Dear Shurka,

Thank you for picking the time to gently stop breathing while we were looking into each otherís eyes. I know the last 20 hours were hard on you. You just ran out of steam. But at least you were cradled in my arms, your tiny little head in my right hand, your furry belly waiting to be scratched one last time. You didnít cry or yelp, you left that to me. Thank you for going so peacefully, Iíll cry for both of us. Weíll miss each other, but we have fond memories.

Your first outing in the snow on a Moscow morning in January 1994. The day before you died you were still munching on snow and turning your muzzle into a snow cone with a black nose topping it off.

You were so gentle. The other day you didnít even realize that when you were walking in the yard there was a small cat not 6 feet away from you, watching you intently, as you made your rounds. The cat didnít know that you were the real ďpussy catĒ who wouldnít harm him.

Going camping, you tethered to my waist, helping me, pulling me along, sharing our heavy load. You, 22 pounds, one year old, full of energy, happy to be in the woods exploring the countryside. Discovering that you can not make a U-turn on a log without falling in the water. Finally getting dried off by the fire, then walking in the lake to get a drink. But you were careful to only get your front paws wet that time.

Your first seizure, at nine months old was such a shock to both of us. We were both scared, but we learned to deal with it. Iím sorry neither I nor modern science could come up with a way to prevent them. The medicine was one of our rituals, and you did get to taste a lot of yougurt, to help it go down better. Our monthly bout with mortality. Nine years of not knowing when they would strike, or when they would be over, to await the next round. You always pulled through, but I guess we both knew that one day it would overwhelm you.