Remembering Queso

Queso and Phoenix

He started life in the wild, a feral kitten born somewhere on the wooded hillside behind my office. There were two orange kittens, a black-and-white one, and an assortment of tortie mixes. Over a period of weeks we watched them grow, put out food for them, assumed the worst when some of them vanished, and tried vainly to trap the survivors. I told everyone that if anyone could catch him, I wanted the remaining orange kitty.

When an ice storm left the remaining kittens wet and shivering in an icy puddle near the back door, a co-worker scooped them up and brought them inside. Ten minutes later they were all spoken for and nestled warmly under the desks of their new owners. I named him Queso before the day was out, and like all my pets over the years, he was quickly promoted to “spoiled child” status.

That was 17 years ago. From the beginning, he was just a good ’ol boy. Not skittish, not mean, not shy. Just quiet, confident, unassuming. When my situation changed and I had to find new homes for all my pets seven years later, my son helped me find homes for all the other pets. But he kept Queso.

Queso presided over my son’s marriage, several interstate moves, and the birth of two grandchildren. He grew — and grew, and grew — like the kids, a significant part of our lives. Unlike the kids, though, the years were taking their toll. In the last eighteen months, we’ve learned that cats can become diabetic, that their blood sugar is tested by pricking their ears every day, and that they can be given insulin shots. We’ve learned they can, with great success, be put on weight-loss diets. And we’ve learned that despite our best efforts, they will fade.

It was not a great surprise then, when I got a call this morning telling me Queso was at the vet’s for the last time, and my son’s family would be be there at 3:45 if I wanted to join them. Instead, I went up earlier, to spend some time with him by myself.

My son, daughter-in-law, granddaughter (4), and grandson (7) went together to say goodbye. They took Queso’s favorite blanket for him to snuggle in, and a can of his favorite tuna in case he was hungry. And they took his buddy, Phoenix, to spend some time with him.

A little later, with the gentle assistance of our “other doctor,” Queso took his leave. No doubt, in the days to come, we’ll speak of him as we always have. But right now, this evening, I’m glad I’m alone.

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