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He is sitting on my lap, not knowing that it's his last night with me. He is sitting here, trusting me because I am his friend, his very best friend, and tomorrow I am taking him to the vet for the last time.

We moved into this house 12 years ago and we had cats. Two left over from Chicago, two more Mrs. Goofy acquired during her short stay in an apartment here while I sold the house up north. They find her. They always have.

Tuxedo was not one of those, he belonged to the people next door, although you'd barely know it. To hear the story, Tuxedo had another name but everybody just called him "the cat" and the wife next door had all his claws removed because she didn't like him clawing the furniture. Then came divorce, and the next wife didn't like him, so he was banished to the outdoors. A cat with no claws, in a neighborhood where people let their dogs run (and they do, in packs), where we get racoons, foxes, and more recently a coyote.

All black, white paws and chest, it wasn't long before he acquired a new name: Tuxedo. He had no collar and for the longest time we didn't know he belonged to anyone, so occasionally we would put out a plate of food for him. When we found out he belonged next door we stopped feeding him, but it didn't matter; he didn't get any attention there and he kept showing up here - not that he got along with our cats, far from it, but it didn't seem to dissuade him.

He would sun himself on the roof of our ragtop car; I watched him jump to the bumper, launch to the hood, and then up the windshield to the roof. I guess it was as high as he could get without those claws, and it was safe, and it was good. Once in a while I'd see him languorously stretching out and I'd bring him an afternoon snack, and he'd look at me with puzzlement as if to say "You're human. What are you doing being nice to me? None of the others are."

A few years ago he darted in the door and decided to stay. With frequent coyote sightings being reported around the neighborhood (and two reported cat kills) we couldn't turn him out, and we didn't. I called the neighbor to tell them that he had come in, and was in our fenced backyard, and was that a problem, and he said "No, keep him if you want."

We did. And he became more "my" cat than any I've had for 30 years, possibly excepting my first, a Siamese who died young. Tuxedo will not die young, he is at least 20, although he has been part of our house for only three years or so.

It was in January, we saw a little bulge on his lip and we thought "abscess" and took him to the vet. "Yep," she said, and scheduled him for an operation the next morning. While he was under she called me and said "It's not an abscess, it's somethingorother carcinoma of the jaw, it's common, and it's fatal.

"How long do we have?" I wanted to know, my throat tightening as I asked.

"Days. Maybe weeks. Possibly a month or two, it depends."

It has been three months, and Tuxedo has been given and has given back a lifetime of love even as the tumor has progressed, first in his jaw, then into his eye, and now bursting out through his cheek.

I thought we had reached the end before, but he always rallied; he kept his appetite until a couple days ago, he climbed on my lap at every opportunity, he purred, he napped. He did all the normal, stupid, usual things a cat does, even with the special feedings and the medicine. Always the medicine. And now he's bleeding, and he's uncomfortable, and even the morphine which we have assiduously given him twice daily is not helping.

My poor boy is in pain, and I need to end it.

This is killing me, and I know it's the right thing, and it's killing me. He's such an innocent, he's had a good three years, and maybe more than I don't know about, and it's killing me.

Goodbye sweet Tuxedo. Tomorrow I will take you to the vet, and I will bring you home, and I will put you in the soft, sweet earth, and cry some more.
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