portraits of people & their pets

1. Rita, 88. Leaky heart valve. Anemia of uncertain origin, possibly Heyde’s syndrome. Too frail for the op.

Sitting in the window with a heavy marmalade cat called Moo Moo on the arm of the chair. The cat makes no movement at all when I unpack my kit, resting its blue and level eyes on me.

‘Moo Moo appeared from nowhere,’ says Rita. ‘She was completely feral. I really don’t think she’s frightened of anything.’

2. Sally, 91. History of unexplained weaknesses, falls, labile blood pressure, poorly controlled diabetes.

Sally is sitting on the sofa with one white Westie sprawled on the backrest, and one in a dog crate in the alcove. Sally bunches up her sleeve and then stretches out her arm for me to take blood, propping it up one of the dog’s teddy bears. The Westie sprawled on the backrest appears to be asleep, but the one in the crate growls.

‘It’s not you, it’s me,’ says Sally. ‘He doesn’t like me using his bear.’

3. Katherine, 76. Recovering from a chest infection, general debilitation. Poor E&D.

Katherine is sitting on a two-seater sofa, bathed in a sudden wash of sunlight from the bay window. Either side of the sofa are two tall, dark wood jardinieres, each one topped with a giant palm and supported on tripod of carved lions’ feet. A Sphynx cat appears from nowhere and lands so lightly on the folder in my lap it’s hardly like an animal of substance at all, but some ethereal creature conjured from the papers and letters on Katherine’s writing desk, with half a dozen strands of fuse wire for whiskers, and two thimble-sized drops of rainwater for eyes.

‘She likes you,’ says Katherine.