Nippy, never was a name so suitable. With shining eyes, she ‘nipped’, unrivalled as the fastest little climber, outstripping any other, with no fear of heights. Roofs were a mere dalliance, even at 20 years old, though she lived even longer than this. She loved adding amazement to the surprise of her human family. What seemed like near extinction to us was all but reanimation for her!
Phoebe – glossy, silky to the touch. Always up for some fun. She had an inner brightness and anticipation, the look of a dog that had hardly begun to discover what life had to offer and behind it all a promise of softness and obedience. Her nose was nearly always rough and dry because she developed an infection in it once. Mum would pat it with olive oil which helped, though Phoebe would roll her eyes when the bottle came out of the cupboard, she never liked it and would smack her lips by way of rebuke.
And then there was proud, brave Bella. Born of a wild farm based mother and a feral father. Deceptively mild but her claws only seconds from being unsheathed. Capable of the most marked condescension of guests, or as she saw them, aliens. So too was she voluptuous when she spread herself out, shooting half-opened eyes, gleams of veiled savagery. We were best friends. She yielded to my love. Evenings led to play, that turned often to something more sinister, her shape just discernible, pencilled delicately against the fading light in
the garden as she stalked me poised for attack. Me, hunched behind a shrub, breathless, wondering if I could make it into the greenhouse before she launched herself onto my head.
But what of her leg? Nothing more than an infant, she returned one night, leaving a trail of blood from her mangled leg. In utter dismay, horror and unquenchable sympathy, my parents found her curled, with flattened ears, beneath a hedge. She made a faint, rather squeaky exclamation of distress and pain when they spoke to her. She grew acquainted with the vet as he operated over a period to save what he could of her limb. She mastered the plaster cast with credulity but also skill. As to her bravery, I can find no adequate expression.