The Botanical Gardens (2)

Michael Peach

I saw him first in Ninety-one,
When ruled the fall that ends the year:
A shadow in the midday sun,
A banished mongrel filled with fear.

I knew he’d had a formal home,
For round his scruffy neck was clamped
A collar – though without the chrome
Or disk, upon which facts are stamped.

Each time I sauntered through the grounds
I’d glimpse him turn and run away.
It seemed all human scents and sounds
Unleashed in him extreme dismay.

One morn I brought some food with me,
And placed it by a sheltered nook
To which he sometimes chose to flee;
But not a single bite he took.

Instead he sought his daily meal
In dustbins near the garden gate,
As if this were a sounder deal
Than charity from off a plate.

Soon winter raged without a lull;
At times the snow lay two feet high.
The rain beat down, the wind did howl;
I thought the mutt would surely die.

Yet he survived, like Ishmael,
Though hungry, cold and destitute;
While Israel’s people tasted hell
For feasting on forbidden fruit.

And thus another year went by
Without a change in his affairs –
Or so it looked till Spring, when I
One day was taken unawares:

While walking near the hidden hole,
I heard a sound which checked my feet.
On bended knees a peek I stole –
Four puppies, sucking each a teat.

"My dog’s a bitch!" I fondly cried,
As she her canine teeth did bare;
But from that day she curbed her pride
And ate the food I carried there.

As time progressed the puppies grew
Much larger than their little mum;
And, when her season struck anew,
Again their faithful dads did come.

Despite respect for nature’s law,
This put me in a morbid state.
I felt the bitch deserved much more
Than suffer such a hopeless fate.

Apparently she deemed the same,
For rather than begin to mate,
To me unprompted fast she came
And followed meekly through the gate.

Without delay I had her spayed,
Then took her home to get some rest.
For nothing else she would have stayed:
All urban things made her depressed.

Besides, she missed her puppies four
(To whom throughout I’d taken food),
And when I failed to close the door
She darted to the garden good.

Though of the four is left now one
(We found them homes lest chaos reigned),
I feel that Eve and Seth, her son,
Have lately paradise regained!

16 December 1993

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