So here we are, April 22, 2022.

Ares moves on today to heaven, the next phase or plane or whatever. I know this is the best thing for him but that doesn’t make it any easier.

It’s very sad to know that after 13 years, he will no longer be around to nuzzle my leg, help me smile and laugh, make me go outside to untangle his leash or see him jump out of bed when the morning alarm goes off. Just to feel him at the foot of my bed at night was a big comfort and I’m sure he felt the same.

I will always remember all the good times and hope to forget the last few months.

Every morning while I would wash up, Ares would eat some food, then get one of two cheap plastic balls — the kind that holds gumball machine prizes — and start batting it around.

Eventually, he’d get it off the carpet to a tile floor of the hallway, bathroom and utility room and bat it hard against a wall. Bam!

One of the balls had a flat side with a lid so it would roll in really crazy directions. He’d chase after it and bat it again. Bam!

If he hit it into the bathroom, I’d turn around and kick it back to him. He’d run away, then come back and hit it again. I swear sometimes he aimed it at me on purpose!

Another favorite toy was those telescoping teaser wands — they look like mini fishing poles — with either a toy mouse or bird feathers on the end.

Unlike what you’d expect, Ares liked me to cut the toys off and just leave the small plastic top of the toy on the fishing line. I attached a small bell and every night while watching TV, I’d “fish” for Ares.

He would catch the plastic end in his paws and mouth and hold it there awhile. Then he’d open his mouth, let go and the plastic end — with the fishing pole bent nearly double sometimes — would shoot into the air, sometimes hitting the living room roof!

Other times he’d jump up and run away but return, ready for another go-round. Good exercise for him and fun for both.

When he was outside, Ares was always on a long leash since he used to wander as a feral cat and get into fights with other cats.

He would patiently wait by a gate until I mowed the back yard, then dash through the open gate to the front yard and start sniffing around. (He’d also “leave his mark” on the juniper bushes from time to time if you catch my meaning.)

It was gratifying to see him explore his world. He was in his element.

Ares would do the same thing when he was in the backyard, looking for something new around the corner of a fence or among the flowers.

As cats do, he liked to climb and jump. In the mornings, he’d scoot up a wooden fence next to a storage shed and walk all over the top of the shed.

I’d stop eating breakfast, go out and lead him back to the top of the fence by his leash, reach up and lift him down to the ground. I could always tell he trusted me to get him safely back on terra firma.

Likewise, a big weeping willow tree in the front yard was always too much to resist. Since he was on a leash, it only took him seconds to get tangled in the limbs.

So up the tree I’d go and usually had to get his leash off while he hissed at me, then nab him and climb low enough to drop him to the ground. I’d have to hurry down and get the leash back on before he wandered off.

I had a heck of a time finding something to prevent him from jumping over a 4-foot chain-link fence. His leash — usually attached to the clothesline — would barely let him move a few feet after he jumped over. I guess he just wanted to see if he could do it.

Eventually, I found a product with flexible plastic spikes to put on top of the fence that seemed to do the job. Or he just decided the effort wasn’t worth it anymore.

Ares was not an angel by any means. When I first welcomed him to my home — he was gifted to me by a friend who already had a cat, two dogs and horses — he considered it his plaything.

Jumping up on counters and shelves, knocking whatever was there to the floor. Scratching whatever he could get his claws in to. Like my sofa.

It took some time to train him and I think a water bottle helped. I’d repeatedly shout “no” while spraying him in the face and all over when he misbehaved. He got the message in time.

As a feral cat, he was pretty quick to scratch and bite when he didn’t like something I did. My legs and arms bore the brunt of those reactions. But he calmed down as we got to know each other better.

Yet he retained a mean streak that surfaced from time to time.

A few hours before a veterinarian from Caring Pathways came to our home, I tried to tell Ares how I felt but quickly choked up. I held him by his front legs with his back legs on my legs (he was never a lap cat) but he wanted to get down before I could say much.

While we waited, Ares all but stopped eating and drinking water. Did he know what was going to happen? Not likely but you hear about pets who respond to their owner’s emotions and mine were pretty strong.

Now he is no longer in pain. The veterinarian, Suzie Gough, was great at easing him over the rainbow bridge.

She was informative, made me feel comfortable having her handle things and treated Ares with gentleness and respect.

I know Ares enjoyed his life with me but I think I got the far better end of the deal. What a companion, friend and family member.

Ares will be in my heart and memories for the rest of my life. That’s the best present anyone can receive.

Rest in peace, Ares. Best buddies forever and ever