When my first cat, Eliza, died 16 years ago, I wrote that I would never love anyone or anything as much again.
And I didn't get another cat for many months, until my veterinarian's office called and said they had a kitten I might like.
She was a little gray fluffball. I named her Nelly and took her home. But after about a month I realized she needed a playmate.
As luck would have it, the next day one of my co-workers brought in a little feral kitten she had humanely trapped in Moss Beach.
I named her Phoebe and took her home. She and Nelly got along great.
But five months later Nelly got outside and was killed.
Phoebe mourned bitterly for about 15 or 20 seconds. Then I saw the proverbial light bulb over her head go "click!"
And ever since that day she made it clear, as only a very stubborn former feral can: NO MORE CATS!
Also, no dogs, rabbits, hamsters or, especially, people. Just her and me.
That was Rule Number One. She trusted me not to eat her, but she wasn't so sure about anyone else.
Rule Number Two was: I'm supposed to be home 24/7, paying attention to her.
The penalty for violating Rule Number One was her hiding under the bed for hours after the visitor had gone.
The penalty for violating Rule Number Two was The Glare.
All cat owners know The Glare. It means "Stop paying attention to that %*&#@^&! book (or telephone or computer) and pay attention to ME!"
She also had different meows for "Feed me," "Play with me," "I am ready to go outside," "I am ready to come inside," "I am about to vomit" and "Are you a moron?"
Having said all that, she was the best-behaved cat I ever had. She ate only dry food, and she never trashed the furniture - not even once.
I had something to do with that. When she was little, I'd give her a kitty treat every time she used the scratching post.
Being no fool, she quickly figured out that the way to get kitty treats was to use the post. Which she did – many, many times a day. And God help me if I was late with the kitty treat. I'd get The Glare.
I was proud of myself for having trained her so well. Then one day I finally realized: She had trained me!
But my favorite time was bedtime. She would climb up on the bed, curl up beside me, lay her little head in the palm of my hand and, using it as a pillow, fall asleep. And we'd stay that way all night. It warms my heart just to think about it.
Two years ago Phoebe's health started to fail. It was one ailment right after another. Her doctors, Alan Shriro and Rick Benjamin of Berkeley Dog & Cat Hospital, performed miracle after miracle, but they finally ran out of rabbits to pull out of the hat.
I had her put down on May 1. She went quickly and peacefully. The last thing she saw, the last touch she felt, and the last voice she heard was me.
Did I say I'd never love anyone or anything as much as I loved Eliza? I was wrong.