Almost 10 years ago, we were surprised to be asked to take senior cat Minnie into our care by a couple who wanted to become live-in, travelling pet-sitters. It didn't make sense to us to rehome a companion animal in order to care for the companion animals of others... but bookings were in place and the situation wasn't looking good for Minnie, so we welcomed her.

Minnie was already 12-years-old and had severe bronchial issues, so we knew she would be a long term resident, rather than seeking adoption. We soon learned that her asthmatic attacks were triggered by a drop in temperature, so we set up a permanent electric blanket for her - which she sought out if things turned even a little cooler. Although her breathing was always abnormal, she never had a second breathing event. She became our shelter matriarch, full of character, quick to scold and the only cat to sleep on our bed each night.

Today was Minnie's last day with us. She was 22 years, 9 months old. Last cuddles. Last coat brush. Last relax outdoors in the sunshine. Last kisses and last soft words. Last purrs. Last night sleeping on our bed. Last supper.

Our grief is softened in the knowledge that dear Minnie had every need met, was comfortable, happy and loved. It will be sad to not feel the weight and warmth of her body at our feet tonight. We will miss "the old girl" terribly.

Many thanks to the volunteers and assistants who helped us to ensure that Minnie thrived in our care.