Day 56: down to earth with a….scoop
When you think of helping animals what do you imagine? Freeing a whale from a net? Rescuing bunnies from laboratories?
Within an hour of arriving at the Corfu dog shelter I had fallen the very large distance from the high of Carol’s gleeming villa onto the hard, unforgiving floor of a Greek dog sanctuary. In one hand I had a shovel, in the other a brush and I was standing in the 30 degree heat staring into a bucket of crap. I was cleaning out the poo from the rescue dogs’ pens. I wanted to wipe my forehead, but then again I didn’t want shit on my face. Who does?
I was pleased by this. This experience was deeply earthing. quite literally. I lifted up the lid of the cess pit, looked deep into the ground and emptied the bucket.
When I was a child I had small plastic figurine model of the Incredible Hulk. I spent a fair amount of time making him fly around my room, watching him flexing his plastic muscles, getting him to lift heavy things or even rescue imaginary girls. But never once did Mr Hulk have to stop to take a poo. Our imaginations don’t match reality. Things are always clean and easy. Of course they aren’t.
Cheryl is the woman that runs this place and is the day to day operations manager for CARE whilst Carol, the founder, is in the UK. Cheryl is a Brit with blonde hair, a kind smile and a straightforward manner, who, like many of the people I have met in the animal welfare world is the sort of pragmatic person that just gets on with it. She loves dogs but she doesn’t go soppy . She is supposedly ‘retired’ but nevertheless rescues dogs almost 24 hours a day from anywhere in the North of Corfu and keeps them in a relatively small but impressively run sanctuary that extends out of her back garden. She looks after them until she can find them a home abroad. She cleans the shit up before breakfast.
Like Carol, Cheryl is a Brit who has fallen for the sun and beauty of Corfu but can’t turn away from the ugly side either.
I sense she is burdened by a weight of compassion that impresses me but worries me too.
If I learn to care as much as she does will I be stuck with a brush and bucket when I want to retire? Or will I be like Trevor Weeks from WRAS, working 90 hours a week for a minimal pay? A friend of mine at college went off to become a nurse because she felt compassion. While I got a job in children’s TV and got paid to dress up as a furry white monster, her first job involved cleaning old people’s backsides. I felt I had made a better decision.
But while I sweep the floor and scoop the poop I feel a part of me withering away – the part of me that wants comfort, wants reward, wants to be liked, wants to be paid, wants to buy a nice armchair from the design shop in Upper Street, dress up as a furry monster and sit in it smoking a pipe. That part of me, could I suspect, also be dumped into this big bucket too.
The good news is that these dogs have found Cheryl and Cheryl has CARE and most of them will have new lives. They have some happiness here.
Within a few hours Cheryl tells me we have to go a short journey to a rather plain hotel where tourists had complained about a dog that was chained 24 hours a day to a tree.