The photo on the left was taken this morning and is the first I captured in 2015. It's more somber than I'd like to remember her as, but I'm so happy that my first picture of the year is Puss. Today, I watched as my companion of nearly seventeen years drifted to a new beginning. Although I am deeply saddened by the loss, I want to celebrate the moments I shared with her, and focus on how meaningful Puss has been in my life.

In March of 1998, my mom brought me and my brother to the MSPCA in Methuen, Mass. to pick out two kittens. He chose a light gray tabby cat, while I was drawn to a tiny white one on the other side of the room. I was told to re-pick. Apparently, the MSPCA strongly recommends adopting kittens from the same litter, though I don't remember why. However, I'm so happy they do.

I'll never forget that sweet little face looking up at me behind the silver bars; those big eyes surrounded by gray were so adorable. I played with her on a bench and remember her waddling around, having a difficult time staying still. Mom told me to name her. This was a difficult decision for me. My mind ran through a few, but none seemed to fit. Mom and DD were growing impatient, so at three-years-old, I named my cat: Rainbow.

Rainbow's brother disappeared a few years later, and our little kitten, Binky, didn't last long either. She- on the other hand- was with me through two moves, and when we finally settled in Sugar Hill, the name "Puss" began to stick.

I don't have any memories before the day I adopted her. She came to me right before I started pre-school and left after I finished college, so this cat is the epitome of my childhood. She was my favorite subject to photograph, and the majority of the pictures on my phone are of her. She had a fabulous life, and to honor her, I have included my favorite pictures of Puss...

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It is heart breaking to lose a member of the family, especially one I've been with for so long. I'm having difficulty thinking of my life without Puss, but despite how upsetting this is, I believe that growing up with an animal is one of the best experiences you can give to a child. Not only did I learn responsibility in caring for an animal, I learned about life. I watched Puss develop from a tiny kitten into a strong willed, independent cat. Lately I've seen her deep gray fur turn white, and learned to treat her more gently and appreciate every moment I had with her. Puss is the first creature I've physically seen pass away. I was with her in the beginning and I wanted so much to be there for her in the end, and although really hard, I'm thankful I stayed with her.

Eventually I will adopt another cat, but I know none will be like Puss. There's no way something so dear to us can be replaced, but I know there is still more room in my heart to care for another and appreciate it for all the quirks and qualities it will possess. Puss has taught me to appreciate life no matter what package it comes in, but from her, I've also learned that I am definitely a cat person.

To Mom: I want to deeply and sincerely thank you for allowing your two small children to each adopt a kitten. I can't imagine how you handled the four of us on your own. You loved Puss as much as I did, and- although I'm not fond of admitting this- I think she liked you more than me. It has been an incredible experience growing up with this cat, and I can't imagine doing so without her.