The last dog that I owned, my smooth fox terrier, Maisie, was rarely out of my sight, whatever I happened to be doing there she was, a glimpse of her white coat in the corner of my eye.
I was concerned when our neighbours bought a pair of kittens, two small white indistinguishable bundles of fluff. As they grew they became more adventurous, taking an interest in our garden, climbing along the dividing wall or up into the trees on the border. I expressed my fears to their owners of potential damage or death should either of them tumble off the wall or out of a tree. 'They'll have to take their chance' I was told. The cats were brother and sister and they grew to be very different, the boy sporting a flamboyant coat with a ruff like a lion's mane and a big fluffy tail while his sister, Vanilla, was sleek and elegant. What they had in common was enough sense to stay well out of Maisie's way.
I was devastated when Maisie became ill and the hard decision was made to have her put to sleep. The house and garden became such silent places. I was working on the vegetable plot when I saw a flash of white out of the corner of my eye. There sat Vanilla, just as Maisie had done, in a patch of sunshine, studying me carefully. How pleased I was to see her!
She came to see me often, running forward, purring in anticipation, knowing that I would stop whatever I was doing so that she could sit on my lap to be stroked and admired. She would rub her face against mine then bury her head beneath my arm. No two ways about it - I was besotted! She was a tease, crawling into the cloches with open ends that had been set out to protect my vegetables. No point saying 'get out of there', she was a cat and wouldn't take a blind bit of notice.
She made herself thoroughly at home.
When I saw my neighbour I would joke. "How's my cat?" I've cried over dogs all my life, with no apologies for my emotions, they had given me all their love and devotion and each and every one was worthy of my tears. I never thought that I would cry for a cat. But this week her owners found Vanilla
lying out in their garden, seemingly untouched, but dead. She is buried in the orchard. She was quite simply the most beautiful cat in the world.