Buried our oldest cat Saturday afternoon by a stream not far from our house. He spent 126 cat years with us after Amy discovered him screaming as a tiny kitten by a creek in Belleville, Illinois, when she was taking care of her mother and I was still gallivanting around the country as a photojournalist.

She cleaned him up, fed him through a syringe and nursed him back to health. We named him AC (short for Anti-Christ) because of his rambunctious antics, motorboat purr and fondness for potato chips (especially Lays).

When we brought him home to our condo in Arlington, he quickly became the alpha male in our menagerie of cats — a role he maintained for his entire time with us.

When symptoms signaled liver disease a few weeks ago, we knew the time was near and Amy used syringes to feed him water and nutrient liquids. He would purr and continue to love on us as best he could.

I had ridden my Harley down to Vinton Saturday to help with a motorcycle funeral escort for a fellow rider and Harley Owners Group member. AC died before I got home.

I closed the door of the room where he died as I prepared the casket, with him lying on a blanket he slept on with a favorite catnip mouse by his head.  Our other cats stood vigil outside the door. When I opened the door of our home after burial, they were waiting and spent most the evening searching through the house for him.

Pets become an integral part of our lives. Animals have always had a home with us. Our current menagerie has two cats who will vie for the “alpha cat” role:  Jekyll, now the oldest surviving cat, and Bootsie, who showed up at our home two years ago and adopted us. They, and the others, are special members of our family.  When one dies, the loss is heartbreaking and deeply personal.

Our other cats feel the loss.  They continue to search the house for him.  Some cry out, hoping for a response from the companion they cannot find.

Farewell AC. Words cannot express how much we will miss you.  We miss you now.