Sparkle, my Sweet Stuff, cat of my heart, the second cat and second pet I ever owned as an adult, left me for Rainbow Bridge earlier today. She was 18 years, and spent all but her first 4 months living with me.

Sparkle was born at the city animal control. Her mom and siblings were adopted out, and there she languished. Sparkle was showing signs of kennel depression and was scheduled for euthanasia the next time the vet came through -- the vet for the shelter being the vet I use. At that time I had one cat (no dogs) and as I was working, he was getting a bit pudgy and needed someone to keep him moving. Sparkle did all that, keeping Amber on the move as she taunted and teased him then raced through my apartment and hid under the dresser - a place a wee 4 month old gal could easily fit, but a pudgy 2 year old male could not.

Sparkle brought birds in to my apartment and released them, on three occassions. I eventually removed the bird feeder I had hanging on the balcony from my third floor walk up, as she was clearly too quick!

I knew Sparkle was a special kitty, she would greet visitors rather than run and hide, as most cats do when a stranger appears. I took her to classes, and she was certified as a Pet Assisted Therapy Cat. For 2 years, we visited local nursing homes, with Sparkle loving every minute of it, being petted and told what a pretty girl she was. We had many special times, like the woman who, at the young age of 53, was injured in a car accident and paralyzed from the neck down. She loved having Sparkle lay on the bed next to her, and could feel the purrs through her body. Then there was the elderly woman who was so upset her family placed her in a nursing home that she refused to speak. She'd been there 2 weeks when we stopped by and I placed Sparkle in her lap. Soon, she was whispering in Sparkle's ear, telling all her sorrows, and stroking Sparkle who of course loved every minute of it and cuddled closer. Sparkle never shared that woman's secrets, but that was the end of her self-imposed silence.

When Vita joined our family, she and Sparkle quickly became cuddle buddies, and I have numerous photos of them snuggled together napping in a pet bed.

And when I brought in a small 6 week old kitten whom I named Chestnut, Sparkle took him under her wing and taught him everything she knew - good and mischievous! He was a good student and the 2 of them proceeded to keep Amber and I on our toes for years.

Dad moved in and Sparkle took to sleeping with him in the spare bedroom of my apartment, we all lived for 2 years prior to buying this house.

A house and a back yard, all her own! Sparkle was sure this was heaven. She took to it and spent hours in the back yard when Dad or I were out working the garden, nibbling catnip and sleeping off her 'buzz' afterwards.

Time passed quickly. Dogs joined our family. Sparkle never took any guff from any of them, merely sitting and slitting her eyes, making it clear she was NOT one to mess with. Each and every bichon who came through here, even the transports, quickly learned to steer clear of Sparkle. She ruled!

Kidney failure is common in cats, and a cruel disease, which slowly progresses. Sparkle was diagnosed in the early stages of the disease in September, 2009. Having been through this several times already (Amber, Vita and Ruffles all had this), I knew what to do and took steps immediately to change her diet. That is why she was able to be with me for so long after diagnosis.

Sadly, nothing can stop the progress of the disease. I was away at Dad's house for 72 hours and on my return it was clear something -- some cat -- was quite ill. I knew in my heart it had to be my Sparkly - warkly, but I walked through the house checking. (When I return from a trip, I leave the dogs in the car while I get things sorted out inside the house first). Yes, it was my dear Sweet Stuff who was so ill. And this morning, I took her in one last time to see our favorite vet. Sparkle was tired, it was time, and things moved quickly to the end.

Run free at Rainbow Bridge, Sparkle! I know you will find Amber and continue to tease him until we meet again -- One Fine Day.