In Memoriam: The Contessa

There are some firsts in life that one hopes one will never have to experience.  But ten days ago I had to go through one of them.  We had to take my beloved cat to the vets for the final time.

IMG_0834I’ve written before about how the Contessa came to live with me, about ten and a half years ago.  Over that time she became in integral part of our home, beloved by friends and family alike.  We both knew that the time would have to come at some point when we would have to say goodbye, and that it would probably be sooner rather than later, but that has not made it any easier.

By the end, the Contessa was an old girl with kidney problems, a heart murmur and had gone deaf.  But right up to the last fortnight she lived in that indeterminate middle age that cats have, where she was playful and affectionate and interested in everything.

We still don’t know what happened.  The vet thinks she may have eaten something that poisoned her, and although she shook that off after a brief stay with them, she didn’t have enough reserves left to get properly better.  The vet warned us we would just have to look after her as best we could for however long she had left.

Watching her fade away was incredibly hard.  Coming home each day we had no idea how she would be or if she would still be with us.  Finally, overnight on 15 December she told us it was time and we took her to the vets for the final time early on the morning of 16 December.

Losing her has been a bitter blow.  It feels like the heart has been ripped out of our home, and that I have lost a part of myself.  For the first three years it was pretty much just the two of us and her ever-purring company was a buffer against the loneliness of living far away from home and loved ones.  (As my mother said, she adopted me when I was in need, just as I much as I adopted her.)  But she thrived and prospered when we moved back to London (apart from the plane journey, which she hated) and we built our life and home around her.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the outpourings of love and support from family and friends over the last ten days.  I think it’s a mark of how special she was that she is remembered with love by so many people.  She was always the life and soul of any party, demanding attention and treats, often loudly and with menaces.

In time there will be room in our hearts for other cats (and there are lots of other cats who need homes, just as much as she did when she first came to me), but for now I have only sorrow and many, many happy memories.

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Missy Yarn

I’m feeling a little sad that I’m not at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally this year.  I keep seeing photos from friends showing all the beautiful yarn and amazing creations, and it’s making me a bit jealous.  I would say that my bank balance is thanking me, but one of the reasons I’m not going this year is that I’ve spent my money on rugby tickets, and I’m not exactly stinting on the yarn front either.

You might remember that I found a new indie yarn dyer while I was at Nine Worlds this year.  Third Vault Yarns specialise in geeky-inspired colourways.  Lola has a fantastic eye for colour and is producing some beautiful dying with a witty SF touch.  (Please, somebody buy the Nightcrawler and Vortex yarns before my hand slips.)

Last week she was polling views on which of three test dyes should be her new Waters Of Mars colourway, commemorating the discovery of water on Mars with a Who-inspired colourway.  I fell instantly in love with one of her test skeins and bought it.  More on that in a later post.

But while we were talking on Facebook, she spotted my Missy cosplay profile picture.  And this happened.   I ended up entirely accidentally commissioning Lola to custom dye me some Missy inspired yarn.  I’ve never commissioned a custom dye before, so it was really exciting.  Naturally, the yarn is purple and red.  I asked for two skeins, on her pure merino Companion 4 ply, to give me some options about what to make.  I’d really welcome ideas, actually, about what this could become.

It took me a few goes to get that picture, by the way.  The first few looked a bit like this.  

What a helpful cat!

Dietrich, The Contessa Fluffinski

Ten years ago today …

“There’s no sign of a microchip.  What do you want to do?”

I looked at the vet, and then into the fathomless eyes of one of the most beautiful cats I’d ever seen.  “Well,  I think she’s mine then,” I said.

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Who could resist that face?
About six weeks before I’d been sat in my garden enjoying a rare day of good weather.  It was the kind of day that made me miss Breakfast, my old cat, who’d gone missing about six months previously.  While I’d been sat out soaking up the sunshine he’d have been popping in and out of the shrubs in the garden and investigating the nooks and crannies behind the oil tank.  But I had no plans to replace him.  I was travelling a lot at the time (for work and pleasure) and it wouldn’t be fair on a cat.

Then this cat I’d never seen before wandered into my garden.  She was black and white, skinny as a rake and her long hair was dirty and matted.  She wasn’t wearing a collar.  She came over to me, looked me in the eyes and miaowed, before twining round my ankles.  After an extended scratch behind the ears she rolled over and insisted I rub her tummy.  She had the loudest purr I’d ever heard.

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The evening was drawing in, so I picked up my deckchair and went into the house.  Cat up and followed me indoors.  I don’t normally encourage strange cats (the last thing I would want to do is to cause distress by ‘stealing’ someone else’s pet) but this one looked in such a poor way that I opened a tin of tuna for her.  She polished it all off, and then collapsed in an exhausted sleep in the corner of my sitting room.  This was not the normal light doze you get with cats – it was a very heavy sleep.  It got to 10pm and I wanted to go to bed, so I reluctantly woke her and put her outside.

IMG_0914The following night I got home from work and as it was a lovely evening I opened the patio doors to let some air into the house.  Cat immediately walked in, as if she owned the place.

I spent the next six weeks trying to track down her owners, with no luck.  During that time she’d pretty much permanently moved in with me.  (Except for the week I went away on holiday, came back, and she was waiting for me.)  Taking her to the vets to see if she was microchipped was the only other thing I could think of to do.

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In the last ten years she’s been my constant furry companion.  We’ve moved house twice, one of those moves across the Irish Sea (she didn’t like flying, it’s fair to say).  For a large part of those ten years it was just the two of us   She’d be the one greeting me as I came home from work, walking back with me along the road, chattering about her day.  She’s a very clingy cat, who suffers from separation anxiety and doesn’t tolerate other cats well (the epic wars with Ginger Cat and Tabby Cat are legendary).  But I’ve seen her blossom from a cat who shrunk from other people to one who loves being the centre of attention whenever we have people round.

The day she sat on my lap
The day she sat on my lap
For all her clinginess, in the last ten years she’s only ever sat on my lap twice.  Both of those times were on the same day, when I was off work with an injured shoulder.  And they were very brief.  Most of the rest of the time she will snuggle next to me on the sofa, purring her little heart out.

She can be a pain sometimes.  She has a habit of knocking things off the coffee table if she thinks she’s not getting enough attention.  She will behave appallingly if she thinks treats are in the offing.  And her idea of treats is not what many people would think is appropriate for a cat: Eccles cakes, pain au chocolat, cheese and onion crisps, mushrooms, scones etc.  Her desire for fuss is not always welcome at 4.30am, however much she may poke me in the face.  Her long hair means the house ends up covered in tumbleweeds of cat fluff.  And don’t get me started on the furballs.

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“I have no idea how all these packets of treats ended up on the floor.”
One of my friends is even convinced she is a space alien, disguised as a cat while she scopes out the planet before her civilisation invades.

But I wouldn’t be without her.  She’s the most brilliant cat I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet (which is saying something), and I love her dearly.