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By Jennifer Munoz

Marco, my teacher

When I adopted my adorable orange-and-white cat, Marco, over 16 years ago I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. The first day I brought him home, I watched this tiny guy run wild as the white fluffs of fur in his abnormally large ears blew in the wind.

He was a wild one indeed! Biting my toes, knocking over the kitchen trash can and aggressively grooming my sweet, pure white, angelic cat Kina. I bought him so she could have a playmate and he firmly claimed his dominance over her…all 4 pounds of him.

As the years passed I thought he would grow out of his wild ways but he didn't. He became increasingly aggressive at times and grew to be about 25 pounds.. I was advised by a few family members to give him away but I couldn't bear the thought, just pulled my sleeve over the bite mark nicely healing on my forearm. I wasn't going to give up on him just because he didn't act in the way I had hoped for. I was determined to "fix" him.

He was sweet at times but in an instant he could land a pretty strong bite. When I met my husband I warned him about Marco, but they bonded almost instantly. To say I was jealous was an understatement. I had worked for years trying to "change" this cat and now all of a sudden he was behaving?

I didn't understand it at all until the last few years of his life. The key words here are "fix" and "change." He responded so well to my husband simply because he accepted him for who he was and had no desire to change him. Marco knew this, and once I accepted him as he was, he naturally became less defensive and more at ease. This lesson with Marco speaks volumes in so many areas of my life. The moment you try to "repair" someone, the walls instantly come up.

In Marco's last few weeks of life, he lost the ability to walk. I cared for him around the clock, holding him up in the litter box, hand feeding him, gently brushing the tangles out of his fur and wiping him down when he had accidents in the middle of the night. It was heartbreaking to watch my strong, fearless, former wild man depending solely on me for his every need.

I have never bonded with an animal as much as I did with Marco during this time. His eyes spoke volumes as he lovingly gazed at me while I cleaned up his accidents. He became increasingly affectionate as his soul drifted increasingly closer to the source.

On his last night, Marco lay between us in bed. As my husband was sound asleep, I put my arms around Marco and we met each other's gaze as he purred in pain. I knew it was time. Thank you, Marco, for teaching me such a big life lesson. I now look down at my scar with pride, knowing that it was put there by a special soul who just wanted to be himself.

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