Looking back, I think it was love at first sight, or un coup de foudre for both of us. I know that I was instantly smitten by his dark eyes, glossy black hair and strikingly white teeth.
I’m talking about Biff of course, who is the great love of my life. It’s hard to believe that it’s less than a year since he first waltzed into my house with his oversized paws and permanently enthusiastic demeanour. He is my most prized possession, the best present I have ever been given (yes, some readers will know that I did sort of help myself to somebody else’s dog but I firmly believe that he is my little four-legged soul mate and I was destined to meet him here in France.)
Sometimes, when I’m away on one of my work trips to London, I think of my little French doggy waiting for me back in France and I can’t stop myself from smiling. Just thinking of him is the equivalent of a warm hug. Sometimes, when I look at him, my heart brims over with love.
Among my English friends I am often referred to as ‘Biff’s mummy’ - I try not to think about what that makes me, literally speaking - while in my village I am known as ‘the woman with the little black dog.’ Biff is greeted everywhere, from the newsagent to the local restaurant with enthusiastic cries of ‘Bonjour Biff! Ca va?’. My French friends even sign off their texts with ‘bisous a toi et Biff’ (kisses to you and Biff).
We are an item and he accompanies me everywhere - even sitting patiently in the geranium pink changing cubicle of the Princess Tam Tam boutique in Poitiers, where the assistants did not bat an eye when he trotted in behind me.
My heart soars as I watch him run across fields in fruitless pursuit of birds, bounding along as if he has springs in his paws. At other times, running full pelt after a deer, he looks like a miniature black race horse. ‘What form!’ one man memorably cried in London as Biff chased his cocker spaniel across Hampstead Heath.
I love the fact that he lies peacefully at my feet for hours at a time when I’m working and I adore the way he sits and watches me cook his dinner in the evening, licking his lips and sniffing the air in anticipation (especially if it’s his favourite organic brown basmati rice with minced beef, carrots and onions.) It’s such a pleasure to cook for him.
I love the fact he is so easy going and friendly and manages to charm les chaussettes off everyone he meets - including other dogs, no matter how snarling or unfriendly they initially appear. I love the fact that he is scared of no-one and nothing and equally at home in town and country (Biff’s best friends in London included a 60lb English bull dog called Oliver and a boisterous Staffordshire bull terrier called Ceci).
I love it that he is at ease in every social situation, whether it’s a tractor ploughing competition in rural France or dinner with friends in the Ladroke Arms (one of the few places in West London where dogs are given a friendly reception.)
I love his little habit of stealing my clothes and tucking them into the side of his doughnut bed. (Recently, I was wondering where all my black socks had gone and then I found them in a little pile tucked behind my desk.) And I love the fact that, tail wagging with enthusiasm for the day ahead, he drags my clothes across the floor in the morning, to tell me that it is time to get up. Sometimes I wonder how I ever lived without him.