At some point this summer, Tank was sitting in my lap, purring ferociously, as was his wont, and I promised him that someday he’d get to be an inside cat.

I was wrong.

A lump on his head turned out to be a tumor growing into his eye socket and after surgery, pills, and some experimental chemotherapy, yesterday we said goodbye. It was simultaneously the right thing to do — his breathing had gotten raspy, he’d lost so much weight, and his fur was no longer silky smooth, but rough and getting spiky — and the painful uncertainty of, “Today? Really, today?”

As we drove home from the vet, the car feeling that much emptier, we talked about his next life. I said maybe he’d like to come back as a dog, because he had the friendliness of a dog. He loved laps, he loved to be petted. In better days, if you sat down anywhere outside, it would only take a few minutes before he would come strolling through the garden or yard to leap up onto your lap.

This, of course, was challenging for me, since I’m allergic, but he was impossible to resist. Partly that was because he was so very lovely — his purr rumbled through his whole body, and his fur was a glossy, silky softness — but it was also his pure predatory energy. He conveyed, wordlessly, his ownership of the yard and all laps within it, and his willingness to defend that ownership with his extremely sharp claws and fangs. That, of course, was why the inside cats hated him and refused to let him share their home, but it probably got him more lap time than he might otherwise have gotten. For a feral cat, he was awfully fond of human beings.

In the car, though, Suzanne said Tank would consider coming back as a dog to be a downgrade, and we agreed he didn’t deserve that. If anything, he deserves an upgrade, so I hope that somewhere today, a kitten is being born into a loving home with people who will adore him and let him spend every single night of his life in a comfortable, warm, inside bed. And every day of his life in a garden.

Good-bye, Tank. You were a most excellent cat.