In memory of a beautiful cat.
It's now more than two months since we said our tearful farewells to Nellie, our faithful, wonderful, tawny Abyssinian cat who for more than 18 years slept every night in my arms. She loved us as much as we loved her, and parting with her has left a gaping hole in our lives.
I hope she can't hear me saying this, but Nellie was more dog-like in her manner than cat. She followed us everywhere. Whatever we did she was there to supervise. Wherever we went she wanted to come too.
She was just a kitten when we were still living in Melbourne but building our house here, and she, with her twin brother, Walter, happily made the two-hour trip on weekends to supervise the building of our 'forever' home, which they would share with us.
We wanted them to be indoor cats and to this end Larry built for them what we call the 'Palace de Puss' - a palatial enclosure complete with tunnels, spiral staircase, scratching posts, places to lounge in the sun or shade - and the full run of the underneath of our house.
Clearly, Larry's efforts weren't good enough, and those young cats drove us crazy in their determination to be outside.
They loved the freedom that this place offered them, and they took far too much advantage of it in the early days, sneaking off to the gully where all sorts of dangers lurked.
Sadly, Walter didn't see his first birthday as the dangers we feared became his reality. But Nellie steamed on to live to a grand old age. Not old enough for us, but she gave it her best.
In her young years she, like most cats, had a penchant for hunting. If there's one thing we don't love about cats it's that. But Nellie was a lover, not a killer, and almost without exception, every gift she brought in for us was alive and well. The catch was her goal, and once caught, she would let the terrified creature go - always under the dining room table! So, for many years we found ourselves hurling across the floor, cupped hands outstretched, to capture and release a bushrat, mouse, bird - or - no hands involved in this one - snake! So many hysterical memories there, and a great learning for me to be brave and appreciate the rare privilege of being able to hold these beautiful creatures in my hands and be less scared. With some TLC from us, most of these victims lived to tell the tale.
By the time we opened our home as a B&B, Nellie was quite a senior lady. Her days were spent luxuriating in the morning sun on the deck, and in the afternoon on the garden side of our house, but her favourite place was stretched across our shoulders as we went about our daily work.
She loved to welcome guests and would sit at the bottom of the steps as they arrived and pierce them with her amazing Cleopatra eyes, demanding attention and admiration. It was her way of making guests feel at home - and of stating that she was the real boss of this house. And of course she was.
Larry and I have lived with and loved many cats, but none were as purrfect as the beautiful Miss Nellie. Rest in peace beautiful girl.