Haibun: That which saves us

For Sherry’s prompt at Real Toads – what we save saves us. This is not my usual brief haibun. It is long. But Pugsley deserves a long haibun. Sherry assured me I had her permission to post this as she is not strict about prompts. No social justice here, just saving a starving car. I saved him and he saved me.

Haibun: That which saves us

Twenty years ago, I was living in the Fan in a small two room apartment. It was a hard winter and snow was on the ground. I stepped out my door to fill the birdfeeders when I noticed a skeletal ginger cat gobbling up popcorn that had been thrown out for the birds. It looked at me. I called softly, Kitty? It made a step towards me. I ran in the house and quickly opened a can of tuna which I put out. I backed away and the cat began to eat as if starved. The cat was there the next day and I put out some leftover chicken. This time I walked towards the cat and it hunkered down. I rubbed its head and it stretched beneath my hand, grateful for the attention. I picked it up and it snuggled in my arms purring. I told the cat, not on my watch are you going to starve. It took it in the house and noticed it had on a rhinestone collar which had grown into its skin. You are somebody’s pet, I told him. I had determined the cat had been spayed. I put up notices around the neighborhood and three streets over, an old lady answered the ad and told me it had been her neighbor’s cat that had been tossed out when her neighbor died. I kept the cat. I renamed him Pugsley. He was quiet, well behaved and affectionate. My fiance’ was not happy but knew I was determined. When we married and moved into our home, Pugsley went with us.

A few years later, my PAP smear came back negative. I had cancer. I felt like I had been gut punched. I cried for several days and Pugsley never left my side. He walked around after me in the house and got in my lap when I sat down. A biopsy was done and the results were malignant. I started a round of chemo and finally surgery. When I went for the chemo, Pugsley rode with me and sat with me whenever it was possible. Often I was sick and exhausted. I did not complain or tell people what was going on with me.  But I told Pugsley and he reminded me that he loved me and listened.  He’d lick my face when I cried. I came home after the surgery during which I almost died due to reaction to the sedatives and painkillers. When I finally went home, my husband told me Pugsley had not eaten and meowed constantly. The first thing when I lay down, he jumped on the bed and lay by my side, purring softly. During the weeks of recovery he made me laugh and snuggled. I talked to him and he laughed at my lame jokes and loved me. My husband had the perfect baby sitter in Puglsey.

About five years ago, Pugsley stopped eating and didn’t want to be held. I took him to the vet who determined he had a huge tumor growing in his stomach. My heart broke. I talked to the doctor and then talked to Pugsley. He lay in my arms while the vet put him down. This cat who had been so loving and faithful, I could not save this last time. I had him cremated and when I inserted my mother’s ashes in her mother’s grave, I inserted Pugsley as well. He was the best boi in the world. I cry still at his loss. I take him flowers when I take flowers to my mother.
snow falls quietly –
a starving cat won my heart –
flowers bloom on his grave

Pugsley under the crepe myrtle

17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sherry Marr
    Jan 10, 2019 @ 20:36:26

    Toni, what a gift it is to read this poem. Animals are far better than humans at reading our energy and providing selfless and devoted comfort. I know a woman who went through a severe mental health episode, where she was suicidal. She told me her small dog and cat both lay on her chest all night, trying to anchor her on the planet. They saved her, too. I am so glad you came through your cancer, and glad Pugsley was there with you. I cannot FATHOM why people tossed him out when his person died, when there are rescues who would have taken him. But i am glad it happened as it did, as he was meant for you and you for him. Thank you for this wonderful and moving story. I do hope you will link it at Toads so everyone can read it.


    • kanzensakura
      Jan 10, 2019 @ 20:50:07

      His family didn’t want to be bothered. Plain and simple. They put him out at the curb with the trash. I hate people so many times. but I posted this. It is my take on social justice, rescuing a starving animal.


  2. coalblack
    Jan 10, 2019 @ 20:57:38

    Oh fren. A companion like dear Pugsley is one who becomes part of your soul. Nothing can ever really separate you, not even death.


  3. msjadeli
    Jan 11, 2019 @ 01:02:37

    Such a heartfelt story. You needed each other.


  4. Rob Kistner
    Jan 11, 2019 @ 02:34:25

    This was deeply moving Toni. Sorry for your struggles, and the loss of your spirit animal.


  5. Anita
    Jan 11, 2019 @ 02:37:08

    Touching post.


  6. kim881
    Jan 11, 2019 @ 04:54:21

    As you know, Toni, I adore cats, and I’m so touched by your story of Pugsley. Cats know who they can trust and they choose us, we don’t choose them. It is wonderful when a cat adopts you and loves you forever. It’s amazing when they care about you too. The haiku is purrfect.


  7. Brendan
    Jan 11, 2019 @ 07:12:11

    You didn’t have to state the challenge, you just nailed it. Our relationship with salvation is a two-way road. All of our cats have been taken in from outdoors or outdoor fates, and we keep a border round the house for the ones we can’t take in so at least there’s something to eat. (A well fed stray is a mostly healthy one.) Wonderfully, magically told, and the haiku at the end buttons the entire tale in a single image.


  8. sanaarizvi
    Jan 11, 2019 @ 13:01:04

    This is so touching, Toni 💕 I couldn’t hold back my tears as I reached the end of the poem 😥


  9. rothpoetry
    Jan 11, 2019 @ 19:09:38

    What a wonderful heartfelt story. Such a dear friend to lose in this way. The haiku was perfect!


  10. Grace
    Jan 11, 2019 @ 20:27:20

    Very touching and a heartfelt tribute to your beloved cat. Love that you still remember and bring flowers to his grave.

    Have a good weekend.


  11. annell4
    Jan 12, 2019 @ 10:27:18

    Yes, the love of a cat is so special. I loved what you wrote, and I cried. Thank you Toni for sharing this wonderful friend.


  12. Christine Irving
    Jan 12, 2019 @ 12:44:38

    Your haibun brought tears to my eyes- no higher praise for a poet.


  13. purplepeninportland
    Jan 15, 2019 @ 21:13:30

    First of all, I am glad you are well. The haibun is a beautiful sharing piece of life. I always depend on my pets to make things better, and they never let me down. I have lost many over a period of years, and that is the hardest part.


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