This roller coaster called life.

Ever since I came to live here at the cottage I have rescued a great number of cats. I actually lost count of how many. While I found good families for most of them, a little number had to stay here at the cottage. Some became strictly indoor cats due to health reasons, others were fit for a life with a bit more freedom, and went to live in my garden, sleeping in their little cat houses under my patio or in the barn, at their own pleasure. Lately, I had six cats living under my patio, five girls and one big boy.

Last week I lost, in the space of 24 hours, two of the girls. Penelope, called Penny, and Pippi.

This just after losing my dog Pammy, last month.

I was particularly fond of Penny and Pippi, so this loss is hurting me deeply. They were abandoned here as kittens along with their six brothers and sisters, all severely ill. I lost two of them in the space of a month, no matter how many emergency vet visits I made, while the others slowly became stronger and stronger. To make the story short, they couldn’t be vaccinated due to their still low immune system and when they were eight months old they all got Parvo. All of them died, but Penny and Pippi, who fought the disease for a week before getting through it. Losing all those kitties, after all I had done to save them, was one of the hardest things I had to go through, in my entire life. And when the vet told me that Penny and Pippi had made it, I clung to them. And they clung to me.

They would follow me everywhere. They didn’t like living strictly indoor, and after all that they had gone through I thought they deserved to choose the life they wanted. So when they wanted to come inside I let them, and when they wanted to sleep on the grass, especially during summer, that’s where they slept.

All was great until last week when Penny seemed to have come down with a bad cold. It was the second time in a few months, and the temperature was still warm, so I thought her low immune system was making its tricks again. I kept her inside and gave her antibiotics. The vet told me to take her to the clinic if she didn’t improve in three days. By the third day, after she was stable but had not improved, I took her to the vet where we found out she had lung cancer. There was nothing else to do but to put her to sleep, as cancer had already spread widely.

I came home heartbroken. I took Pippi in my arms and kissed her. I thought she looked strange, but I decided I was being anxious because of what had just happened. I gave everyone dinner and saw Pippi eating with appetite.

But the next morning Pippi was dead. Naturally, in her sleep. I don’t know what happened to her. I just know that Pippi and Penny were inseparable. So inseparable that they died together.

When you decide to help animals you are perfectly aware of the fact that you are going to face so many heartbreaks. You do it because not helping them makes you suffer even more. Everyone’s life is a roller coaster, but the life of a rescuer is even more so. One minute you fly high because one pet fought successfully a disease or have found a wonderful adoption, the next you’re in hell because another one died suddenly.

This time hell burns big time for me.

I know they had a great life, I know they don’t care about how short it was: that’s my judgment, and it’s a very short-sighted one. Time doesn’t exist for pets. They measure time only in good or bad, not in length, and Penny and Pippi’s time was freakingly good.

And I know death doesn’t really exist. Nothing really dies, ever.

But I miss them.

Pammy.

This is how I want to remember her. Smiling and happy and with a scarf on her head.

Last Monday, September 9, Pammy has left me. It happened suddenly, with very little suffering which was a blessing, but I still have to recover from the shock. She was such a happy, lively funny dog. Noisy, chatty, demanding. It was like having five big dogs in one for how much she was a presence in this house. Wherever you turned, there she was. you couldn’t be alone for a moment with her around. Not a day – actually not even four of five hours – passed without having her doing something so fun that would get us cracking up laughing. She was a real blessing through this very hard past few years.

Last year she underwent mastectomy for a small tumor, and the recovery was incredibly fast, A few hours after surgery it was like nothing happened to her, she wanted to eat, she jumped on the stairs even if she had stitches running through her belly from top to end, and she even played. She was an elderly dog – we don’t know exactly how old she was, but 15 or 16 – who didn’t look one day older than three and still acted like a puppy. She was so strong and looked so good, we felt she was immortal.

But no one is. And an elderly dog, even with younger looks, is still an elderly dog. With elderly organs.

We noticed she had lost a bit of weight, but her energy was always the same, as was her appetite. We thought it was the first sign of her getting old combined with hot temperatures and the fact that she just never stood still.

Sunday evening she went out in the garden before bed, and as she came back in she asked for cookies, as always. She ate two big cookies and then we headed upstairs, to go to bed. Immediately she began to be restless. She wouldn’t sit down, going back and forth in the room. Then she began vomiting and we thought that what it was, she needed to empty her stomach. Maybe she ate something bad in the garden. But the vomit didn’t stop and she started to have a fever.

In the morning I rushed her to the vets where she was put under fluids and antibiotics. And then she had a seizure. The vet gave her something to sleep, to stop the seizures, then she ran a blood test and gave her an ultrasound. Her kidneys were shutting down, her liver was enlarged. There was nothing we could do. Nothing.

So, while she was still asleep, I held her and I did the only possible thing: I accompanied her on the other side. kissing her, telling her how much I loved her, asking her to come back if she wants because I’ll be here waiting for her.

And she went. Painlessly, surrounded by love.

My Pammy.

A very strange summer. But I’m lucky anyway.

I wait for summer all year long. It’s my absolute favorite season. I like the long days and the hot weather, I like to keep all the windows open and to walk barefoot in the garden. I like that when I sleep I can feel the breeze coming in from the window, I like to wear light clothes and sandals.

Most of all I like to swim in the open air. I haven’t been to the sea for many years., but living next to the biggest and most beautiful lake in Italy made the thing acceptable. Swimming in Lake Garda is almost as satisfying as swimming in the sea, even if snorkeling isn’t as good. But the water is fresh, the view around is stunning and the beaches are great.

Too bad that this year, for one reason or another, I haven’t gone to the lake once yet, and haven’t gone swimming as well, not even at the local pool (which is in a marvelous park with thermal waters).

Which makes this summer to feel wasted.

And yes, it’s just started, officially. And I’m lucky enough to live in Italy, where summer is longer, even if I am in the north. We can usually swim at the lake until late September, and go to the beach until mid-October. Then the lake’s water becomes too cold, as it comes straight down from a mountain’s river and it’s always very cold, which I like.

Yesterday, after many days of really hot temperature, we finally had a cloudy day. I say ‘finally’ because it didn’t feel like a wasted summer day, because I’d have stayed home anyway.

Every evening, after dinner, I take the dogs out for a walk. The temperature cools off and there is always a light, fresh breeze coming from the mountains. I go to say hi to the cows, who are roaming free for the summer season and feel immensely lucky to live here. Because if I were still living in Milan, I could not go swimming in the open air in any case, period. And in the evening I would walk the dogs on the still hot asphalt of a crowded street, breathing cars’ engines emissions.

And when I remember this, and I remember how the quality of my life has improved since I came here, I can take the no-swimming/no-lake part very easily.