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12 Aug 2020

Buster's Big Journey: We Can't Attend Dodger Games in Person This Year, So We Sent Our Recently Departed Cat Instead

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Buster is surrounded by dogs in his seat at Dodger Stadium. Buster is surrounded by dogs in his seat at Dodger Stadium.

To properly explain how our cat, Buster, is hanging out at Dodger Stadium at a time when we are unable to do so, we need to start the story in June 2006.

We were living in Tucson, Ariz., and it had been about a year since my cat, Beavis, had died. After serious negotiations with my then-boyfriend (and now-husband), Garrett, we decided it was time to bring another feline into our lives. One weekend, we headed to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona to meet some of the cats and kittens up for adoption. I was looking at a cute little grey furball when Garrett pointed to a cage containing two orange-and-white male kittens, about six weeks old. One of the kittens, then named Yoda—presumably because of the tufts of white hair sprouting out his ears—was nervously sitting in the back of his cage. The other, then named Kiku, was hanging on the wire door, mewling his extreme displeasure at anyone and everyone who passed by.

“If we get two cats, they won’t be alone when we’re not home,” Garrett said.

So we went over to meet them. Yoda remained nervous. When picked up Kiku to give him a look, he reached out and clawed my upper lip.

“Handsome, you’re going to be paying for that for the rest of your life,” I said.

After they received the requisite neutering and vaccinations, we took Yoda and Kiku home. Yoda became Maeby, and Kiku became Buster. (I was a big Arrested Development fan at the time.) As beloved pets do, Maeby and Buster became family.

Maeby, the fluffier one, transformed from a skittish, nervous kitten into, no exaggeration, the sweetest creature I have encountered on this planet. He exuded joy—whenever someone picked him up, he’d reflexively begin kneading with happiness—and loved being social whenever friends would come over. He enjoyed playing fetch, but we had to be careful when taking him outside, because he could escape from any harness placed upon him.

Buster, the shorter-haired one, turned into the alpha of the pack—at least in his own mind. While he and Maeby adored each other, he’d chew off Maeby’s whiskers when we weren’t looking. He could be just as loving and as social as Maeby, but he was also perfectly happy to hang out by himself, whereas Maeby wanted attention whenever possible. Buster had one obsession—bugs. Whenever one was spotted inside the house, it would demand his rapt attention.

In early 2013, we had decided to move to Palm Springs; this meant uprooting Buster and Maeby from the only home they had known. While they HATED the car trip here—they always hated car trips, associating them with vet visits—they settled into their new home in Palm Springs nicely. However, several months after the move, Maeby got very ill—he had an impacted hairball in his colon. He was also given another diagnosis: He was in the early stages of kidney disease.

After emergency surgery and a short hospital stay, Maeby came home and fully recovered—although we were told to shave his gorgeous fur to cut down on the chances of a recurrence. While he didn’t care much for the clipper jobs, they didn’t ruin his happy, ever-loving nature. He remained his sweet self until suffering an apparent stroke. In 2015, at the age of 9, our Maeby passed away.

Maeby’s death transformed Buster. While his base personality remained the same, and he still had occasional moments of solitude, he became an attention freak: When he was in the mood, he insisted on attention. If there was a lap open, he was on it, and if there wasn’t a lap open, he would wait, not-so-patiently, until there was. The picture posted here was taken one night as he waited for me to finish dinner so he could have access to my lap—and, more importantly, get belly rubs

Shortly after Maeby’s passing, Buster, too, was diagnosed with early-stage kidney disease. But as of his regular checkup last March—right as the world was shutting down—his kidney levels were OK, and his overall health was good.

Buster was quite happy with the lockdown, because it meant that both of his dads were working from home and rarely went anywhere—meaning he got more attention, belly rubs and snuggles.

Early in the summer, we noticed that Buster was getting skinnier. His food bowl didn’t empty as quickly as before, and as the days passed, it started barely emptying at all. While Buster was as loving—and insistent on belly rubs—as ever, he had moments of lethargy. The final straw came when we noticed he wasn’t cleaning his fur as well as he always had: It was time to subject our 14-year-old Buster to the cross-town car trip to the vet. (Our cats went to Banfield Pet Hospital; shortly after Buster’s March visit, they closed down the nearby Palm Springs location, meaning we had to drive him to Palm Desert.)

We dropped him off on the morning of Friday, July 24; several hours later, the vet called with the news: His kidney levels were off the charts. Buster was very sick. He had only a few days left, and he could start having seizures at any time.

We had a brief discussion, and decided that it was time to let Buster go. We told the vet we’d return to say goodbye.


One of the most awful things about this damned pandemic is that it’s robbed us of our coping devices—the things we use to deal with the travails life brings us. Going to the gym, happy hour with friends, a summer vacation … nope, not possible right now.

The timing of Buster’s death coincided with the blessed return of one of my coping devices: baseball. I am a huge Los Angeles Dodgers fan. In normal times, I watch at least half of the team’s games on TV, and I try to get to Dodger Stadium once or twice a year to take in a game.

While Major League Baseball is back (at least as of this writing … you never know what COVID-19 has in store for the future), it’s different. Some of the rules have been changed; players are asked to keep their distance from each other in the dugout; and, most notably, there are no fans in the stands.

Well, actually, there are fans … sort of.

The Dodgers, as well as other teams, are allowing people to purchase fan cutouts, which are then placed in seats at the stadium. (Fun fact: A cutout of the eponymous corpse from Weekend at Bernie’s currently sits behind home plate at Kansas City Royals games.) In the Dodgers’ case, all of the proceeds, except for the $11.25 value of the cutout, go to the nonprofit Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation.

The Dodgers aren’t just allowing human cutouts at the stadium; they’re allowing pets, too. So … because we can’t go to Dodger games in person this year, and because the bulk of the $149 fee goes to a good cause, we decided to send Buster, in cutout form, to Dodger Stadium on our behalf.

On Saturday, Aug. 8, as we watched the Dodgers play the San Francisco Giants on TV, we spotted Buster in the stands. The sight led to biggest smile I’ve had on my face since March.

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