S Tariq I have just returned after burying my 'child, my companion and my friend. He was just five weeks old, when I huddled him into my jacket on a cold January night, 12 years ago. He snuggled there and looking up at me with captivating eyes said his thanks with a faint meow. I called him Sher Khan after Rudyard Kiplings tiger in Mowglis tale of the Jungle Boy. A few days later he became just 'Sheroo and that is how he stayed. Sheroo soon became the top of the food chain in our house - the veritable Alpha Male. He could perpetrate any mischief and get away with it. We got two small pillows made for him and he made it a point to prop his head on them and sleep between me and my wife. Winters were not his type of weather, as is wont to be with most Siamese, and he would seek out the prime spot in front of the gas heater and curl up resisting all attempts to move him. His nights were spent worming his way into my blanket or quilt and finding a place for himself between my feet, prompting me to refer to him as my foot warmer. His bonding with me reached an almost unbelievable level in that he began communicating with me in an uncanny manner, as if there was a telepathic link between us. I would sense when he was sad, happy, angry or upset, and he would do so too. It was often that I would find refuge in my study from personal or professional pressures. In no time something warm, soft and furry would start rubbing itself against my legs, emitting a soft purring sound. Sheroo would soon be on my lap nuzzling by hand with his cold, wet nose and his purring would reach new heights, making me drowsy and at peace with myself. My family often pressed me for getting him 'spayed, but I took one look at him and always refused saying that it would be cruel to take away his masculine personality. It was, however, sad that my Sheroo never found a female partner, probably because he was an 'in house cat by choice. I now wish that he had not been so 'saintly, as I would have loved to take care of his line. Very early in life, we discovered that stress often partly paralysed his hind legs and he needed treatment by our vet. He became particularly affected whenever the family left Islamabad for a few days, leaving him alone in the house. After a particularly worrying experience, we decided to take him with us wherever we went. A little later, we found that he also suffered from chronic constipation, a common malady with cats. We resolved the problem by preparing his canned meals in Isapghol husk. Two years ago, he started losing weight, so we took him to the vet, who gave him de-worming treatment. He regained his old robustness, but after some time, again began shedding pounds. We werent worried as he was eating heartily and running around the house in his usual way. Two days ago, I noticed that he was dragging his hind legs and could not jump onto my bed. I took him to the vet, who went minutely over him and then told us that Sheroo had developed high levels of sugar and also had a touch of pneumonia. I asked for a prognosis, but only got a sad shake of the head and the offer to put him to sleep. I refused and brought him back to the house and his pink baby blanket. That night I sat before a log fire in my study and cuddled him close to my chest. He curled himself, thrust his nose into my cardigan and went to sleep like a baby in the arms of a parent. I carried him to my bed and we slept together for the last time. Next evening his condition worsened and he continuously fell on his side breathing heavily with drool coming out of his mouth. I rushed him to the vet and was told that it was now a matter of time. I stayed up with him till midnight, when he slipped into a coma I returned home. At 8:30 next morning, my phone rang and I knew that my Sheroo had gone. I drove to the vet in my sleeping clothes and brought him home. Holding the cold furry bundle in my arms I watched as his grave was prepared under the papaya tree in my lawn and then wrapping him in his favourite blanket I placed him in his last resting place. My children tell me that I will get over the loss in time, but I know that this will never happen. What they perhaps dont realise is that I have lost someone, who gave me selfless and unmitigated love for 12 years. Perhaps I shall, for many years to come, continue to turn awkwardly in my bed so as not to disturb the warm curled up form between my feet, and maybe when I sit alone in my study I will hear his purring and feel his presence in my lap as if saying: I will always be there when you need me old friend. The writer is a freelance columnist.