Thursday, 25 November 2010

Bath Cats and Dogs home. First visit.

Hello my lovelies!

I haven't been able to update my regular journal due to my life being pretty much dominated by my art-jobs ever since graduating from University. So while this journal has been collecting dust, my arty-blog has been updated on an almost daily basis.

But let us change that!

Ever since our project at University called Reportage Drawing was handed to us, I've been finding myself looking around at different places I'd like to investigate.

In an nutshell, reportage drawing is when you gain access to a place where the public would perhaps normally not be allowed, you spend time there and record everything you see and experience. At the end of it you hopefully come out with a coherent reportage that other people can read and get a glimpse of what the chosen place might be about.

Moving to Bath, I've seen plenty of areas that I'd like to visit with a sketchbook, but one particular place did not only catch my eye, but (beware of cheese) also tugged at my heart-strings.

The Bath Cats and Dogs Home.

It was bitterly cold today when I walked there from the bus-stop. So cold that the BBC weather people have given weather warnings about incoming snow. You could hear the dog barks from several blocks away, so I knew I was on the right road.

Sadly, this was the last photograph that I was able to take today (any photos after this one are from the shelter homepage). I'll explain why further down. :)

When I arrived at the shelter, I could instantly see kennels peeking out from behind the main reception building, and the dog-barking was incessant. Having been at dog-shelters before (Bristol's Dog home being the latest one), I wasn't really surprised by the noise. It is a known fact that dogs behave differently when in kennels (it is also why some people may be a bit intimidated and choose not to go for a shelter-dog).

I approached the receptionist who had a little black dog trotting around behind her. I didn't get enough time to see what breed, but might've been a young boxer.

I explained to her why I was there and wondered if I could just had a little wander about with my sketchbook. Contrary to the strict 'no go without a trainer' rules that I'd experienced at the Bristol shelter, the receptionist simply had me sign in and then pointed me in the direction of the outdoor kennels.

Before I even exited the main building, I had to backtrack and find a member of staff to ask if photographs were permitted. Didn't want to snap away and frighten animals to death. A lady explained that they normally didn't allow photographs to be taken due to the risks of the photos being shared and the dogs stolen. Also, some dogs are part of legal cases for cruelty, so you can't photograph them while investigations are going on. But, she also said that if I wanted to come back a bit later, they could have a member of staff with me who could basically let me know what was alright to take pictures of.

Hearing about cruelty cases makes me a bit uneasy, but after putting my camera away, I replaced it with my sketchbook and finally went through to the outdoor kennels.

The first thing you notice is the noise. There are over 100 dogs there at the moment, so just imagine having most of them barking at the same time. :P The area itself is a large grassy plot of land with rows and rows of kennels. There is also space for smaller animals like bunnies and guinea pigs. I did not see the cat section, so I'm guessing it is indoors somewhere. Will find out at a later date.

Because it was my first visit and also so bloody cold, I wasn't able to properly draw anything that I'd want to scan in. Instead I spent my time checking out all the dogs and saw plenty of other people doing the same. There was a gardening project going on while I walked around as well, so the place was buzzing, even through the bitter cold.

Many dogs were incredibly nervous. I had checked some of them out online before visiting. One dog that caught my eye on their homepage was Hoolio: Click me for info on Hoolio!. I've always had a soft spot for smaller dogs.

When I found him in a separate kennel with his little coat on, I was instantly a bit weak at the knees, but his home was decorated with various signs, telling people not to put their fingers through the bars as he might bite. Also advising people not to stare at him straight into his eyes since he is very nervous.

I kept my distance a little bit and tried not to appear too threatening by kneeling down, but he was still clearly agitated by my presence. Terriers are kind of known for being defenders of territory, and I guess Hoolio is no different. I want to go back to him again though, armed with sketchbook and camera.

Another dog that I had seen online that had sparked my interest the most was Talik: Click me for info on Talik!
A large white german shepherd.

It is a bit unlike me to go for larger dogs, and -especially- german shepherds after an incident with our old dog Fabian in Sweden. Our neighbour's german shepherd attacked Fabian unprovoked, sending him bleeding to hospital, but luckily he managed to recover. After that, my mum's been very cautious of that particular breed of dog, and I've been as well.

I'm not entirely sure -why- I was so fascinated by Talik..! But this article about him just made me want to throw all my money in his direction and make sure he lives an awesome life: Gentle Giant Seeks Soulmate

So! When I finally found his kennel, I was hoping he would be outside to show himself, but he was hiding away. I think I could hear some half-hearted barking coming from inside his 'house', but for the entire time I was at the shelter, Talik never showed himself.

Instead of being disappointed, this only made me more determined to go back to the shelter and draw draw draw. Many of these dogs are at the shelter at no fault of their own. Talik is only one out of many cases of cruelty. According to the article, he has spent most of his 5 years living in a crate.

After walking around the kennels, I went back to the reception area and spoke to the staff. They had a look at some of my previous reportage stuff, and after I told them a bit more about what I do they said their fundraising department would be happy to have a chat with me. So I intend to go back to the shelter early next week, hopefully with permission to take reference photos and to find out more about the place.

... And maybe to catch a glimpse of Talik.

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