During a massive downpour one afternoon in November of 2004, I opened my door to a scrawny little stray cat that I had been feeding. For months he had played hard-to-get. Hiding under my deck, waiting for me to leave before creeping out to eat. Gradually becoming used to me after I decided to just sit on the steps waiting for him. At some point, his hunger overcame his fear of me, and he came out to eat as long as I wasn’t TOO close to the food dish. Eventually, he came up to the deck to eat and meet my other two cats, who had decidedly different reactions to him. The big one ignored him, while the little one was VERY territorial, hissing and challenging the interloper. All that ended on that stormy afternoon when I opened the door.

Toby darted inside, ran through kitchen and family room, then upstairs, instinctively choosing to hide inside the closet in my home office. He stayed in there for a couple of days, coming out only to eat and surreptitiously creep downstairs to the litter boxes. We got to know each other in those days as he learned to trust me and believe that he had finally found a home. The day he decided it was safe to come out for good, he charged downstairs and jumped up on the sofa where I was sitting with little Chrissy on my lap. After a few tense minutes, Toby also came onto my lap, snuggling in and forcing Chrissy to give up her territory. (Chrissy switched allegiance, becoming my husband’s lap cat.)

For the next 13 1/2 years, Toby has been my #1, always with me. Sleeping with me every night, following me around during the day, jumping into my lap whenever I sit down, talking up a storm, yelling at me to fill the food dishes and clean the litter box when I’m remiss. A host of medical issues have slowed  him down over the past few years, but even when severe arthritis make it difficult for him to walk, he still manages to get up on his hind legs, front paws on my thighs, letting me know he wants to sit with me.

All that came to an end this afternoon. Sweet Toby put up a great fight but he couldn’t recover from his medical issues. I had to let him cross the Rainbow Bridge. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.