Our son, for his 16th birthday, out of the blue asked if he could get a kitten. Our kids had grown up with Eppie, a Corgi-terrier mix my wife found abandoned as a puppy in the Wisconsin woods and had died a few years earlier.

We were missing having a pet around, so we said okay. Matt found a litter in south Evanston and came home with a purring dust curl of orange and white fur, with green eyes that he named Hobbes. Predictably, that set his sisters screaming,”What about us!” Just as predictably, in no time at all they went to the same litter and brought home a grey-and- white-bibbed sister they named Mickie.

For the first year or so, Hobbes was clearly Matt’s cat. Mickie took more to our youngest, Kara (or vice versa), than to Katie. But when college and life started happening to our kids, their pets became something to come home to, not to take with. So the cats became ours.

Anyone who has house cats, as Hobbes was and Mickie still is, knows that the rest of their world might as well be the surface of the moon. Being siblings, Mickie and Hobbes’ world was also each other. Of course, as siblings, they had at it many times for reasons all their own, Mickie usually having the upper paw.

And their world was also us. Over the years I would tease my wife that the cats were really hers since I was a dog guy. Hobbes seemed to pick up on that.

He and my wife bonded in ways that surprised me. Mickie, for her part, claimed whatever attention she needed, especially when hungry or settling on a lap while we watched TV.

Recently, Hobbes became listless and reclusive. The vet diagnosed dehydration and a thyroid problem, and the treatment and meds prescribed returned Hobbes to his old self, at least for a while. Then he stopped eating, wanting attention more than anything else. It was as if he was saying goodbye. We were both reluctant to acknowledge that, especially my wife. Seventeen-plus years of Hobbes being there, of feeding and cleaning-up-after, mostly by her, deepened a bond neither of us had envisioned the day our kids made Hobbes and Mickie part of our family.

We told the kids; they knew it was time. Hobbes is gone, and Mickie is still finding out in her own way. As for this dog guy, I have the same feeling of loss in my heart that I knew with Eppie’s death. That is the way it should be, I guess, for a family guy.