So, I should tell you the story of how Max came to live with us.

We were at Rona, buying the wood for our deck. And, ahead of us, in line, there was a woman with a dog. And I went to pet the dog, and she told me she needed a new home for a kitten her daughter had just brought home.

And somehow, without knowing quite what happened, Mr. Spit and I came home from the hardware store with a kitten. All of 3 pounds of inky blackness, he fit in Delta's bowl. We called him Maximus, he was large in spirit, if not in body, at least at the time. And for the first bit, he was a snugly cat. Honest. He purred, he cuddled, he liked to be held.

And, gradually, in the way of cats, and black cats in particular, he grew into his personality. As he gained weight, he gained attitude.

This culminated in his first vet visit, when I wrote a note of apology to the vet. Surely, thought I, it was only because he was surprised that he drew blood from the vet and I.

This became a recurring theme with Max. Max became the cat that everyone was puzzled we kept. He grumpy and touchy and just plain mean. He didn't like people, and he didn't like us. But if every living thing must love another, he loved Delta. She carried him in her mouth as a kitten. He groomed her face, slept curled up with her.

We began, Mr. Spit and I, to refer to ourselves as humans. "Human", we would imagine him saying, "Let me in, let me out. Too bad, I'm on the chair now."

And he would tolerate attention, if only in small doses, and in particular ways. He liked me to scratch between his shoulder blades, he would wait as you finished off the milk, because he knew you would give him the cap. And he would play a peculiar form of feline hockey, dropping the cap at your feet, and waiting for you to punt it back to him, as he waited down the hallway.

He would chair surf as a kitten, running from the front door, pounding his way down the hall, to land on the wheeled chair, and go sailing across the floor. I think there were bonus points if he hit one of the dogs, or a human in the process.

No, Max wasn't cuddly. And he didn't give you any warning. One second he was tolerating your petting, and the next he was biting your hand.

So, no, Max wasn't a friendly cat. You didn't call him kitty. I would tell him he was a handsome boy, and he would look at me with disgust. No, I must be honest, disgust and disdain were Max's natural looks. He simply didn't do cute.

He went out, as he usually did on Sunday. And we became concerned, when he did not show up for dinner, belligerent because he was hungry, on Sunday night. And, it was with a sinking heart that I checked the front door and the kitchen window this morning, and there was no angry cat waiting for me.

He does not travel far from us. To the neighbours on the left, to be fed chicken, and a few doors down to visit on the front porch with the two old tom's that live there. They sit on the front porch, looking for all the world like old men at a feed store, with a toothpick in their mouth, wearing flannel shirts with suspenders, and old ball caps. And they wait for the cat nip. But always home for dinner.

I called the city pound this morning, and there was a black cat there, picked up far-ish away from our house, but certainly not outside of the realm of a determined cat with a chip on his shoulder.

Mr. Spit wondered if Max would travel so far out of his range, but he and I remained convinced that this was, indeed, our cat, when the lady on the phone told us they couldn't check for a tattoo, because he had bitten the tech. "Aha. That's our boy", we said.

And so I left work early, to go and bail my cat out of jail. Laughing that only my cat would bite the hand that is rescuing him.

Except, it wasn't our cat.

And I drove home, tears filling my eyes. I walked into the back yard and caught a flash of fur. But, it was not a sleek black cat, looking angry at the world. It was a small grey male.

And I knew, with the sinking heart of a pet owner, of a pet lover, who has given her heart to 16 pounds of black menace, that Max is gone. There is no place so far, that he would not have come to defend his back yard from intruders.

And I know, with my heart heavy, that my cat is gone. And in my imaginings I can hear his strident yowls, his demands to be in or out, his wondering screech when he was on a different floor than me. And I will look for his face to come around my bedroom door tonight, and I will wait to play the game of "catch the hand". And I will look at my newel post when I come in the house, at least for a while, waiting to catch sight of a black cat, looking at me as I unlock the door.

And I hope, and I pray, that someone, somewhere, finds his remains. And calls the city. Because I would like to say good-bye. I would like to tell him that he wasn't the greatest cat, but he was ours, and we gave him heart room, and care and concern. And he was loved.

And, I will once again reflect on the joy and the pain of giving another living being heart room. And I will acknowledge, amidst the hurt, that my heart is bigger, better and more full for the animals that have graced my life.