When I see really old Victorian or Edwardian stiff-backed portraits where there’s a furry, feathery or scaly companion, I hone in on these splendid beings straight away. They must’ve meant a lot to the people to include them in the lengthy process. I imagine the old-fashioned stern faces waiting for the photographer’s all-done signal, melting into smiles as they switch their attention back to stroking velvety ears or booping noses.
Alan our jelly-brained three-legged cat, is the most photographed member of our family. At least, he’s the one with the most blurry attempts on my phone file. He’s soooo handsome, I remind him several times a day. He has several names including Favourite Child.
If I find a snap of his sister Agnes, sadly gone, I stop everything to gaze at her for a while and wish she were still here. I’ll remember how super-soft her fur was, like no other cat I’ve known, and how she was the first to greet me when I’d get home, squealing from the little front wall at the perfect height for an ear rub. There’s a picture of her sniffing a knitted crocodile I was trying to photograph and I’m reminded how she loved to help reorganise the wool on my lap. Yes, soggy knitting was a privilege.
I wish I had more pictures of her. I wish I had more pictures of all my past cats – better ones than the half-spotted fluffball under a deckchair or tail poking out of a rose bush. I wish I had proper portraits as befitted their station. I suppose we always think we have loads of time.
Not every cat will grant permission for a portrait, they’re the boss obviously, but every good picture you get is a prize. And dogs? They’re always ready for their close-up. We share so much of our lives with our fuzzy house gods, they share their whole life with us, and too soon the memories are all we have left.
And if you’re lucky, some splendid photographs.