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During that evening, Tabitha made herself quite at home in her bedroom.  She enjoyed a large supper and made full use of the facilities.  All was going really well until I noticed that her tail was dragging on the ground, though this wasn’t stopping her from jumping on and off the bed, it was ringing an alarm bell.

Next morning Tabitha was very friendly, fussing round my legs, lying next to me on her bed and generally behaving as if she’d known this life all her life.  I was aware that soon John would be coming to collect her and in fairness to her and him, I explained to her what would happen.

Animals understand vastly more than they are generally given credit for.  So I talked with Tabitha about John, about her new, permanent home and explained why she wasn’t staying with me.  After all, this lovely cat was about to embark on her third move in less than 24 hours, enough to confuse anyone.

John arrived, too early for me, I was totally in love with this gorgeous cat, but I know this was for the best and he promised progress reports very soon.  As the two of them drove off, I felt bereft but happy for Tabitha.

The bulletins soon started: Tabitha was settling in well; she’d taken over the living room and enjoyed sitting in the window surveying the village; Tabitha had had a vet check and all was well.

Three days later she was back at the vet’s with paralysed back legs.  The advice was to put her to sleep. John has always been a rebel, so Tabitha came home.  He was so kind, so loving towards her.  He took the view that provided she wasn’t in distress or discomfort, there was no need to end her life.  He rearranged his house so that he spent all his free time in Tabitha’s room, playing with her, brushing her, talking to her.  Whatever she wanted, he provided.

I went over to do some healing for her and was encouraged by the response but ultimately, those little legs remained immobile.  Tabitha meanwhile developed a fantastic turn of speed, and would cross the room at a great rate of knots, propelling herself forward with the front legs and letting the back legs follow on.

Tabitha had a wonderful summer.  Outside, Derbyshire was flooded, the deluge hardly let up.  She was inside, warm, dry, fed and loved.  My abiding memory of the Olympic Torch Relay through the county, is of sitting on the floor, with Tabitha resting on my knees as I brushed her into purry bliss, whilst we listened to local radio keeping us informed of the torch’s progress.  She was eating for England, her coat was glossy, her eyes were bright and she was happy.

Then, one Friday I went to see her and realised at once that all had changed.  Tabitha looked tired.  I knew she was almost ready to leave us.  I felt devastated and then I understood.

Throughout the majority of her 20 years, Tabitha had been abandoned, time and time again.  Until that is, she was welcomed in to John’s home, for as long as she chose to be there.  He accepted her and her requirements unconditionally.  Nothing was too much trouble for her.  At the end of her long life, for those months last summer, Tabitha had at last, found and enjoyed unconditional love.  She didn’t need to be here any longer.  I knelt next to her and stroking her gently, told her that she was loved, she was special and that if she was tired and wanted to go home, back to spirit, we would want that for her.

Two days later, Tabitha collapsed.  John held her in his arms as she passed away.

Thank you Tabitha for making it a memorable summer.