Fur babies. They steal your heart before you even realize what's happened.

Eighteen years ago, my little brother worked at the Yakima Humane Society. He called me to ask if I could foster a kitten they'd found in an alley, skinny, hungry and flea ridden. She didn't meet the required weight to be spayed and the only other option was to euthanize her.

I agreed, with every intention to only foster her and return her to the Humane Society once she packed on enough pounds.

At the time, my son Mathew was 2 years old and Benjamin was 1. We picked this tiny kitten up from the Humane Society. Took her home and bathed her to get those fleas off.

She ate like she hadn't eaten in weeks. My heart broke for this tiny thing who had already been through so much in her short life.

It took her no time to settle in as a family member. I would find her curled up with Mathew on the couch watching "Barney and The Wiggles." She would sit next to him while he played his educational game on the computer and at night when I would go to check on Mathew I would find her curled up in bed with him.

We couldn't just keep calling her kitty and soon settled on the name Tia. I told my brother that there was no way I was sending this kitten back to the Humane Society! We filled out the proper paperwork and only had to leave her overnight so that she could get spayed the next morning. I struggled with having to leave her there for one night, but knew that after I picked her up from surgery she was all ours.

Tia loved lunch meat! She had a bad habit of sneaking the lunch meat out of my sandwich when I wasn't looking and taking off with it. She would eat things that she shouldn't - rubber bands, wrapping paper string, tinsel, and stuff that was not recognizable when thrown up. Her puking would drive me crazy, but I would clean it up and scold her saying, "Don't eat stupid things, you silly girl!"

As she grew older we had to start feeding her soft can food. She didn't play as much, but every once in a while she would chase after a string or feather. She stopped grooming herself. All the signs were there. She was getting older and our time with her was limited.

I tried to prepare all the kids, which includes not only Mathew and Benjamin, but my two younger kids Jackson, 13, and Shaylee, 11, who have never known life without Tia for the fact that her days with us may be coming to an end.

Sadly, that day happened Monday. No amount of preparing the kids could ease the pain and tears.

We love you, Tia. We miss you. Thank you for filling our lives with 18 wonderful years.

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