The months following the Great Renovation were some of the happiest in my life. My days went like this: Mornings I returned to writing the novel that had been badly neglected for almost 2 years, then made breakfast and did a little (emphasis on little) housework. After our big meal at lunch, I seemed to need a little nap before going down to the lower garden where I pulled weeds, read and generally enjoyed the company of my special companion, Rob Roy.

The gate between the Kimi’s yard and my garden over the drain field. It became known as Anne’s Bus Stop. I had begun to notice my own slowing down and was having treatments with Linda Nicholls, a kinestherapist. About this time, she told me about the little abandoned dog she was feeding at a lay-by on her way into work every morning. She wondered if we might be willing to take the little mut. Of course, I said yes and our new addition, a fairly elderly dog we named Coco became Kimi’s new best friend.

Coco (named after Coco Chanel’s little dog in the song she sang as a teen in the caberets around Paris). He wasn’t an easy dog to love as he had been treated badly by previous owners and had a bad habit of biting the hand that fed him… that would be me. But lots of love and a better diet cured that.

The view from the other side of the garden gate.Mike had planted the garden perfectly with the raised beds I wanted and everything was growing at full speed.

Rob’s and my favorite place for relaxing was the pond where I added Water Irises. I planned 2 patios at either end of the garden. The other was where we could watch the cows on their march to the milking barn up the cow path.

That summer was magical. Everything was flowering and Reg was getting regular freelance work now and happily tapping away at his computer while Rob watched me pull weeds. The days were long with daylight extending into evening. But toward the end of the summer it occurred to me that both Rob and I were downright lazy. In fact I began to worry about how lazy my big boy cat had become. He wasn’t his old lively self. I must tell you that Rob Roy was a very special cat who had picked up a couple of phrases from me and could articulate “I love you.” quite clearly. His phrase “I don’t know” wasn’t as clear but I could make it out.

As is often the case when things are going so well, something comes along – out of the blue – to change the picture. Worried about Rob, we took him to the vet’s. To our surprise our dear elderly vet who had wisely counseled us in the past with Sandy and Sister Kitty, had retired. So, somewhat reluctantly we put Rob into the hands of a new young woman vet. She seemed intimidated by Rob’s size and immediately suggested that she tranquilize him before taking a blood sample. After injecting the tranquilizer, she examined him and announced she had found a tumor on his liver. She called in her collegues who agreed that Rob probably had cancer of the liver and could well be in pain.

I was in shock. One minute we were taking my big fine boy cat in for an exam and the next I was hearing that this was a serious condititon and the recommendation was to euthanize him while he was under the tranquilizer. Everything was going too fast. Of course, I couldn’t stand the thought of his having pain, but I also wondered about the sudden and overwhelming diagnosis. I held Rob in my arms as Reg agreed to the procedure, telling me it was the best thing to do. Rob clearly was not well and neither of us wanted him to suffer. It was over in a matter of minutes.

My grief for my constant companion was profound. My garden no longer was our magic place. We buried Rob next to Sister up on the Apple Tree lot. I was beyond consolation.

To this day I believe that was the beginning of my own fight with cancer. In September I became seriously ill and was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery to rid myself of an ovarian tumor. Thus ended my idyle and began a long battle against a life changing disease…