We said goodbye to the cat, a lover of boxes who cried big, fat tears when he missed you.
At dinner, I put my hand down behind the chair, expecting the cat to rub up against it on his way to his food. But he didn't.
And when I noticed a lump of black at the end of the bed, I assumed it was him snuggled up. I had to remind myself it wasn't. It was just my sweatshirt.
The other day, we had to put our cat, Ollie, down. He had a number of health issues that came out of nowhere at the same time. It was so quick.
In fall, I first noticed he was getting older. When my wife or I opened a can of tuna or his wet food, I'd count how long it took him to appear. At his best, he'd appear from thin air in seconds. Then, it took minutes. Not too long ago, he didn't even come up stairs. A week later, he couldn't come up stairs. We would carry him wherever we were in the house so he wouldn't miss anything.
At first, he was my wife's cat. She adopted him on Halloween 12 years ago. They had been together longer than we had. When my wife and I first started living together, occasionally in passing he would bite my hand really, really hard. Hazing the new guy, I assumed. Then he learned that I too knew how to fill his bowl and scratch behind his ears, and we became friends.
When we'd return from a few days away, he would cry big, fat cat tears. When you sat down, he'd be in your lap and fast asleep before you realized what happened. If your shoe was untied, a paw would quickly claim the stray lace as its own.
He had an unnatural love of boxes. You'd hear a noise in the other room but find nothing when you went to investigate, just a box that had gained 10 pounds. When my oldest daughter was a toddler, it wasn't uncommon to find both of them sitting in the laundry basket when you turned your back to put the clothes away. And neither would exit until the basket had been pulled around the room a few times.
When it was time to say goodbye, I worried about how my daughters would handle it. They loved Ollie as much as anyone. My 2-year-old adored him and would give him the type of huge, vibrant hugs that cats hate. But he loved it or at least accepted it. My 5-year-old liked when he slept in her room, and how he always appeared at the end of her bed for story time.
But they are too young to process death. We sat them down and talked about it. They understood he was gone but maybe not that he wasn't coming back; as if he had packed a tiny suitcase, put on a tiny fedora and left on an adventure. While it was sort of a relief, it made the sadness my wife and me felt a little greater.
He didn't make much noise or take up much space, but, somehow, the house seems more quiet and empty.
You don't realize how much a pet means to your family until he's no longer there. You just have to focus on the little, fuzzy moments that made having him so fantastic.
David Manley is an editor at The Canton Repository. Share your stories with him at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter: @DaveManley.