I still catch myself inadvertently looking for her when I return from a trip or from a run. It was as much a habit to greet her as it was to kiss my wife whenever I was away for any length of time. Snookie was not just a furry friend that enjoyed being touched and loved, she was an integral part of most every aspect of our daily routines.
Snookie's grave is by a large rock in the woods in view of my office window, so I continue to greet her often, but of course it is not the same. While it was Ann who found Snookie as a baby kitty hiding under the neighbor's porch, frightened and hungry after being abandoned, she has always been my cat. Snookie and I always had this special connection, obvious to most everyone. She absolutely adored me, or so it seemed – allowing me to handle her in ways that she would not tolerate others doing. She was my kitty wife, and I can only guess at how she must have looked at me - certainly with a profound love, something I never shared to such a degree with another pet, or ever expect to find again.
I could pick her up any time and hold her in my arms on her back like an infant, with all four legs up in the air, and for long periods we would just look into each others' eyes in a wondrous sustained stare of mutual affection. As a feral cat, there was always a certain wildness in her that one would expect, but I found a kindred spirit in those round wonderful black eyes and in her steadfast, unwavering love. In some way, we were two of a kind; it goes beyond explanation and always will.
Snookie is the name we called her, but she seemed to acknowledge the use of other “pet” names. My son Keith always called her Caitlin, while I would call her Poogie Pie or Purr Ball more often than not, and generally referred to her as “the Beast” when speaking to Ann about her. There was nothing I could do that would compromise the affection this kitty cat had for me. All I needed to do was make a threatening low guttural growl when approaching her, and she'd start purring warm-heartedly. Any other cat would have run for the hills.
Snooks slept between my legs most every night all of her life, at least until I got restless. It was her place of comfort and safety; her home base. All was right in her world when she was with dad. She loved mom too, increasingly so in the latter years. Our evening ritual for dinner and an hour or two of television was for Snookie to take up her position between Ann and I on the couch where we each could rub her belly or her head and share morsels of dinner or a lick of ice cream before bedtime.
Snookie always liked her back feet held when she would lay down between us. If I wasn't already holding firm the pads of her back feet, she would maneuver around so that she could push her feet into my hand. Then she would move around so that Ann could rub her head and neck. It was enjoyable, for both of us, to hold her back feet and rub her tummy at the same time. Life was good and she purred a lot.
I hated to see her decline in her latter years. Snookie was such a vibrant wild cat much of her life. In a house we owned across the road from where we live now, my office/bedroom was in a loft that opened onto a balcony. I would leave the sliding glass door open at night so that she could come and go as she pleased. She could sit on the banister on the balcony and survey much of her domain before climbing down ten feet to the ground where she would hunt in the surrounding woods and yard most every night.
Her biggest success was with capturing flying squirrels, many of which she would climb back up to the porch and bring into the house by the cuff of the neck for show and tell. I had never seen a flying squirrel before Snookie started bringing them in to show off her catches. Those that were still alive I could set free; holding these bug-eyed flying creatures in your hands, they were the gentlest of God's critters.
Snookie captured and ate more than her fair share of wild things, especially chipmunks, birds, and mice. She'd go after frogs, snakes, and lizards too, but their entertainment value dropped off quickly after a couple cold-blooded captures. She'd even bagged a few rabbits in the early years. One large adult rabbit that she brought to the front door for show and tell served as dinner that evening for Ann and I, thank you very much. Over the years her hunting prowess gradually diminished and she was satisfied staying indoors most of the time and didn't venture much further than to watch the birds at the feeder through the picture window.
Like all cats, Snookie would watch at the window at night. It is hard to tell what creatures or mysterious sights she saw in the dark in all those years of feline vigilance. Cats and people are different enough that there will always be much we don't know about or understand of the other. Her time with us was meant to be, I sincerely believe; she just seemed destined to be a part of our lives all these precious years. Now that she has left us, I miss her terribly.
On the morning of her last day, Snookie was stretched out on the carpet with her head between her front paws, lying still to ease her obvious discomfort from severe stomach pain. Laying down flat beside her, she didn't have the energy even to lift her head. I looked into her listless eyes and stroked her back without saying a word. Her eyes focused on mine as if to say "dad, I really hurt bad" and she reached out one paw to gently touch my eye as she often did in a gesture that I will always regard as her way of saying goodbye, I love you so much. The look in her eyes at that moment is etched into my memory permanently; I have a clear visual memory of it every time I think of her. It was a final deep exchange between two lights of consciousness that shared a bond of wildness and profound affection for too brief a time on this earth. I take a certain degree of comfort in believing that when it is my time to also leave this physical realm, Snookie will be waiting to be held so that we can again stare into the depths of each others' souls and take up where we left off.