Poppet came into our lives five years ago when we liberated her from the Raystede animal rescue centre near Ringmer. Out of all the beautiful and charming cats needing new homes at that place, I was drawn to her intense one-eyed stare which seemed to say "take me away from this place and I will reward you with love". She came as a pair with Marcel, who, it soon transpired, was her nemesis rather than her companion; they were a classic double act in the Tom and Jerry sense. She would chase him down and beat him up daily, but I do think he eventually came it enjoy it and would even occasionally venture a retaliation.
When we first arrived back at our flat with the two furry beasts, Poppet strutted straight in and staked her claim on the place, while poor timid Marcel hid under the bed and various other bits of furniture for two weeks before being gradually coaxed out. A creature of many moods, Poppet was by turns the most affectionate, spirited, cross and characterful cat I have ever known. She'd sit on you and purr for an entire evening and be most put out if you needed to get up - and heaven help anyone who tried to move her when she didn't want to be moved; the memory of that rage-fuelled "leave me alone" hiss still sends shivers down my spine. Her voluminous ginger fur seemed to change colour with her temperament and could be anything from deep amber to bright strawberry blonde. She was magnificently beautiful, and she knew it.
At the risk of sounding like a mad cat lady (and honestly, I don't care if I do), I have loved my mogs as if they were my children. When you get to my age and have yet to breed, your maternal instincts have to transfer somewhere - and I am not ashamed to admit that mine have been poured wholeheartedly into the two dear creatures with whom I have shared my home, my bed, my heart these past few years. They have been my constant companions, providing warmth, comfort and entertainment throughout happy times and bad. Poppet in particular would always be waiting behind the door for me when I got back from work, looking up with that "where do you think you've been?" glare, demanding attention - which I was only too happy to give.
When a lump on Poppet's neck was diagnosed as an inoperable tumour a few weeks ago, I was devastated. At first she soldiered on as normal, but gradually the growth in her mouth made it more difficult to eat, and last weekend we had to make that most awful decision to have her put to sleep. I have lost many family pets over the years, but this was the first time I'd been responsible for making that choice and to have been present while it was carried out. I held her in my arms as she slipped away, felt her heartbeat fading under my fingers and her so familiar body go limp; It was the saddest, hardest, most heartbreakingly harrowing thing I have ever done.
Losing Poppet has left a massive hole in my life, but I have no regrets about bringing her into it. She gave back as much, if not more, than I put in and though I'll never get to stroke her soft fluffy coat or watch her chase an excited Marcel down the garden ever again, I know she'll always be around. Thank you, darling Poppet, for all that you were and are to me.