Everyone knows we mustn't play favorites with our furry family members. But we all secretly have, or have had, a kitty for whom we reserve a special place in our hearts. Emma is there in mine. A strikingly beautiful torbie, Emma entered my life back in the early 1990s at a time when I was kitty-less owing to the fact that my wife hated them. She had birds. Go figure. One day we heard this mewing, and saw a young cat outside on the patio, holding up its paw pathetically—she could have broken an iron worker's heart. Was she abandoned? Did she escape an abusive home? No one would ever know but her. My wife took pity on me, and allowed it inside. Roughly 9-10 months old, she must have belonged to someone at some point, since she was spayed. And it turns out the raised paw wasn't an act: she had a deformed foot that no vet could explain.

Actually, it was my wife who named her. I was struggling with what to call her, and she said, "Well, you like Emma Peel—she's a redhead, too." And that was that. Emma was such a sweetheart that she turned my cat-hating spouse into a cat lover—well, at least an Emma lover. After we separated, my ex even asked for joint custody! Every night after going to bed, she laid on my chest and purred in my face until I fell asleep. And she loved to groom my head—she'd spend up to a half-hour licking my hair (or what was left of it). If you held Emma up close to a visitor, she'd reach out with her paw and gently pat their cheek. She melted more than a few hearts.

Years later, when I moved into another condo with a new significant other, she started to take ill. Dozens of visits to vets and specialists yielded no concrete explanation, although her primary vet had a suspicion, and after a year of inconclusive tests and exams, it turns out he was right: lymphoma. Already a consummate cuddler, Emma increasingly sought the comfort of a person as her health slowly declined.

Her death, at the ripe old age of around 11 (far too young, in my book), was excruciating, made worse by the fact that I'd elected to have her put to sleep. She'd become dehydrated and required daily fluid injections, and instinctively I knew she was near the end. Rather than have her suffer any more, I finally decided to end her misery. It was a horrible, black day.

My last photo of her (above) was taken on the first of September, 2007. You could see her suffering in her eyes. Years later, I found the perfect container for her ashes. She resided for a long while on a shelf in my living room, which I'd set up as a memorial, complete with candles. She has since gone to my ex, who will keep her memory alive and bright long after I'm gone.

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