I heard the news about the fire at Manchester's Dogs' Home on the radio this morning - and I felt transformed. A mix between disbelief, deep upset and sorrow felt like a heavy load in my stomach and lump in my throat. I wanted to know more, yet I didn't.
And yet, what is new? Every day brings news of brutality, unfairness and pain. Everyday I could find something that makes me feel angry and helpless. I am regularly confronted with images in the media that I did not seek out, but that are there in the papers, on my computer or TV screen.
We do not yet know the full circumstances of what has led to the fire. An arrest has been made. Already there is an outpouring of generosity and help for the animals. And for once I can see myself rushing out to help, whatever the hour, if it had happened near me. Perhaps it has something to do with the vulnerability of animals, their helplessness. While we also hear of serious dog attacks on humans, my primary emotion towards dogs is one of warmth.
There will be time for reflection and analysis later. Now, as the news and shock is fresh, I feel the need to make space for the grief, even if from a distance. Sometimes pain has to be allowed. Sometimes we rush a bit too fast to offer answers and solutions. All the rushing needed now is about looking after the dogs and the people affected by this tragedy, offering shelter, warmth and a sense of safety while the shock hopefully settles.
And so I turn to my little Battersea girl, Lilly, who is patiently waiting for her first walk of the day. I re-homed her from London's Battersea Dogs' Home 2 years ago. She was a stray and is a small Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Leaving aside the fact that people then and now sometimes cross the road for fear of this breed, I am in no doubt that being a dog owner and having a rescue dog has added a special dimension to my grief this morning.
I try not for my mind to get lost in the terrifying fantasy of Lilly being caught up in such a tragedy. I gently coax my thoughts back from that abyss.
As you can tell, she means a lot, and has enriched all our lives. Some of my closest friends cannot comprehend, how humans can have such feelings for an animal, and for a dog for that matter. We have agreed to disagree.
For now, I look at Lilly, and I know we would have offered our home to one or even two little friends had the fire happened here. In the days to come we will find other ways of making our contribution.