Eighteen years ago, I adopted a four-month old 'runt of the litter'. She didn't have a name - she'd just been called "little one" for her first four months. When she came home with me, she was terrified and spent nearly a month living in my closet. Eventually, she learned that I wasn't going to eat her; indeed, she learned that I was there to feed her and pet her and generally just be nice to her. She soon abandoned the closet and took to being my beloved little Amber.
In the years between then and her death, that lizard was lost. But Amber adopted other things to mother. One of those things was AJ; Amber doted on the younger AJ all of AJ's life. In later years, on the days when AJ didn't feel like being doted upon, Amber found a stuffed frog (okay, 'found'? not so much... I bought it for her) and would spend hours curled up with it.
In 2009, Amber started suffering from congestion in her sinuses; her doctor took a look and found that she had a growth in her nasal passages. She stopped grooming herself and would come to me to have me groom her. I did; it was a daily ritual we had. Shortly after the doctor's visit where he told me about the growth, she started sneezing blood. In May 2009, I had her put to sleep.
She was the first cat I had to do that with. I put her things away and forgot I still had them. Forgot until this past weekend, when I went looking for clothing I thought I'd stashed away. I found her frog in my hope chest and pulled it out to give to Bug and the boys.
I'm glad I did. The boys tend to play rough with each other, but they also groom one another. And now, the littlest one has adopted Amber's frog. He was terrified of it when I pulled it out, but he's gotten over his terror and has taken to licking the frog's cowlick of 'hair' while hugging it to his chest. It helps, I think, that I stuffed the frog's belly with catnip.