For the last week he was alive, our cat Biggie couldn’t walk. His back legs basically stopped working, and Jennifer and I held up his back end so that he could get around the house. But he was undaunted – he’d drag himself from room to room using only his front legs if he wanted to get somewhere while we weren’t home. The carpet is a testament to his toughness.

Clarence came to live with us when Biggie was six years old. Clarence must have grown up in a house with cats, because the first thing he wanted to do from the second he arrived at the old place on Bedford Ave in Nashville was be friends with our cats (we had four at the time). The cats were not interested, but Biggie was the least hostile.

Ten years later, Clarence followed Biggie from room to room – from Jennifer’s office to my office to the hallway and back – for the last few weeks Biggie lived, keeping a close eye on things. In their shared old age, they became…I won’t say best friends, because Biggie always found Clarence a little vulgar and overdemonstrative. But they got along well, like two old codgers who’d grown accustomed to the other’s company and would, in unguarged moments, admit that there was some affection underneath it all.