He actually adopted our family, rather than the other way round. I first met him in 1995 and by 1997 he was a permanent fixture, having vacated our neighbour who lived in a small upstairs maisonette with several other cats and dogs. Charlie was not blessed with an "other cats and dogs" sort of temperament.
In his pomp, he ruled a large area, striking fear into anything on four legs and occasionally things on two. I once saw him have a swipe at a passing Alsatian, whose crime was walking past the gate. However, years of territorial disputes took their toll on his joints. Jumping became an activity best remembered towards the end of last year. This summer there were days when even walking was proving difficult. Really, I should probably have done this sooner than I did. But his fortitude was such that I never really even considered it until the last month or so. I'll never forget how much of a fighter he always was.
Yeah, he was only a cat. But I'm only a human and a human who doesn't see any high-and-mighty reason why it's not possible to learn lessons from any other sentient being who shares your life, or to be changed as a person.
I was 15 when I met Charlie and am now 31. I'd known him for over half my life. And today is pretty bloody hard, let me tell you. But it's just the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. I feel optimistic. Sad that Charlie won't be around to see it, but also thankful for a life which has had a genuine impact on the person who I am now.
Rest well, Chimpy.