AS A KID, I had a fraught relationship with my cat, Buddy. I know what you’re thinking: “Buddy?? What a basic name.” Well, I couldn’t agree more. I was 5 when we got him, and unfortunately, I was not trusted with the responsibility of choosing a name. To placate me, my parents told me I could come up with the middle name and the last name of the new cat (I don’t know why Buddy didn’t take on our family’s surname — “Buddy Barnett” has a nice ring to it). I christened him “Buddy Bear Donkey.”
Maybe that’s why Buddy hated me. His disdain for me was different from most cats’ aversion to small children. He didn’t run from me or hide beneath couches, both conventional and understandable responses to overzealous hugs. No, Buddy didn’t seek avoidance; he pursued revenge. The orange tabby cat sought me out when I was weakest: at 5 a.m., in my deepest slumber. He would climb on my bed, dip his deceptively cute head under the covers, and bite (not nibble!) my toes.
In the morning, I would find him so that we could make up. Hug it out. Ask him, “What had I done to deserve this?” But I couldn’t get through. I even watched The Aristocats, hoping I could learn something about Buddy. Perhaps, like the Duchess and her kittens, Buddy had a love of the piano. I played him my best rendition of “Hot Cross Buns.” (In retrospect, he might’ve been hoping for a more refined tune. Perhaps an arpeggio or some coffeehouse Norah Jones).