My son, Alek, brought her home when he was about 7, and she was just a few months old.

I took an immediate liking to her, but my wife said no. She did not want a cat.

We had a dog, and she probably knew two young children would like to play with her, but feeding, watering and litter box duty were less appealing.

But she was the one who brought home all the necessities for raising a cat.

Alek had actually saved the kitten’s life. The neighbors had cats, but did not take them to the vet to prevent kittens. They thought it easier to poison the newborns.

My wife knew if we didn’t keep her, that would be the cat’s fate.

So we kept her and named her Cleo.

She stayed with us through a move from Kansas to Nebraska and a second move once in Nebraska.

Eighteen years after Alek brought her home, it was time to say goodbye.

I woke up and Cleo was not in her usual spot, her bed near the heat vent. I found it odd, but she is a cat and given to do her own thing.

I found her on a step heading to the basement. I sensed something was wrong, but not that wrong, until I came back upstairs later in the morning and found she had retreated to her litter box and was just lying in it.

That’s when I knew.

Later, my wife confirmed what was happening — Cleo was dying.

My wife and daughter, Claire, took Cleo to the vet and found out that her kidneys were not functioning, and at 18 years old the humane thing to do was to let her go.

I had said my goodbyes earlier, and they were there when Cleo took her last breath.

We are heartbroken.

Anyone who has lost a pet understands they are family, and not just an animal.

She will be the last cat we get. We have two dogs, and that is plenty.

Mostly, I just can’t imagine having a better cat.

Yes, she had an attitude and was frustrating at times.

For some reason she latched on to me. She sat on my lap a lot, sometimes slept at my feet, and did not like it when I slept in on weekends, becoming the most annoying alarm clock.

She even would gently bite my hand or even my cheek to wake me up.

We kept her food on a counter in the laundry room, so the dogs didn’t eat it, and there were some mornings I had to lift her up four or five times to get to her food. She would graze and then hop down and wait for me to lift her again. She wasn’t that hungry, she just wanted my attention.

It’s hard to believe that will never happen again.

Cleo is gone, and I wish I could feel that little bite on my hand again and lift her up to her bowl one more time.

 

Patrick Murphy, editor-publisher of the Humphrey Democrat and Newman Grove Reporter in Nebraska, is a former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.