As I wandered past the cages of older cats, disappointed to see no kittens, one scruffy but fluffy grey fellow looked me straight in the eye and said, "Mmrraow." I knew then that the 9-month old had found his forever home with me. In the car, it didn't take long for Italo, named for one of my favorite authors, to slip out of the cardboard box in the back seat, curl up on my lap, and take a much-needed bath. Through our 10 years together, he seldom left my side. He took walks with me in the forest, befriended our new kitten by flattening himself on the ground to touch noses at her eye level, scared off a dog intruding into the backyard where our daughter was playing, and snuggled between my feet every night. No lap was a stranger to him. No mouse dared enter our house. No food dish was ever full enough. So, when Italo began to lose weight and wouldn't eat, I pleaded with him to choose life. But he knew his time was up. One night he labored to jump up on the bed. Though no words were spoken between us, he told me it was time to say goodbye. Almost 20 years later, my tears still flow thinking of my beloved Italo.