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My parents lived in a small house with a large garden that backed onto a levee and a riparian flood-control area. Someone must have dumped a litter of kittens back there. One survived and found his way to my parents' house. By the time my dad spotted him, he was very nearly starved to death. Dad fed him twice daily. He was afraid at first, but gradually came to trust people that he knew.

However, my parents had no idea how to care for a kitten. My mother wasn't about to let anything feline into the house; growing up on a farm, she'd been scolded too many times for trying to make friends with the barn cats. A mama coyote raised a family in that levee every year. Kitten's life expectancy was pretty low as an outside cat. So I took him home with me, and the next day took him to my vet. He had fleas, a respiratory infection, and ear mites. We got him fixed up and neutered, and after a bit of initial skittishness he decided my husband and I were okay. Then we were more than okay, we were HIS people.

Rocky, as we named him, never quite got over his initial childhood starvation. He would get terribly distressed if the kibble bowl actually emptied. As a result, he got too fat, and our efforts to reduce his calorie intake didn't just annoy him, they terrified him. We settled for a fat cat. He was a very loving cat, always ready to play but equally ready to cuddle and be loved. Alas, he never did get over his fear of strangers.

One night, when he was in his tenth year, as we were going to bed I noticed him having trouble breathing. I took him to the emergency vet, He was suffering from an enormous amount of fluid in his chest, a side-effect of heart disease. She tried surgery in vain. He was dead by morning.

I dearly love my current kitties, but I'll always miss Rocky.

Santa Clara, CA

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