Stalemate

A couple of feathers on the patio, greasy smudges on the window pane, several more feathers and a streak of blood on the kitchen sink tell the story.

Down in the blue corner the aggressor, haunches pressed down on the tiles, angry tail tip flicking rhythmically, low continuous moan emitting between snarling lips.

Over in the red corner a mightily miffed larger than average rock pigeon, left wing drooping slightly, eyes ablaze, neck feathers puffed up. With head bobbing, he pushes out a defiant “oooorrrrrhhhhh”.

-oo00oo-

It seems Orion the hunter (Tiddles* to you and me) initially got the upper hand, surprising Mr Coo* near the back door where he snacked on some breadcrumbs. His momentum carried him halfway up the steps and with a mighty leap he landed on the windowsill. The stunned old codger started regaining his senses as he was dragged headlong through the open kitchen window and on the draining board he frantically flapped his wings, boxing the feline around the ears. The startled tabby momentarily lost his grip and as they tumbled down to the floor in an untidy heap they took up battle stations. The wily old bird was used to ruling the roost, and he knew a whippersnapper when he saw one. He pulled himself up to his full height and strutted around (albeit at a safe distance) while he turned a suspicious eye this side then the other side towards the cat.

The young pretender gathered himself together, his neck low slung between shoulders, thigh muscles recoiling for the pounce. The pigeon fluttered clumsily up onto the chair back, that wing clearly not functioning properly. Down below the cat hit the empty floor with a thud and skidded up against the kick board. Exasperated he flopped over on his side, stretched, and proceeded to lick his ruffled fur. The bird pecked at the glass. He could clearly see sky (and freedom), and was more than a little perplexed with his inability to get away.

Tiddles sauntered over to his water bowl and lapped up the cool liquid. The old bird on the windowsill found a few more breadcrumbs. And that’s where I found the pair in an unhappy stalemate.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Note: I wrote this little story in 2010 and blogged it here:

http://blogs.litnet.co.za/vetweet/2010/03/24/stalemate/

Musher

His career peaked in the 70s and early 80s. Back then he won every sled race worth winning, home and abroad.

He turned up a few weeks ago with his white van. Says he lives in Scotland at the moment, but his accent puts him somewhere in the Southern Counties. A wizened, smallish man sporting a three-day stubble. I have a vague uneasy feeling that he may have spent the night in a dog kennel. A distinctive musty smell permeates the room.

“I’m actually on my way to France with the dogs”. He points to each in turn and strokes them affectionately: “This one was a winner just last year. That one produced a few top runners in her day.” Each of them is a sinewy athlete, a world apart from the usual pampered pooch that comes through the doors every day. They have eyes only for their master.

They’re sitting tight for a few weeks while we sort out their pet passports for the trip. During this period I saw them quite a few times. Last week I had to staple up a gaping wound under local anaesthetic, whilst the dog stood there like a statue. You can’t help but admire them; no slobbering smiles here, but a zest for life just the same. They move like a single organism, in their eyes the same desire to run when given half the chance.

The oldest one is 9 years old. She still runs in harness with the rest of them. In Scotland there was enough snow for a sled, but down here they have to pull a cart through the woods.

“Where are you staying over, sir?” I asked the last time I saw him. “I’m parked up at a friend’s place”, he said.

Today he’s here with one of the older dogs in his arms. “It’s the mother of that one over there”, he says. “He’s also a champion.”

But she’s got cancer, and she can’t go to France with the others. Her tumours are spread throughout her body.

An old man with an old dog in his arms, forlorn.

-o0o-

Afterwards, we carry her on a stretcher round the back of the building where his van is parked out of sight, our feet crunching on the gravel. The next minute he stumbles and falls awkwardly on his back, the dog half on top of him. He lay there stunned for several seconds. Then we manage to get up again and reach the white van. He slides open the side door. On the front seat is a young dog, effusive in her welcome. In the back of the van are several cages with about 7 more dogs.

On the far wall a mattress, kettle, backpack and harness, a loaf of bread.

The old dog won’t be joining them in France next week.

Tonight he’ll bury her in the woods where they used to run together.

I am blessed

During our confirmation service each one of us was given a Scripture passage, as a blessing for our lives. I was about 16 years old, and recognised these as beautiful words, but I don’t think I could grasp the significance back then. Now, 33 years later, some of the wonders of this blessing are much clearer to me.

I can look back and see how, step by step, these words have been fulfilled in my life.
I can look around me and see them in action.
And I am looking forward to see God working them out in my life till the end.

I am truly blessed.

Psalm 128

A song of ascents.

1 Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.

2 You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.

3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.

4 Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the Lord.

5 May the Lord bless you from Zion; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

6 May you live to see your children’s children – peace be on Israel.

New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.