We adopted him when JR was about 16 months old. We met him in a vet's office, surrounded by frolicking kittens, lying on the floor at his ease.
JR ran to him, put her head on his side and he stayed that way, happily. And he was ours.
That was 12 years ago.
Twelve years of his constantly mooching in the kitchen--I couldn't open a can or chop something without him checking to see if he could scrounge something.
Twelve years of his snuggling anyone sitting on the couch, and me almost every night--though in recent years he would occasionally spend the night with JR instead.
Twelve years watching him sit on the stair landing watching the squirrels, or peering down at us through the stairs near the top.
Twelve years of him sparring on occasion with Mama Bella, our tabby girl, but also or watching them often sleep close to each other on the sofa, usually in opposite poses.
Twelve years of seeing him curl up against the Man's back while he napped, or even sitting on his chest.
We came home on the 4th of July. We'd spent a few days with friends. It was only 3 weeks since we'd lost Daddy, and it had been a wonderful time.
Bart and Bella greeted us as usual--happy we were home and hungry. Later, Bart sprawled against JR's leg as he lay on a hassock while we watched the 4th of July fireworks on TV.
He didn't come up and cuddle me that night as he usually did. I don't know if something was wrong then.
All I do know is that the Man woke me early the next morning to tell me there was poop and pee on the floor and that Bart was hiding behind the sofa.
When he didn't come out for food, we knew something was wrong. And when I pulled the sofa back to get him, we discovered his back legs were paralyzed.
I rushed him to the vet. They said he'd had a stroke. That he also was showing signs of congestive heart failure. Even if he recovered from the stroke, he'd have another. He would be sick and ailing and never himself again.
I went home and got the family. Less than 2 hours later, we said goodbye to him. While the vet did what he had to, I talked to Bart. I told him to take my love to Daddy--to Tatay and Nanay too.
I like to think that there might be an afterlife, agnostic that I am. And much as my dad claimed to NOT like cats, I know ours always fascinated him and that our sweet Bart would have made a pal of him.
So I'm hoping that somewhere else Bart is either watching Nanay cook and trying to cadge some leftovers or he is with my dad. Snuggled in a big chair with him, watching the 69 New York Mets win the Series again.
That they are together. Happy and healthy and knowing how much we love them. And how lucky we were to have them.