I think I remember the date so easily because, not only was it Millennium Year, but also, most of my family were visiting from the UK to celebrate my parents 50th Wedding Anniversary.
The circumstances of how she came were unusual enough to need no aide-memoire.
Three little boys, classmates of my sons, rang the front door bell.
'Is this your kitten?' they asked guilelessly. 'We found it on the bridge.'
I didn't think for a moment that they had found her on the bridge, I assumed she was from an unwanted litter, but the bridge is narrow and sees a constant flow of traffic, and would be a very dangerous place for a tiny kitten, so it made a perfect opening gambit.
We had quite a few cats at the time, most of which had been dumped on us, literally dumped. - just left in sacks or boxes somewhere on our property. Everyone knew we were animal-lovers, and back then neutering just didn't happen by and large - especially for cats.
'Have you tried Denise?' I asked hopefully, although I wasn't counting on anything. Denise, who lived at the other end of the bridge, was another cat-lover.
'Yes,' they replied promptly.
I looked at the kitten and knew that the patience of three small boys wouldn't stretch very far. I guess her future hadn't really been in doubt from the moment I opened the door.
|My boys fell in love with her straight away|
My own two small boys were thrilled to bits, the In-Charge less so, but he's good at bowing to the inevitable.
Dottie was over the moon, but then Dottie loved nothing so much as someone who needed a bit of mothering, and the kitten was only too happy to be mothered.
We named her Pushkin, but mostly she was called Pushy
|Beautiful Dottie was a born mother|
Even the puppies loved her.
But then, she was a very lovable cat.
|She got on with everybody|
She rapidly became #1 Son's cat, and - unbeknownst to me - slept in his bed every night.
When I say in his bed, I mean in his bed. Apparently, she wasn't content with curling up in the crook of his knees or anything external, she would crawl under the duvet and lie against him, playing the piano with her little claws against his tummy.
She was quite happy being smothered under the bedclothes, and he adored her.
She disappeared once - while I was out shopping - and we turned the place upside-down, frantically searching for her. Eventually we found her in the bottom of the sleeping bag stuffed underneath his bed, warm and boneless and fast asleep.
|SurferSon adored her too|
She was quite a small cat. What the In-Charge calls 'a short wheel-base', but she was a demon-hunter nonetheless, and when she'd caught something she'd come to the back door, yowling like a soul in pain until I went out to be presented with her trophy.
I remember one evening, she was curled up on my lap in the Library, when some movement caught my eye. To my horror, a mouse was scurrying along the bottom edge of the bookcase. I don't mind how many mice live in my sheds, but I do not like sharing my living space with them, I'm afraid. As a sort of reflex action, I threw Pushy off my lap. From fast asleep, to - literally - the mouse firmly locked in her jaws was instantaneous. In cars it would be 1-60 in two seconds.
I picked her up gingerly and put her outside the front door and, politely, neither of us mentioned the incident again.
|One of her favourite perches - an old ladder propping up the Solanum crispum|
|The potager was her private garden|
She loved the garden. On sunny days she'd always be out in the potager, sleeping on the bench, or stretched out on the warm gravel - highly camouflaged. In really hot weather, I'd find her curled under a shrub.
|I nearly trod on her often, lying right beside me, she just disappeared into the gravel|
If I was working outside, she'd always come and roll in the flower bed beside me, and many a time she'd take me on a tour of the whole garden if I'd been away for a few days, as if to tell me that she'd looked after everything in my absence.
|Rhubarb from her very own potager|
In the house, she was the only cat allowed beyond the kitchen door, because she was the only one who could be trusted never to pee in some corner if she got shut in for too long.
These last few years she's had her own little routine. #1 Son has worked abroad for years now, but if SurferSon was home, she'd usually go to bed with him. If not, she'd go outside for the night, spurning the cat beds I have thoughtfully placed in the turf shed in favour of doing who-knows-what, although in the mornings she would generally appear from the direction of the garden.
Breakfast was always on the kitchen window sill, where she could enjoy the sunshine, if there was any, and, from the comfort of her warm seat, watch the birds on the bird-table outside the window, no doubt catching at least a dozen in between mouthfuls of food. The window-sill was her domain, where she could take as long as she liked to eat, as none of the other cats were allowed up there to muscle in on her. Afterwards, she would wait patiently by the door until I let her into the house where she'd spend the entire day either following the sun, or just sleeping on our bed until supper time.
If we were at home, she'd then spend as much of the evening as possible on my lap.
|She helped me knit the pole warmer for Beltra Market|
She'd not been in great form, the last little while, and I knew she was slipping, but she was still eating well, and sitting in my lap every evening. But finally I took her to the vet to see if there was anything we could do to make her more comfortable.
So soon after losing my little Pixie, I was desperately hoping she'd be all right for a few more months.
It was such a relief to bring her home with antibiotics and a glimmer of hope that I felt a bit light-headed, but by the next morning we knew she wasn't happy, and that is the only signal I ever need.
We took her in together, the In-Charge and I, and held her, and told her how much she'd been loved.
It is the end of an era, to lose someone who has been a part of the family for so long.
Such a quiet, untroublesome little member of the family, too.
It was only when I drove her to the vet's that first day, I realized that I couldn't even remember when she had last left the property. She has never been sick. And she was as good as gold in the car, not making a sound, just staring at me with saucer-wide eyes while I tried to stroke her through the bars of the cat basket.
|Even SuperModel loved her, against all her lurcher principles|
It is a couple of weeks ago now, that we lost her, but I haven't felt able to put it down in black and white. It was so hard, after losing my little Pixie just a few weeks ago.
The house seems empty.
My lap is cold and empty night after night.
I miss her. I see her every day in so many places. I go into our room for something and - before I catch myself - I find I am wondering why she's not lying on my bed in the sun. Her blanket is still on the sofa in the drawing room - I've shied away from moving it.
SurferSon came home for her funeral, and wept with us, but #1 Son was far away, doing exams that day, so we didn't tell him until afterwards. Everyone else came too. They usually do, though it's up to them.
Model Dog sat shaking, pressed against me, and then lay down and put her head into the grave. SuperModel danced around the edges and wouldn't come very close, her eyes big and anxious. In the kitchen, when I had left her in her bed for them all to say goodbye, Model Dog had licked her face and SuperModel had nudged her, and nudged her again, as if to try and make her get up.
Hobbes and Henri, who had circled her and sniffed, and stared, sat near us in the orchard and watched, wide-eyed and sombre.
And Hobbes has been restless and upset since she went, walking round the kitchen crying.
He misses her too.
She was only a little cat, and very quiet.
But she's left a huge gap that none of us quite knows how to fill.
|She didn't take up much space, but she's left a massive gap|