More than once a year I would come to my parents with another kind of plan. The plan went something like this:
"If I had a _____ I would name it _____ and I would teach it to ____ and it would be my best friend forever." (Note - I continued to do this with Thatboy once we were married, and by that time my repertoire had expanded to include a song that went something like "Thatgirl and Ringo...best friends forever...singing and dancing...playing together.....") Usually this ploy was unsuccessful. But when I was in 6th grade, I finally hit the right note - or name. I came home from school one day right before my birthday to find the tiniest little ball of fluff in a box waiting for me.
Because of his beautiful caramel color, I suggested naming him "Caramel" - but Thatdad informed me that he only got the cat for me because of the name I had said I would name him if I was given a kitten. (And for the record, I was going to teach him to dance and we were going to be best friends forever - obviously)
From the start, Thatcat and I were inseparable. As soon as I'd come home from school, he'd plant himself on my lap, or my homework, or wherever he could get a bite of my hair if I had just returned from swim practice. At night, he would curl up beside me on my pillow (quickly learning that curling up beside my body meant he'd get rolled on when I tossed and turned). He let me do just about anything to him - our favorite tricks were "Cat hat" where I'd put him on my head, with his arms hanging off one side, and his legs off the other, and "Cat scarf" where I'd wrap him around my neck.
Due partly to his name I'd imagine, Thatcat had some very uncatlike behaviors. In fact, he was much more like a puppy. He was completely dependent, following me around the house, coming when he was called, playing fetch, and even wagging his tail with happiness. Once, when my bird figured out how to get out of his cage, Thatcat followed the bird around the house meowing until I came and found the two of them and put Thatbird back where he belonged.
Perhaps Thatcat's uncatlike behavior is why Thatdad fell in love with him. As a rule, Thatdad was not a cat person. And he's never liked either of my brother's cats. But he LOVED Thatcat so much, that when I went away to college, he refused to let me take Thatcat with me. He insisted that he couldn't lose both of us - it would be too much. So Thatcat stayed with my parents for the past ten years. Which probably suited him just as well since he and Thatdog DO NOT get along, and Thatboy is allergic to cats.
In April, Thatcat turned 16, and it was shortly after that we noticed him beginning to have some issues. I noticed he was having difficulty eating his kibble, mostly just pushing it around the bowl. Thatmom thought maybe he was having teeth pain, so she brought him in to the vet for a cleaning and exam. The vet determined he'd need a couple teeth extracted, but by the time of the cleaning, one of his teeth had already fallen out on its own, and the vet was too worried about the stability of his jaw to pull out any more. So they did a quick biopsy of a lesion in his mouth, cleaned him up, and sent him home.
It got worse from there. Soon after Thatcat stopped eating. We spent a couple weeks trying to find a wet food he would eat - we tried everyone on the market. When we finally found one he liked, we thought that was the end of our issues. It wasn't.
Right before we left for Kauai, I noticed that Thatcat's jaw was swollen. He couldn't even close his mouth and was drooling a lot. We brought him back into the vet. Although the biopsy had come back negative, the vet was convinced that Thatcat had cancer, which was causing his entire jaw to be "reconstructed." Based on his symptoms, it was surmised the cancer was pretty far progressed, and at his age, not much could be done. So we took Thatcat home and put him on "hospice" - twice daily doses of pain medication (the Michael Jackson drug) to alleviate his pain and help him stay with us a little longer.
But Thatcat's health continued to deteriorate. The drooling from the mouth became bleeding from the mouth, and even with the pain medication Thatcat was finding it more difficult to eat. He spent most of the time in "his room" - the guest bathroom, lying on the tile behind the door. And so this weekend we made the decision to let him go. We brought him to the vet who let me hold him as she administered the medication. He was gone in seconds. The vet assured us that we had done what was best for him, and how lucky he was to have people in his life that loved him so much - but we all knew we were the lucky ones to have him in our lives.