheveled, and he struggled just to walk a few steps. He looked like death itself, and I could see the pain, agony and defeat in his timeworn eyes. My mother and I whisked him into the car and promptly drove to the veterinarian’s office. The vet only had to poke Bucky’s belly to determine the issue: he had tumors in his stomach and was on his deathbed. She said one of us could hold Bucky while she euthanized him. My teary-eyed mother shook her head, so I volunteered. I was not as emotional as I had predicted. Everything was happening so quickly that I did not have the time to fully absorb the events unfolding before me and realize that I was losing my closest friend. Almost mechanically, I held out my arms to hold Bucky one last time. The vet injected a needle into his arm, and I watched the life go out of his eyes as tears rolled out of mine. I stood holding my lifeless cat in my arms, stricken with sadness and shock, before proceeding to drive home and bury him.
A few days later, I was sitting on my bedroom floor looking through a collection of old family photos. When I came across some photos of Bucky and me from my childhood, I suddenly felt a pang of pain in the pit of my stomach. Reality finally struck me: my childhood companion was gone. I would never again hear his meow upon returning home or stroke his fur whilst he sat on my lap. I would never again get to laugh at his silly faces, feed him treats or fall asleep next to him. As reality set in, I found my eyes beginning to water. Though Bucky and I had drifted apart during the end of his life, I still cherish all of the wonderful memories we shared and fun times we spent together. Bucky was my friend when no one else was. We discovered much-needed love and companionship in one another and built a memorable and long-lasting bond, one that I will never forget.
Nearly three years later, I still miss my old furry friend. After his death, I pinned a picture of the two of us on my corkboard, my arm around him as he rubs his forehead affectionately against my temple, in order to properly remember our friendship. I will glance at it from time and time and begin reminiscing about the past, though this practice has admittedly become less frequent over time. Occasionally, I’ll hear a cat’s meow or come across a tan cat, and all the memories will start flooding back. But as I move forward in life, I know that many of these memories will inevitably fade. However, I will never forget that hot sunny day that I found Bucky, and he will always hold a special place in my heart.