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Sunny was always meant to be his “milk name” until I could think of something better … something more exotic to pair with his mother Lua, so that I would have the moon and the sun. But in fact that name described him to a tee, especially his disposition. And the fact that he brought a little warmth and light to everyone who met him. Because everybody loved Sunny and he loved everyone…

I remember when the four kittens were born I wondered which one I would end up keeping and taking to Seville with me (I was living in Salamanca at the time). It was hard to even tell them apart, but eventually they developed more markings and they all had distinct variations of white toes. A bit later, after they started walking, I noticed that whenever I’d come home one of the kittens – the one with the most white toes – would always be sitting in front of the door when I opened it, waiting for me. And that’s when I knew which one was mine.

Sunny was the opposite of his mother and seemed to take totally after the huge laid-back Burman I’d found to mate with Lua. I have a photo of the two of them during their “courtship” and he’s the spitting image of Sunny. Later when people would comment on how big and fat Sunny was I would show them this photo of his one-year-old father and say – hey, it’s genetic. And it’s true. I did put Sunny on various diets over the years and tried to slim him down a bit for health reasons. But he was just a big guy, until very recently weighing in at about 6.5 kilos. And it looked good on him.

He took after his father in personality too. Such a gentle giant, though he was afraid of loud noises. Firecrackers, thunder or a backfiring car would send him racing under the bed. Otherwise he always seemed so peaceful and content, and whenever anybody came over he would always go up to them and say hello, giving them the opportunity to adore him properly. He’d clunk his big head against a their leg and then stare up at them with his big blue eyes. He had the biggest and bluest eyes I’ve ever seen.

When he was a kitten he had a few quirky traits. One he thankfully grew out of early on was a penchant for chewing holes in my clothes while he sat curled up and purring on my lap, or while I slept (I had to actually be wearing the clothes to make them “interesting” enough to eat). Another was playing fetch with olives. He started this game one day when I threw him an olive … he chased after it and after “catching” it, he brought the olive back and dropped it at my feet so I could throw it again. He would eventually eat it, after about half a dozen throws, and we both loved playing this game. But his weirdest quirky habit was his obsession with “being tall”, or rather, being up on a high perch. When he was little I was the high perch. I could be standing there doing anything and suddenly this wee kitten would take a running jump and scamper up the front or back of me until he was sitting up on my shoulder. He adored doing this and, while he was still small enough, I would spend hours with a cat sitting on my shoulder. Later this habit of climbing me got a bit expensive on the clothes, especially as Sunny got bigger and heavier, so I’d go and put on my thick terrycloth bathrobe, tap my right shoulder and up he’d jump, straight into my arms. And then I’d heft him up onto my shoulder. It’s funny that I don’t remember when he stopped doing that. But he always loved being picked up and held, even at the end.

The “being tall” thing didn’t only include me. The tops of wardrobes, doors, and even the hot water heater in the bathroom, all became favourite perches. Of course it was always easier getting up than back down again and he would often start squawking to be “rescued”, especially from the top of the water heater, which took me getting the stepladder and trying to keep my balance while a big nervous beast crawled down into my waiting arms. Half the time I suspected that his favourite part of this game was the rescue as I always made a big fuss about him being safe again, and would hold him and carry him around as if I had almost “lost him forever”. This was yet another game that wreaked havoc on my clothes and I took to often donning the bathrobe to perform these rescue missions. After we moved next door this game stopped. A combination of Sunny getting older and less spry – he was about ten by then – and that there are closets instead of wardrobes here, the water heater is hidden up in the rafters, and there are no convenient pieces of furniture near doorways. But it was fun while it lasted.

People who knew Sunny would sometimes fondly say that he wasn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the box, that it was okay for him to clunk his head against things because there was nothing much inside to damage, but they knew he had other sterling qualities. Mostly he was just so sweetly good-natured and trusting. Very “doggy” in some ways. He wasn’t particularly cuddly and preferred to sleep at the foot of the bed in his “guard cat” position, with a good view down the hallway to the front door.  He also loved climbing onto my lap and watching tv with me. He was totally ruled by his stomach and in the mornings would first try me, then Nog, if we weren’t up at proper breakfast-time. Sometimes he would sit there and gently poke at me with one paw. If that didn’t work he’d put his face almost nose-to-nose with mine. It was always so funny – and a bit of a shock – waking up to see those enormous blue eyes staring intently into mine. Nog usually gave Sunny his morning meds mixed in some pate and it was so endearing how he would follow Nog into the kitchen “to make sure he got it right” and didn’t do anything less important first, like make coffee. I got so used to waking up to the sound of those two in the kitchen, Sunny squawking away and Nog telling him that the meds were almost ready. More recently I would hear Nog trying to get Sunny to “just take one bite”, and then I’d get up and take over the spoonfeeding. I could always cajole Sunny into doing almost anything. Even the last night he was alive he ended up taking a bit off the spoon from me. His trust helped me believe I was a good person and he always brought out the best in me.

I can’t remember the first time I looked at Sunny and thought … my bunny’s getting old! Maybe a couple of years ago? It started with a change in the way he walked. I think he may have had a bit of arthritis in his back legs. And it was about four years ago that he was first diagnosed with having kidney problems. That’s when he started taking daily meds and having annual checkups and blood tests. I also changed his food. So in that sense I guess I did as much as I could, but of course I now think I should have done more. At first I felt so guilty that I had to go out to the hospital that last day, but maybe it was for the best because by the time I got home the vet’s was closed and I had to wait until morning. Otherwise, I know I would have bundled him up and raced him back to the vet’s after seeing how much he’d gone downhill in just a few hours. And I know that would have been futile, perhaps buying him a few more days at most.

In the end he died as peacefully as one could hope for under the circumstances. I’m just so sorry that his last day was such a bad one, going to the vet’s and then going from bad to worse. I hope he knew I was there with him. I held him all that last night and barely slept a wink. And in the morning I didn’t leave his side until he finally took his last breath. I talked to him non-stop and stroked him and cuddled him and kissed him. It’s curious watching someone you love die, how quickly your thoughts change from “please don’t go” to “please go now”, when you see that they are suffering and that it isn’t going to get any better. I’m just glad that Sunny’s final expression was a very peaceful one. He looked like he’d just fallen asleep.

Sunny wasn’t his only name. He also had a ton of silly nicknames that he had been given over the years. He was the Bear and the Dude, also my hunny and my bunny, little bean and beanbag (when he was a kitten) … I can’t even remember them all right now. But one I called him almost every day was “the sunshine of my life”. And he really was.

I miss you so much, Sunny. And I always will.