My love, Rossi

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people describe her as ‘the mean one’, ‘the not friendly one’, ‘the hissy one’, ‘the stubborn one’ but the thing is she was the MOST loving cat – you just had to meet her where she was, and not everyone was willing to do that.

With me, she gave everything and, from her, I received some of the most wholehearted love and affection I’ve ever known.

She was her own woman though – to the extent that Jaime would often joke that she and I were essentially the same – and she’d make no qualms about showing you that she was the one in charge.

She’d sit and wait for AGES before deciding that she did indeed want to be in your lap. And she’d do a similar thing in the bedroom, padding her way towards my side of the bed (avoiding the rug – I don’t know why but she never made friends with that part of the rug), only to sit there for a while, peering up at me, before eventually giving in to the fact that I was where she wanted to be.

When she got there though… those were the moments. Absolute bliss, on her side and yours. She would nuzzle and purr like you were the only thing in the world, there’d be endless head bunts and she’d smoosh her head into any little gap – whether a neck, elbow crease or armpit! With me there’d often be a lick or a nose nibble as well, and I miss so much the pressure of her head, and the sandpapery feel of her tongue.

Without a doubt she was my cat but she loved her adopted Dad too. She and Jaime had their own thing going on and, particularly if he was wearing this one pair of jeans, I wouldn’t get a look in!

She was four when I introduced Renzo and despite initially being what you might describe as ‘less than impressed’, over time they became definite buddies. He’s always been a bit less feisty than her though, and many a time we’ve heard him get into trouble with a neighbour cat only for her to (again) pop off to his rescue, huge puffed up tail in tow. It was uncanny in the later years, the way I’d find them lying in the same place, together but apart, in identical positions.

I think we, and he, miss their ‘funny half hour’ of mindlessly chasing each other around the house. And he misses her in other ways too. It broke my heart in the days after she’d gone to see him looking at her spot on the bed as if to say ‘where’s she gone, Mum?’. And doing the same at tea time – actively looking for her and her bowl. We have to stay with him at the moment while he eats, or else he’ll wander off elsewhere and get distracted.

A friend and student said to me in the week of her passing that “I’d lost a true companion and teacher” and how true that is. I’d watch her in awe at times – wondering at her ability to be so consumed by the present moment, and impressed by her unwillingness to be anything other than who she was.

Because for sure she hissed at me too, and I’ve been on the receiving end of many a swipe with her paw – but I’d always knowingly overstepped her boundaries and she was only ever putting me back in my place.

She understood sensitivity; she had introvert characteristics. If the house was full of people, she’d be upstairs on the bed and that was that. If she was in the hallway, or on the stairs and you walked up to her/past her too quickly she’d let you know about it and quickly turn tail to run away. This, I think, is where she was misunderstood by many. But again, all you really needed to do was take some time to understand things from her perspective too.

Perhaps because of her sensitivity she’d ALWAYS be there if I needed her. I’d pick her up and she’d loop her paws over my shoulder and smooth her cheek against my face. If I found her on the bed, I’d curl myself around her and we’d lie like that for as long as was needed. I’m missing this part of her in a big way – it’s like my best friend, my comfort blanket is gone.

Renzo, interestingly, has stepped up here since her leaving – and whenever I’ve been upset he’s mysteriously appeared, delivering head bunts and purrs in a way that’s really never been typical of him before.

There are other changes too, not least him becoming more vocal – because whereas she used to do all the heavy lifting around ‘reminding’ us it was food time, he now is left to fend for himself!

It is definitely still more quiet than it used to be though. We’d never realised how much sound she contributed to our lives but the little wheeze she had as she breathed, her enormous purr, as well as her general day-to-day chuntering, is a backdrop that is now very much missed.

She was an unconditional ally in all kinds of times. Over 12 years, three jobs, a marriage, a divorce and a pretty steep learning curve as a stepmum she has been there.

I miss her love of the sunshine, her passion for a tennis ball, her meticulous and elegant grooming habits. I miss her presence as I teach (she has become well known to students these past months), her silhouette cwtched in under the duvet on the bed, the feel of the bridge of her nose. I even miss her relentless protests in the morning as she campaigned for someone, anyone, to get out of bed and open the food cupboard.

I’d give anything to have been able to change things. We had no notice that she was even ill, and before we knew it she was gone. I’m only grateful to the vet for allowing Jaime and I to be with her at the end but I do wish I’d been able to hold her while she was still aware that I was there.

Rossi, you were a unique and wonderful girl and your presence in my life was the best gift I could ever have asked for. Know that you have the warmest corner of my heart to live in now, and I will never let you go.