Sometimes living in the country can be hard. We have had many pets here at Calamity Acres, but some have been dearer to us than others. You see, Keith and I have not been married all that long, only 7 years going on 8.... and the only pet we had coming into the marriage was Nick, the Link with my old, pre-married life.
In Keith's last year of active duty, we lived in Illinois, in Lake County, an hour above Chicago. There Nick lived with us in a third floor walkup, and the only outside he saw was through the windows. For a farm cat, it was hard. We decided, then, one Saturday, to get him a companion, and went to PetSmart to find one at an adoption event.
There, I fell in love with Calista. Seven years and I can remember her name, the Beauteous Cat.... she spoke to me through the cage. While I was admiring her, Keith was on his hands and knees, and a dimunitive mackeral tabby was rubbing against him through the cage on the floor. This, then, was the cat we chose. Gwen was her name, and she had been abandoned with 19 other cats in a mobile home. She had had to fight for her food, we think, because she stayed tiny all her nine years. When we moved to Leavenworth she settled in... she wanted nothing of the outdoors, she had always been inside, while Nick couldn't wait to get out again, and followed us on our daily walks with Oscar. Always content inside, she adapted well when we moved here to Calamity Acres, and was satisfied here in the tiny house. At some point she and Nick developed an aversion to each other, and the last year of Nick's life was a series of spatting, though they could both sleep in the same bed at night with us and with Addie and Hannah. Then, in December, Nick sickened and died. Gwen became a different cat, the only cat.... she began to want to go outdoors. She ventured onto the porch, and then, after a few days, onto the deck. We laughed about it, because she was obviously scared but enthralled. She would run back in at the slightest noise.
Eventually, she began to venture into the yard. We would sit and watch her and laugh, yelling encouragement, because she lifted her paws high at the feel of the damp grass. She loved to do chores with me, coming to the gate of the pasture and the door of the chicken house. At night sometimes she would stay out when the big dogs were called in... and then jump into the window to let me know when she was ready to come in. I would waken from my sleep to see her sitting there patiently. When I lifted the window, in she would come, to sleep on my pillow around my head. Many nights I would lift her off, only to have her creep back in the dark. She did not like the new little Josie, and would barely tolerate her until the last week, when she at least would lay still while her tail was played with for a few minutes, and then hiss and walk away huffily. She loved to lay on the printer while we used the computer, sleeping in the sun in the window, or lay on the desk itself, so that we could hardly use the mouse.
Last night she came to the workshop with me to check on the little chicks, who are doing fine in their lonely cage. The mouse smells fascinated her and she began hunting between the boxes and stacks of stuff for the source. When I was ready to go to the house, she did not want to come, and I told her she could stay out for a while. An hour later, when I went to get her, she was ready to come in. We walked across the yard, Gwen running ahead. She came in for a while, but when Josie got rambunctious, she was ready to go out again. Keith watched her hunting in the grass while he burned the trash.
Hannah had a bad night, and I was up many times with her. I thought it was odd that Gwen did not come in when I took Hannah to the porch several times. This morning Keith asked where she was, and I told him she had not come in. He went immediately to call her, his little Gwenly.... but she did not come. He told me to stay in and went out in the dark to let the chickens out, but still did not find her. He began checking the trees. I went out and looked under the deck, fed the llamas, and walked to the gate for the paper, calling all along. No where in any tree did I see the familiar white and gray face.
When I left for work, I saw her, laying in the road, in front of our neighbor's house. Little Gwen, hit by a car. I knew who it was from a distance, though I could not tell till I got down there. It was fast, we think, and she did not suffer. We think that it happened soon after Keith saw her last night. We did not know she ventured out onto the road, but should have guessed, so the blame is ours. Tonight we'll put her to rest next to Nickie and Addie Mae, under the tree that Beau and Lacey loved so well. Little Gwen, our Queen of the House, we'll miss her so.