I know Blackie was only a cat, but she was my first proper (not counting guinea pigs!) family pet. We had her for nearly 21 years, so my kids cannot really remember life without her.
She was practically feral when we got her as a 3 month old kitten. When we got her home, she disappeared and I thought she'd escaped from the house and we'd lost her. But she had managed to find a small crack behind a wall and hid in that for days until eventually she plucked up courage to come out.
She became the most affectionate animal, and I know my husband will really miss her because as soon as he came home from work, she would call him and cling on to him for grim death. As for me, she would curl up with me when I was on night duty and keep me warm when I was sleeping during the day.
Blackie traveled the world with us. She came over to New Zealand when we moved from the UK. It cost more to bring her over than it did the two kids put together! Another fond (but stressful) memory was driving her down from Gisborne to Dunedin in the car, when we moved house. We had the four of us squashed into the car, with Blackie, and Angel the dog, plus I don't know how many suitcases. It took three days to drive down. We didn't have a cat box because there wasn't room, so we kept Blackie on a lead and took her for walks whenever we stopped for a break. In all our moves over the years, she never made a fuss.
In the last couple of years, she became more frail and didn't move much from her electric blanket. She had occasional fits and I thought she was going to die over a year ago. I think she was trying to reach the world record for longest living cat, which is 24 years - at nearly 21, she almost made it. I also think she had lost a lot of her sight.
Over the last couple of weeks she has got to the stage where she really needed someone to keep an eye on her most the time. Whilst she was happy in herself, she wasn't managing to use her litter box properly, and needed help with finding her food. Sadly, I am now living in Australia and my hubby spends long hours at work, so we felt it was the right time to let her go. However, the decision to have her euthanised was the most difficult decision of my life. My head told me it was the right thing to do, but my heart found it very hard.
In the end, she went very easily - it seemed to me that she was ready to go.
We will all miss Blackie very much - she really was one of the family. She has gone from our lives but not from our hearts.