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Our little Cleo passed away today, 15 July 2002, in our arms at an emergency animal hospital not long after midnight. She had been fighting a liver disease, and although she held strong for a number of days, her little body couldn't turn the corner it needed to, and we sadly had no choice but to put an end to her suffering. There is an emptiness in our house today as we mourn her loss; and between eating, sleeping and playing with their parents who quietly stayed at home today, both her brothers seem to exude a sadness as well.

Cleo entered our household only a couple weeks before Nicole and I were to begin our lives together, a few months over three years ago. She was, what one might call, a surprise adoptee, and while she didn't care too much for her new brother Mindy at first, she took advantage of my company by crawling on my left - back end at my lap, front at my knee - and slowly but surely began to accept me as her own. By time Nicole and Rascal moved in with me, she was out and about…albeit spending a good deal of time watching the world from a few strategic hiding corners.

The twisted paths of her mind were fascinating to experience over the past three years. Nicole dubbed her Picasso brain; her fear of throw-rugs, her desire to dig in the litter box for marathon amounts of time, and her quite angry, yet hardly intimidating, kitty growls whenever something would upset her (even if nobody else had any idea what that something was) only touch the surface of the things her eyes saw in a way that no others did. She rarely played like the other cats did, and she held her affection to when we least expected it, and seemingly most needed it. Even in one of her last days, when sitting in a vet consultation room, she saved the worst part of the conversation where words like, "cancer," "euthanasia," and "tuberculoses" were being tossed around to release the loudest purr I think I ever heard her make.

With this, the poor cat's biggest curse was her own beauty. Her thick, wonderfully shaded black and brown and white fur was just too tempting to leave alone, and she often found herself being petting and hugged when she simply wanted to sleep. She could be a diva in the purest sense of the word; strutting around letting everyone (including her brothers) admire her, but squawking bloody murder if anyone were to get too close. Then, when we had all but given up hope of touching her, she would plop directly in our laps, and cling on for dear life if we even attempted to move. Secretly, I'm sure she loved tormenting us as much as we occasionally did her.

Nothing brought out more joy in Cleo than when we moved to a house earlier this year. No longer intimidated by her brothers in the tight corners of the apartment, she fought for and defended her turf as bravely as the orange tabbies that nearly doubled her in size. Occasionally she would oust her brothers from the morning bed-patties, much to Nicole's and my own surprise. She even defended Nicole as her mom - and her mom alone - the first evening in the new place, lying at her feet and growling if anyone came near her. As with anything, these efforts were always on her own terms, a quality that made her more endearing that I can ever hope to describe with words.

Give your own pets a hug today, thinking about Cleo for only a second, and how much they mean to you the remainder of the time. Every day with Cleo was a blessing for us, and I hope she felt that way as well.
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