On the positive side, I have a new follower, hurray! Welcome Jean; glad you've found my blog. Also, Spring is Springing up everywhere - the evenings are growing lighter; the bulbs we planted in the summer are sending up their shoots and the buds of the first croci are beginning to wink at me.
But to counteract these joys, our household has been plunged into a sudden and unexpected period of mourning. The Grim Reaper swung his scythe in our direction and a young one was cut down in his prime. I am almost overcome with grief. Before I explain I should, perhaps, warn you to fetch yourself a cup of hot, sweet tea or a glass of brandy before reading on. Tragedy strikes us when we least expect it; and, in this case, it struck in the small hours of the morning whilst my partner and I were deep in slumber. Now you must prepare yourself. For, whilst I innocently slept, I lost a whisker. Oh yes.
My partner found the fallen soldier on one of my pillows in the morning. Fortunately, it was not one of my prized black whiskers; but a white one - and I have far too many of those these days. Yet still I grieve. My anguish was somewhat assuaged when my partner reminded me that I would soon grow another one. She then went on to suggest that we could have a little competition on my blog and give the whisker away as a prize. But I could never bear to part with it. I know that, ultimately, time will heal my grief - as I trust it will heal yours.
I must offer grateful thanks to those friends who enquired of my partner's health after the "bathroom like a butcher's slab" incident. We both appreciate your concern. Happily, there has been no recurrence of this and all seems well. My partner was sore for several days afterwards, but the ministrations of the good Doctor Jasper worked its magic, and we are confident that there has been a full recovery. 'Twas an interesting, if unpleasant, episode to say the least. But I can tell you that it will be a long time before my appetite for raw liver returns...
Taking a deep breath, I walked alongside Dave through the door and into the dogs' accommodation block. There were several lengths of corridor, each with around nine or ten concrete and metal pens on either side, facing each other. Each pen contained a dog, who all trotted up to the bolted metal bar door of their pens, sniffing at me curiously as I passed. In the first corridor through the door, the fourth pen on the right was empty. Dave opened the door and gently ushered me in. Above the door, he pinned a white card with "Captain", "Staffordshire Bull Terrier", my age and the date of my arrival written on it. He then went off and returned with a comfortable-looking basket and a large bowl, which he then filled with water from a watering-can.
I sniffed out my new home. It smelled clean, disinfected and was nice and dry. I took a big drink from the bowl and padded to the door of my pen.
"Hello." said the dog in the pen to my right. He was a Basenji, who introduced himself as 'Topic'. He was very good-natured and asked me if I was alright, if I was comfortable, etc. He then proceeded to explain the daily routine, the sort of dinner I could expect, what to do when visitors came, wanting to adopt a dog, and the best spots to head for on the daily walk. It was hard to take it all in, but I was most grateful to him.
It only took a few days for me to be fully settled-in. Most of my kennel-mates had a sad history which had led them to the rescue centre, and it was accepted that one did not ask about such things - it was up to the individual dog to share his experiences if he wanted to. Few did.
A few of the dogs regularly bewailed their misfortune in ending up in the shelter; but I never did. I felt that I had much to be grateful for. True: it was not the same as being in a house. However, the pens were dry, reasonably warm, and clean. Each dog had a basket and was daily provided with a simple breakfast, a walk with either a member of the staff or a volunteer helper (during which time the dog's pen would be cleaned), and a perfectly acceptable dinner. Compared to the life I had led with my original owner, this was luxury. No dog was beaten, taunted or threatened. All were treated with kindness, patience and understanding. After dinner and 'lights out', there was much chat amongst us. Always interesting and often very amusing, stories and songs were exchanged, tales of former residents, plans for the future from dogs who had been adopted and were waiting to go to their new homes. I soon grew settled and content in my new pack.
The undisputed leader of this ever-changing pack was Kipper.
I will admit to feeling a little put-out at this. I had not been used to playing a subordinate role amongst dogs and I had expected that, as a young, handsome and powerful dog - and a firstborn to boot - I would instantly be proclaimed as leader in the shelter. However, it was almost impossible not to respect Kipper. He was five years old and of mixed lineage, I suppose about the size of a border collie but with longer fur, and his coat was mostly caramel-coloured in varying degrees of shading with a white underbelly.
Kipper was the longest-serving resident in the shelter, having lived there for well over a year. He was friendly, sociable, intelligent and engaging. Unfortunately, however, Kipper had been born with a congenital heart defect. Quite a number of people had wished to adopt Kipper but had been put off when Dave had explained about Kipper's weak heart. Kipper did not have a shred of bitterness about this misfortune. He explained that he had accepted the fact that he would probably spend the rest of his life in the shelter but, like me, he was grateful that he was well cared-for and was philosophical about his fate. Kipper's pen was opposite mine, two pens down to the right. He treasured his position as pack leader and had the respect of all.
It was only a day of two before Kipper and I developed a strong friendship - and one that would lead me into a path of greater wisdom, understanding, tolerance; as well a few little joint escapades that would give me memories to treasure and smile about for the rest of my days...