Red in tooth and claw

A moment of history yesterday: the whippet caught and killed his first rabbit. It was a fair contest, on open ground, and it was hard to say who was more surprised by the outcome: me, the dog, or the unfortunate victim.
Whippets were originally bred to hunt rabbits, and though we’ve never encouraged him to chase anything (we’re animal-lovers, after all) we always assumed the instinct was there somewhere, and so it proved. Blood will out, I guess.
All the excitement seemed a bit much for him, and he slept the sleep of the innocent right through the evening. I’m fascinated by this split personality – snoozing family pet one minute, potent killer the next – and, secretly, rather proud of him. I’ve no blood-lust, but it was a thrill to see him in action, just like watching anyone doing what they were obviously born to do.


Now, he sleeps
In a croissant curl;
Warm as new milk,
Upholstered in butterscotch velvet.

Does he dream
Of the field;
Feel the rain,
See again
The rabbit bolting in white-eyed dread
From its hollow in the wet grass?

Do his drowsing limbs
Flex and glory in the power
Roaring through them
Like the big south-westerly
In the leafless trees?

Is his sleep-soft jaw
Filled with fur and bone,
Teeth closing tight as shears,
Gripping, chasing
The boiling blood racing beneath the skin?

And in his stillness
Does his unseen self
Slip back to stand sentry,
Breath steaming from his laughing mouth,
Over the limp and cooling evidence
Of his first kill?
No one calling him away,
No snap of lead on collar:
Just him
The rain
Life, death
And dogness.

Or perhaps he simply sleeps,
And all sense of deep things clicking,
Promises kept
And purposes fulfilled
Is mine alone.

6 thoughts on “Red in tooth and claw

  1. Hi David, thanks so much for your visit, and your kind comment – always good to raise a smile somewhere! I’ve been reading your work this afternoon and I think it’s great; very human, powerful and honest. I’ll definitely be keeping in touch.

  2. Me too – I love it when the legs start pedalling and the little wuffing sounds start up. No idea what’s going on in that tiny brain of his, but it’s obviously very vivid! Thanks for your comment as always, Charles.

  3. Am I allowed to critique? I think the premise of this is too good not to and I know it’s not polite but (I’m wittering, sorry) but I’m itching to say that the first stanza is so gorgeous that if you were to follow that up immediately with the ‘sleep soft jaw, etc’ it would cause such a change in mood that the reader would go ‘whoah’ before going on to read the rest… I’m sorry if I’m speaking out of turn but I really, really like this and really rather excited about the whole story which you have crafted into these words.

  4. I’m delighted that you feel able to critique – and that you think my work is worthy of it! I’m going to try it exactly as you suggest; reading it through I reckon you may be absolutely right. I’ll re-post it and you can tell me what you think!

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