He was a mighty hunter and a warrior. He was very much an individual who made his own rules, coming and going as he pleased, answering to no one except himself. He was also a darling companion who learned to trust although I think he would never have liked to be described as "darling." Now that he is gone, I miss him very much and it strikes at the most unexpected of moments and I wonder why he had to go in the first place.

I wrote the following about eight or ten years ago when our animals were still with us, when they were younger -- as was I -- and so much more energetic, when their presence was sometimes taken for granted, but also when their company was a comfort and appreciated.

Cats were never a favourite until he entered our lives. I love dogs, am crazy about them, but then one day we found a tiny little kitten (probably just a few weeks old) tucked away in a corner of our garage. How he got there, who put him there, we'll never know. And that kitten grew to be a cat who was half-wild and who eventually came to be a part of our family. A complete description? A glossy black coat with white paws. A most common description but a most uncommon cat. (I now realise that cat lovers must all think that their cats are extremely special and unique.) Sometimes one fang peeked out and so my husband nicknamed him -- what else -- "Fang". He was at home both indoors as well as outdoors. Half-wild. Alert. Playful. Sometimes wary of the two dogs, sometimes lying close by them, content to be with his "pack".

Sometimes when I saw him moving about, eyeing a possible prey, slinking about on the ground, running fast after who-knows-what, I was reminded of a miniature black panther. And when I thought I was lost one day wandering in the forest, he led me home. But that's another story. He was younger then -- so was I -- and he and I didn't know each other very well yet. But we did eventually, or I think we did.

Our cat, S, was not much larger than the squirrels we'd seen, but he was known to run up a tree after a squirrel or keep his eye on them. Who on earth knew what he was thinking whenever he was after one of them as they were almost his size if you included their large, swishy tails. The dogs, certainly, seemed to root for the cat whenever they saw a chase unfolding in front of them. Well, they were rooting for something as the chase scene seemed to excite them very much!

My husband and I returned from town and I'd forgotten that I had left S in the house. Once I had opened the front door, he ran out -- like he sometimes did -- and went over to the big tree which was close to one of his familiar paths. I remember looking over at him, and he turned and looked at me. These days, I wonder if I had imagined that moment. But I don't think so. He had glanced back many times. It was like any other evening or afternoon. It was nothing out of the ordinary. The only difference was that he never came home after that. And I didn't know which was worse: burying our dogs in our backyard or not knowing where S's last resting place was. It was just something else to deal with. Nothing too fantastic nor difficult. Others have had to cope and deal with far worse situations and heartache.

True enough, I had taken S for granted. He was always there. He would go out and come back again, especially as he got older. And he certainly didn't care to go out when it was snowing outside! I somehow thought that he was invincible, that he would always be there. Always. He was wary and watchful, quick to get away. But maybe one day he just wasn't quick enough. Or did he leave home to die as he knew it would be his time to go? He was about twelve years old when he disappeared. An older cat but surely not that old. He was my first cat, a feisty creature who was half-wild but who seemed to be quite attached to me. I grew very fond of that cat. My arms held him sometimes -- not often -- for he was very much a loner in his own way and very independent even though there were times when it seemed as if he wanted to be part of the pack. But I soon recognised a comrade, one who was quite aloof at times, but who stole his way quietly into my heart.

And I wasn't prepared for how much I would miss him. After our dog, M, passed on, I thought that S would always be there to keep our male dog, B, company. But S disappeared before it was B's time to go. Who knew? I certainly didn't have a clue. I waited for him to come home. And for the first few days, I even called out his name. But he never returned home to us.

A few weeks after his disappearance, my husband and I were watching television one evening and I was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness. I made a circular motion in the middle of my chest with my hand and told him that the hole was getting bigger. Thank God he was there and that he understood. As for me, I still couldn't understand why it happened or why it had to happen that way. But I learnt to accept it. I had to.

It was all part of life.

My husband called him a mighty hunter. That he most certainly was.

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