She came into our lives on a whim. We had only had indoor cats in the past but we lived deep in the woods and mice were building nests in the motor of my husband's truck. So we went to the local shelter and picked out two beautiful sister cats to bring home. We were young and silly so we opened up the pet carrier on the back deck. One of the cats (later christened "The Nemesis") took off like a shot, never to be seen again.
Queenie also took off and she sat at the top of the hill meowing plaintively all afternoon while we tried to coax her into returning to her new home. The sun was almost setting when she finally came trundling down that hill and into our arms.
In a shocking development, we learned that Queenie was already pregnant when we brought her home. She gave birth to her kittens in our Doberman's dog house (he was a very longsuffering dog) and we found homes for all of them before getting her spayed. Although we had planned for her to be an outdoor cat, on the very first cold day of that year, she came and stood patiently at the door. I opened it and let her in. She wouldn't leave us again for eighteen years.
I always said she was the perfect cat because she literally had no faults. She was so polite that if she had to throw up, she would run to the litter box and do it there. She was the only cat we ever had who actually earned her keep--proudly bringing mice and moles to the back door just as we were sitting down to supper. I once saw her eat an entire snake.
When I look through our photo albums, Queenie is like the Forrest Gump of cats. We have pictures of her with almost every friend and every pet we ever had. Being the perfect cat, Queenie did us the wonderful courtesy of living longer than any of our other pets.
In the past two years of her life, she became even more attached to me. I couldn't sit down on the couch for five minutes without her crawling into my lap and purring up a storm. She followed me everywhere and would even sit on the side of the bathtub when I bathed. One day I opened the shower door and almost hit her in the head because she was patiently waiting for me to emerge.
She started declining last Thanksgiving. I remember lying on the couch with her purring on my chest and tears rolling down my cheeks asking God if he could please just let her last through the holidays because I wasn't ready to say goodbye yet. Since God is incredibly kind and I didn't specify which holiday, she almost made it to Memorial Day.
At eighteen years old, she was over 80 years old in people years. I knew she was failing but she still seemed to find such great pleasure in her daily life that I couldn't make that final decision. I prayed for God to let us know when it was time. He gave us our answer one Sunday afternoon when we returned from a church retreat.
I had been lying in the sunroom reading for only a few minutes when she laid down on my chest and started purring like she always does. But just a few minutes later, she started acting very strangely--lifting up one paw and acting like she couldn't put it down, then doing the same thing with the other. Then when she tried to get up, she fell. It was almost like she was having a stroke. I started bawling and asking, "Queenie, what's wrong? What's wrong, baby?" But I knew I had the answer I had been asking God to give me. I had been praying that He would let us know for sure that it was time to let go, that He would give us a sign that would remove all doubt.
We phoned her vet and even though he wasn't on call, he rushed to the clinic to minister to her. She died with me and my husband gently stroking her fur and telling her what a good cat she was.
For eighteen years she was my furry little touchstone. I wrote 17 books during that time. We moved to the city. Other pets came and went and we learned that friends sometimes come and go too. We lost grandparents. My mom went into the nursing home. Our nephew died. But our Queenie-cat was always there, good for a cuddle and a purr whenever we desperately needed one.
I miss you, sweetheart. You left a big hole in our home and in our hearts. But we were so incredibly blessed to have you for so long. May flights of angels sing you to your rest.