Believe it or not, I didn't always love cats. In fact, I used to be a cat hater. After all, cats are aloof and unfriendly, right?
Wrong. That's the sign of someone who has never met a cat. But it all changed when I fell in love with a woman who had a cat named K.C., short for Kitty Kat.
For the first six months we lived together I wouldn't let poor K.C. into our bedroom. Then one day she decided enough was enough, and she proceeded to seduce me.
It didn't take long. By the end of the day she had me wrapped around her little paw, proving once again that there's no zealot like a converted sinner.
We became so tight that when my girlfriend and I broke up, she offered to give me the cat. But I knew K.C. would be happier with her mom, so I reluctantly turned her down.
Two weeks after I moved into a new place there was a knock on my door, and when I opened it there were four little kids from the elementary school across the street with a gray tabby kitten so tiny, you could easily hold her in the palm of your hand.
"Mister, did you lose this kitty?" they asked.
"No," I said, "but I'll take her."
And so I met the love of my life (four-footed version). I named her Eliza Doolittle, and from the moment we met it was the greatest love I've ever known. We'd look into each other's eyes, and I knew she knew what I was thinking, and she knew I knew, and so on. I will never have that kind of intimacy again.
She was loving and sweet and absolutely fearless. When I left for work every morning, she'd climb out the bathroom window and into the bedroom of my next-door neighbor Cindy, and curl up in bed with Cindy and her dog Emma.
Then, when Cindy left for her job, Eliza would spend the rest of the day in the back yard, surveying her domain from a tree and slaughtering the seemingly endless supply of mice, which she'd stack like cordwood as a welcome-home present for me when I came home every evening.
Cindy could always tell when I was about to arrive, long before my car hove into view, because she could hear Eliza jump down out of the tree, run across the back yard, jump in the bathroom window, and race the length of the apartment so she would be waiting for me when I opened the front door.
She was my faithful companion, in good times and bad. She taught me the simple joy of loving and being loved. I might have had it over her intellectually, but morally she was my superior in every way.
We were together for almost 17 years until I came home one night and found her lying dead on the floor. That was 20 years ago today.
I've had four more cats since then – Nelly, Phoebe, Sally and Pepe – and I've loved them all dearly. But not a day has gone by
when I haven't thought about Eliza and missed her.
I really hope there is a heaven because when I die, the first thing I want to see is her.