Take good care of him. Feed him twice a day, walk him frequently, and be sure to brush his teeth. He can get a cavity just as easily as you so pay as much attention to his mouth as you do your own. Don’t ever, ever put a leash on him, lest you care for a yoke around your own neck, and don’t let him get bored or do anything that might make him unhappy. It is very, very important that he is happy and loved, well-fed and exercised.
That’s what mother told me when I was just a little thing, and he was just a little thing—a writhing, wriggling mound of belly and ears and a thick tail thumping methodically against the ground. She told me always to be patient, but it was hard in the beginning, when he was all of life wound up into a little body, a tight coil of life vibrating against any and all restraints to confine it. I couldn’t imagine it being any easier then, as I looked at my mother patiently petting her cat whose fur was so wild, it stuck straight out like hedgehog spines. I remember when the cat died and my mother continued to pet it just the same, though the hair lay flat, finally, forever soothed. She died a week later.
Now his muzzle is grey. My bones ache. He’s ready, but I’m not.
That’s why they go first. It’s easier when they lead the way out.