If she senses I’m leaving the house, she will follow me from room to room as I get ready. She will sit and stare at me intently. When the moment of reckoning arrives and I say, ‘Don’t worry, you’re coming with me,’ she explodes into a whir of delighted leaping and wagging. If I say, ‘I’m sorry, baby, you can’t come,’ she will slink off and get under the covers of my bed. Meanwhile, I will spend most of my time out of the flat worried that it will catch fire and she will die, trapped inside. I never worried about my flat catching fire before Poppy came along. Ever since the day she leapt into my lap, banishing all thoughts of the puppy we had originally planned to pick up, the world has felt like a dangerous place. And it is. We’ve had close shaves – like the time she picked up something noxious on the Heath and had to be rushed to hospital. I sat on the ground outside the vet’s and howled. As I write, she is curled up next to me, as she so often is. I’m so used to that angle of her – the curve of her head and ears, her nose tucked up into her legs. Curled into a perfect croissant shape. Sometimes she insists on being on my lap as I write – which is fine when I’m writing at a table, less fine when, as is more usual, my laptop is literally on my lap. Poppy does not care for such practicalities.

If I do leave home without her, we have a routine when I return. She will invariably be on my bed. Trembling with anticipation for the fuss she feels she deserves after having been abandoned for so long (in reality about two hours max), she will stare intensely as I deposit my keys and bag. If I am foolish enough to try to put my shopping away before coming to apologise for having left the house without her, the outraged yelps will start. As I come into the bedroom, she will start drumming on the bed with her front paws, before her crescendo of ecstasy expresses itself in a bound across the bed into my arms. One day, she won’t be here. I know this. I remember it every time she makes me feel like my heart will burst with the love I feel for her, and the love is tinged with pain. But today, now, she is here. I can feel her tiny furry body rise and fall. I can see her twitch and hear her snuffle as she dreams – of what I wonder?


Image © Caroline Criado-Perez

It's Only Skin