The work I do at the dog rescue home, which takes in plenty of boarders as well as caring for unwanted and ‘unrehomeable’ animals, provides a complete contrast to my writing life.
That’s obvious really, but that work does have an effect on my creative ideas. I find that the time I spend out in all weathers working with the animals somehow grounds me - and supports what I do elsewhere.
These are the lines I wrote after the evening feeding rounds on Christmas Night, 2012.
Feeding the dogs
Eyes shining in darkness -
orange, or yellow, or lapis lazuli.
That is all I can see as
I take the evening meals to the dogs.
They wait in quiet expectation,
just watching as I work my way along
… up the line with my weighty load.
Most devour the food,
lick bowls clean -
and grateful looks follow.
I watch their faces in the beam of the head-torch.
Some need help or encouragement
and I feed them by hand,
gathering the food and offering it
with kind words.
The nervous ones take their meal gently,
thankful for my patience.
The smell of hay rises around warm bodies
as the animals gradually settle with their full bellies.
I have to make one more round –
the calming, quieting time,
reassuring any remaining nerves.
I hand out their night-time treats
from my bucket of biscuits;
muzzles soft to my hands in the darkness,
tender talk bids them to hush.
They lie together in their comfy beds,
I shut them in, secure the pens …
all safe and warm.
While I wait for the last two to eat
I turn the head torch off .. .
watch the watery moon and the few stars
that show between the shadow-clouds.
Outlines of winter trees stand out.
All is quiet … tranquil-still,
an owl calls … but there is no answer.
The last two dogs bed down, I close their door.
Silence …. all are safe…
And I am content - thanks to them.