A Eulogy for a Pet Where LLMs Persist

Tycho was my first cat. There were cats before him of which I was party to their excellent time on this planet, but Tycho was my first cat. I saw him at the emergency vet. I'm afraid it might be my last time. My phone is on me. I dread the inevitable call. It's cancer. Again. It's just a matter of time now.

That this one year old lovable Maine Coon made it to month five and a half of his chemo is a testament to his stubbornness. I'd like to think he complained loudly at the cancer until it went away.

Sucks the cancer collapsed his trachea.

I'm going to wake up with wracking sobs.

I was working on a "family photo" in DALL-E. Not because I wanted the output, but because I wanted to test the limitations of AI diffusion models. What did they "understand" and what shapes output more than others. To get good output, do I forever need to tag myself as a "German-American out of shape Bruce Willis?" Could the AI ever make Tycho an all-black Maine Coon mix without slipping that smoke color into his ruff?

Now, do I want to try?

Previously, I was crafting a moment. A moment that could happen. A photo that might have been. Now it's a photo that never will be. I could keep refining the prompt, escaping the reality for a fabrication, never letting go. He could fight a dragon. He could be human-sized. He could be a lot of things, but only in my mind.

Now, only in my mind.

It's probably not healthy to want to create for a pet you cannot cherish in the present anymore. You move from an expression of ideas to memorializing really quick. And it's an easy escape. I feel it already. I want the AI to make up scenes. I want us playing with the cat wand again. I crave seeing him standing on my chest until I wake up, judging my sleeping in. I'm going to miss tomorrow; the moment every morning he senses me finally stirring and slides up the bed to be little spoon and start his day proper. Moments as I remember them.

I have my photos. But making more feels wrong. They're a poor substitute for my love.

But he's forever my little prince. This is as the AI last imagined him.

The family portrait project, envisioned by DALL-E, 2024