Congratulations to Rosemary Long, whose touching and heartfelt poem
wins her £500.
We went for a cute dog, hairy, hearty, anxious to please
One of those demonstrative Disney dogs
Floppy and funny, to cuddle and squeeze
It would bark when we entered a room, panting with pleasure
Just thrilled to know that we had arrived
Flattering us to make us seem treasured
But instead we got you
The animal rescue centre was full of hearty dogs
Beaming and dribbling shameless appeal
To love them
Ready to treat us as though we were gods
Even the frightened ones leapt up, not to be forsaken,
Hurled themselves at the bars, supplicating
Frightened and angry but wanting taken
You didn't say a word
You were the size of a baby deer with wide, frightened eyes
You scarcely moved a muscle, were soundless
Like a leaf
Not won over, more likely to despise
Not ready to trust us after the life you must have led
Abandoned, who knows by whom, or why?
Someone who -
So it seemed -
Did not care if you were alive or dead
You couldn't tell us
We filled in forms and paid the fee
You seemed to shrink even more
We spoke to you and patted you gently
'Home', you gaze in despair at our front door.
You don't snarl or bite or mess and though you emanate fear
You are a model of mute decorum
On the big chair, trying to disappear.
A startled fawn
That's what you look like when I walk in the room
and say, 'It's me!'
No jumping, wagging tail or bouncy grin
Just huge eyes
But you don't hide now and you sniff my knee.
You don't mind the lead; you bustle and your tail stands high
You smile at other dogs and sniff dirt
Along the canal path, no longer shy.
Done this before?
Someone surely loved you and took you for walks, saw you flit
Recklessly in the air with flapping ears
For a ball
Or a bird
Knowing the ground was safe under your feet.
That was long before the world shifted and you were lost
Spun into a lonely limbo of fright
You stopped believing people, knew the cost
Of trusting them
So now it's for us to win back your faith in humankind
Persuade you we will always keep you safe
Melt the ice
In your heart
Promise you will never be left behind.
One day I will enter the room and see you on the chair
'It's me!' I'll say. You'll uncurl and jump up
Lick my hand
Wag your tail
And assure me, voicelessly, that you care.
You are home.