I’m sure that every cat lover has at least one tale to tell about extra special cats that have made a major impact on their lives and therefore stand out above all others. Well, in our case, that cat is our beloved Charley, who allowed us to share her life for 11 years until she left us this morning – we watched her spirit leave her body, to go soaring over clover meadows until she finds a shady spot in the grass, under a blossoming tree.

When we moved permanently to Turkey, 11 years ago, we made a pact . . . despite having owned both dogs and cats when raising our children, we decided that we wouldn’t have any animals in Turkey – ”too tying” . . .  we wanted to be free to travel – although we had been used to taking our animals with us when camping, caravanning or travelling within the UK, we often spent more in kennel boarding fees than we did on our holidays . . .  and we realised that similar pet-boarding facilities didn’t appear to exist in Turkey.

But then, not long after we settled in Turkey, Alan travelled home on the dolmuş one afternoon, holding a box covered by a cloth.  He arrived home . . . the cloth moved . . . I lifted it to reveal a tiny, eyes-still-closed tabby kitten, covered in fleas.  Alan said that Chris from Gossips had asked him to care for the abandoned scrap, as she didn’t have time to look after it herself  . . . and there was no messing with Chris – ”What else could I do??” he asked.

We had no idea how to look after this kitt – we had no experience of caring for kittens.  There were no pet feeding bottles or kitten formula in those days, no sterilising tablets (people looked at me in bewilderment when I requested them), no Mr Google to provide solutions . . . but we muddled through – according to text books Charley should have died as soon as I doused her in flea power – but she was a survivor.

As Alan wrote:

”I’m so glad that Charley found the strength to come to say goodbye.  It was obvious that she was dying.  We took her to Pandora vet on Sunday and again on Monday, but they could only give her temporary relief.  A blood test showed that she had a very low red blood cell count, liver and kidney failure.  She weighed nothing, couldn’t eat or drink much, but she ate one last plateful of chicken, responded to us and could walk to the bathroom and follow us upstairs.  She spent her last night in our bed and this morning enjoyed her last double ear and whisker rubs.

”’Chris of Gossips had asked me to look after Charley nearly 11 years ago.  She was a flea-ridden scrap of nothing with eye still closed, scarcely able to move.  We didn’t expect her to last the night.  At first we fed her by dipping our fingers in milk and getting her to suck them.  She never lost that habit, and also loved sucking on Ann’s chin.  We couldn’t find a feeding bottle but Ann made a pinhole in the finger of a rubber glove, so that is how she was fed until she was weaned.  We knew nothing about raising kittens back then and nearly killed her by liberally dousing her in flea-powder.  Our biggest mistake was in not socialising her by introducing her to other cats at an early age, so she remained a loner – we were her only friends.  She was a small, beautiful, gentle and loving creature, our first rescue cat.  Many more followed but Charley was always special.  If it hadn’t been for Charley, there would be no ARK today . . . ”

Other memories of Charley are her looking after herself . . . self-service.  She knew where the biscuits were kept, under the kitchen sink, and she knew how to open the door!  She would miaow to go out and then to come in . . .  often she would be going up the stairs to spend the day in her favourİte chair on the top balcony, as we were going downstairs to prepare our breakfast . . . we would greet each other as we passed.

Charley was a small cat – when I had her neutered, by a Belediye vet who operated on a Sunday morning on a kitchen table in a house ın Korukent, for some unknown reason she had wounds on both sides of her body.  I returned from work one day to be greeted by a neighbour who warned me that she had noticed that a wound had become unstitched!!  I found Charley and sure enough one of the cuts was gaping.  I knew nothing of Kuşadası vets, but luckily one of my colleagues at the language school where I taught had been talking just a few days previously about a friend of hers, Çağdas, who was a vet behind HSBC Bank.

I rushed Charley to Çağdaş, who was initially reluctant to assist an animal that was another vet’s patient – however, when I mentioned our mutual friend, he immediately set to work disinfecting and restitching the gash.  I learned a lot during the next hour.  After surgery Çağdaş warned me that the chances of Charley’s surviving were slim . . . however, miraculously, survive she did.

Charley wouldn’t eat this morning, but followed me into the kitchen and kept looking at the sink . . . I’m so very thankful that I sensed what she wanted – I scooped her up, light as a feather, stood her in the sink and gently turned the tap.  Charley enjoyed her last drink of flowing cold water.

We’ll never forget our Charley – and our neighbours, who have known her since kittenhood, are mourning alongside us.