This story begins and ends with deeply felt loss. But what about the in between? Yes, that’s what really matters.

In the summer of 1996, I had two dear cats, Lenny and Elvis. They were buddies. Bookends. They completed each other and filled my life with fun and my home with love. By the end of the summer, Lenny succumbed to respiratory illness. Up until that time, I had no idea that our pets grieve and sometimes very deeply. Such was the case with Elvis.

I watched him mope around the apartment for 4 months, his countenance growing sadder and sadder as he looked for – but could not find – his best friend. Elvis had a heart condition and, to my eyes, he seemed on the verge of giving up. Obviously, he needed a companion.

babynikitaCoincidentally my neighbor told me she had two 6-week old kittens and that I could have one of them.  As I watched the ginger boy with white paws tumble around with his calico sister, I decided on the fuzzy pink-bellied boy. He was small enough to carry upstairs in the palms of my hands. He had no name but he definitely brought new life to my dear Elvis.

What to name him? What to name him? I tried out three or four names over a 2-week period but they were all non-starters. He didn’t respond to any of them and none seemed to fit. It was nearing Christmas when it hit me: this kitten was a gift and his name should reflect that in some way. I hit on the Russian variant of the name Nicholas (as in St. Nick) and Nikita was his name-o!

Elvis quickly took Nik under his wing, teaching the boy about the best places to perch, how to get to and from the bathroom sink where I kept a trickle of water running, and who was really the boss of the house. Sadly, Nik’s time with Elvis was cut short. Within 3 months, pneumonia took my beloved Elvis. All of a sudden, I had a feisty and playful kitten in need of an older hand to teach him the ropes. Fate once again intervened.

nikandsylA couple I knew had taken in a well-fed but frightened green-eyed beauty. They searched around the neighborhood for her owners. In the meantime, the girl was so afraid of their small dog that she took up residence in the hall closet. Clearly she needed a home. I said I would take her, thinking she would provide the nurturing Nikita needed. Yeah. Not so much.

It took Sylvia six days to come out of the bathroom. Once she did, she decided that I was okay but that kitten? That kitten was a pest and would only be tolerated in small doses. Nik, on the other hand, was completely devoted to her. Whenever Sylvia wrapped her sturdy paw around his neck, Nik never complained. He groomed her and kept her warm. Whenever I saw a new scratch on his little pink nose, I knew at once it was Sylvia’s doing. Nik remained glued to her for the rest of her life.

Sorry. I skipped ahead 10 years or so.

Sylvia was pretty bossy but that didn’t stop Nik from coming into his own clever self. He would jump and climb everywhere. So much so that I called him my little monkey. He loved to have his tummy rubbed and would flop down on his back as soon as I said, “Who’s got the belly?” He was so observant that he learned how to open drawers and doors by pulling the handles, where most cats will swat at the door or reach underneath. Nik would stand up on his hind legs and Nik-bellyflip the lever handles on my bedroom door. It became impossible to shut the cat out at night. I actually had to resort to putting baby locks on cabinets and drawers – that is unless I wanted some curious creature to find his way under the sink or inside the bathroom vanity. Once, he even trapped Sylvia in the hall closet.

I was out of town and my Mom came over to watch the cats. For the life of her, she could not find Sylvia. Eventually she heard this gruff little sound coming from the closet. Apparently, Nik stood up and pushed the door closed on the poor girl.

His other proclivity? Plastic bags. Oh, my pica baby LOVED his plastic bags. He would sniff them out even when they were all the way at the bottom of another bag, climb inside and drag out his prey. He was right by my side anytime I cleaned the litter box, so much so that I called him my little helper. He’d bite and hold one side of the bag open while I cleaned the tray.

He had his favorite toys. He overcame his fear of strangers. The one thing Nik lacked was a buddy. A real buddy. By the time Sylvia left us, Nik was already 10 years old but still very kittenish, with his soft, fluffy furs and innocent face. Rocky was just what the doctor ordered.

nik-rock-hug2014Rocky was only 4 years old so the zoomies and rough and tumble were the order of the day. It did my heart so good to see these two boys become bookends as well – each occupying the opposite end of the sofa; laying back to back like yin and yang; playing straw hockey until the darn thing was lost in the land underneath the buffet.

This went on for 4 or 5 years before Nik began to show signs of becoming a senior citizen. No more jumping, not much rough and tumble, no more straw hockey. Even though he began a physical and cognitive decline, there were bright spots that showed me my forever kitten was still in there. He might not be able to jump or climb or even sit comfortably but that’s what the kitty stairs were for. He might have gone deaf but I still sang his favorite songs right into his ear so he could feel my rhythmic breath. And he still had his favorite toy: the bird on a wire! Even though Nik had lost 6 pounds from his adult high of 14.5, he still carried that thing wherever he went, crowing proudly all the way. My friend JZ called him The Mighty Hunter. I would say, “bring me the toy!” and he’d drop it at my feet.

When the arthritis in his back end got so bad, he couldn’t stand to have his tail end touched. I scratched it a bit, sang the “Scratchy Butt Kitty” song and watched as he raised nik-birthday-cookieshis tail – just the tiniest bit in that happy cat pose. I was forever coming up with silly things like that. Nightime was the same ritual. I would say, “Time for bed” and he would trot along, jump up on his side of the bed and wait for me to turn out the light and climb in. He’d sit on my chest and, as I scratched his chin and petted him, I’d sing “Fuzzy Wuzzy Was A Bear” and “C is for Cookie” until he laid down against my left side, his tail curling onto my shoulder and his head laying on my hand. I loved that little guy like nobody’s business. Sometimes so much that the thought of losing him made my heart ache.

I hate that our companions lives are on fast-forward but I suppose that’s part of the deal. One takes the bitter portion with the greater portion of comfort and delight they bring. I don’t define Nik’s last period of life as a list of maladies. I rather think I did everything I could to make him happy and comfortable; that I loved and respected him enough to let him go. There were tears. There still are. I’m hit by a wave of choking sadness then something will make me smile. Something will bring to mind the day he decided my birthday cookie bouquet had to be taste-tested first. That my shoes were the perfect recepticles for his fluff ball toys. That there was no way to defeat a kitty determined to shred the paper towel or the toilet paper.

He’s gone ahead, meeting up with his teacher, Elvis, his bossy girl, Sylvia, and his wife, Bianca. Nik may have originally come home as a kitten for my cat but he quickly became so much more. Nik became my buddy.

nikportrait

Nikita Boykin
29 October 1996 — 26 December 2015

Life is a book that we study
Some of its leaves bring a sigh
There it was written by a buddy
That we must part, you and I
~~~
My buddy, my buddy
Nobody quite so true
My buddy, my buddy
Your buddy misses you

– Lyrics by Gus Kahn, 1922

 

24 Responses to My Buddy

  1. Katie Isabella says:

    Nik and Mom. My heart is truly broken. I miss you darling boy. I always will. I know you are with Sylvus and Bisnca now. And waiting for us to come bro you by snd by. We will sweetest boy. Meanwhile I ei see your brilliant star shining tonight.

  2. mariodacat says:

    My heart is breaking for you, his human mom. Those of us who knew him on Twitter will always love him. M says one day you will meet again – a long time from now. We will be watching for your bright star also.

  3. What a lovely tribute to an amazing kitty.
    So sorry for your loss.
    Purrs Georgia and Julie,
    Treasure and JJ

  4. Brian Frum says:

    We are so very sorry to hear about dear Nik. We all send you purrs, hugs, and all of our love.

  5. Flynn says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you.

  6. We came here from Admiral’s page. Your tribute of Nik is so full of of and pain it is making me cry – I feel like I lost him too. he had a long love filled life with you and his feline friends. Know that he is watching down from above and waiting to reunite with you some day. Sending hugs from all of us.

  7. We saw on Admiral’s page that Nik had run away for the bridge and wanted to say how sorry we are for your loss. His face is so sweet and his life obviously rich and full of love. Sending gentle purrs and hugs, Caro and Austin ❤️

  8. Allyson says:

    We are so sorry pals for your loss. We love our admiral and know she will take good care of your for baby, now they will be together for Christmas #otrb our loves to you #wlf

  9. Random Felines says:

    We are so very sorry. “Lives in fast forward” is so appropriate. There never seems to be enough time. Purrs

  10. We’re so sorry about Nik. We send comforting purrs and gentle headbutts.

  11. We are so sorry. Nikita was so handsome and sounds like he was quite the character, one that knew he was very loved. We are sorry he was needed at the Bridge. Sending soft purrs and warm thoughts.

  12. Blessings to you today as you remember Nikita. What a long life he had! 1996 to 2015! Almost made 20 years… because you and your fur babies loved him so….Nik is waitng fur you. Purrz and Pryarez from the Katie Katz.

    (My dear smart and brave Spunky Bear that I raised from 3 days old was a prize fighter as a young man- lived to be almost 20, mellowed as an older boy and learned to speak my name “‘atrin!” (Katherine). When he had a stroke in 2008, his time to go, but he wouldn’t leave me… I held him in my arms and prayed, Dear Lord, Spunky is yours now… I release him into your loving arms…he leaped over the Rainbow Bridge. Puzzles Spunky Bear born Good Friday 1989 to October 2008)

  13. We didn’t know Nik, but he sounds like quite a lovable character. We’re glad you had so many years with him and we know he is greatly missed! A warm hug, purrs and paw taps.

  14. Cathy Keisha says:

    Coming to pay my respects to Nik. *bows head* I knew him both on Twitter and through the Admiral. They are a couple once more OTRB.

  15. Tamago says:

    I’m so very sorry to hear about loss of your sweet Nik. I knew him through Admiral’s blog and my heart broke by this sad news. Please know my thoughts are with you.

  16. Ellen Pilch says:

    I am so sorry for the loss of this beautiful boy.

  17. meowmeowmans says:

    We are so sad to hear of Nik’s journey to the Bridge. Please accept our sincere condolences, and our gentle purrs and prayers as you miss your special boy.

  18. OH man what a beautiful story, and what a gorgeous family. It is never good when they go and I am sorry you lost such a special boy – they are meant to live forever aren’t they. Just like us….

  19. The J-Cats says:

    We saw on the Admiral’s blog that Nikita had flown off to the Bridge. Alas, we did not know Nikita, except as Lady Bianca’s husband, but we know what it is like to lose a furbaby and we grieve with you. Yet it must surely be some comfort to know that Lady Bianca was waiting to greet him at the end of his journey and that, one day, you will all be reunited in the Land of Eternal Sunshine.

    Hugs and Purrs

    Trixie, Caspurr, Shimshi and Mummy Shimona

  20. Clasca says:

    Sending you hugs, big hugs. What a beautiful story about your Nikki. Lots of love my friend.

  21. Ann Adamus says:

    Farewell, little Nik ~ so special, you cannot be replaced. You have left your mark on this world, now run free to leave it upon the next.

  22. We were so very sorry to hear of Nik’s passing. He was so lucky to be such a well loved kitty.

  23. Nik;

    Our beautiful gal pal Admiral sent us your way; while we did not have the honor of knowing you, your purrson’s awesome tribute post gave us a glimpse into your years on this earth. Godspeed your journey to heaven and our sincerest sympathies to your family and the friends you’ve left behind …..with hugs from all of us ♥♥♥♥♥

  24. Deziz World says:

    We are so very sorry fur your loss and ours. Buddy sounds amazin’ and we never got to know him. But your words bring him to life in our minds and hearts where he will live furever. Sendin’ lots and lots of hugs and purrayers.

    Luv ya’

    Dezi and Lexi and mommy A

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