GusI first heard Gus when I was in Chicago. It was 1998, near my birthday, and I was in the city on a business trip. I didn't know it at the time, but Erin had gone down and adopted Gus from the pound. We were less than a year moved in to our first apartment, and this was the next logical step of our relationship: caring for something other than us.

She never told me, of course. And when I called her from my Chicago hotel room, we talked for a while, and then I heard a strange sound on the phone line. It sounded like "Rouw! Rouw! Rouw!" it was so constant and regular that I thought it was something mechanica. "What is that?" I asked. "I don't know," she replied. "It must be interference on the line."

What I didn't know until later was that Erin was lying on our futon, with a pillow over her head, while our new cat sat on her chest, crying plaintively to be fed.

We adopted Gus from the Humane Society. He was around six months to a year old at the time. His previous owners had named him "Samuel", but when I came home from my business trip, and kissed Erin, who came sauntering up to greet us (bow tied around his neck and all). As we bent over to give him love, Erin happened to say, "Don't be such a goose", except that, for some reason it came out "Gus", and that instantly sounded right as his name.

Gus was a member of our family ever since, and we soon fell into a routine. I would feed him Fancy Feast first thing after getting up in the morning. He wouldn't ever let me forget it. When I was working on a temp job in Toronto and commuting to work every day, he would anticipate my arrival home by climbing onto the back of our sofa and staring at the front door until I entered. It got so that when I didn't hear him crying in the morning, I knew that something was wrong, like those two times he managed to work open the screen door out back in our new home, and went missing. The kids doted on him, of course, and he took it. By then he was getting a little placid in his old age.

A year or so ago, we were warned by our vet that Gus was entering a period of ill health. His blood work indicated that his heart and his kidneys were ailing, but he still seemed to be in good spirits and not in pain. Unfortunately, that changed earlier this week. He got much thinner and incontinent, and he clearly seemed to be having more pain. So, this morning, I'm afraid we took one last trip to the vet where we said our goodbyes. It was a hard thing to do, but I am at least happy that when Gus went, he was held by people who loved him.

Gus had a long life for a cat, and I believe that he had a happy one as well. I do dread tomorrow morning, though, when I will wake up and know that something is wrong.

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