I have been part owner of a dog for most of my life. Rare was the year I did not have daily canine company. The breeds have varied, the temperaments true to type. Some have been as thick as a brick, but luckily capable of putting on a good show.Others were intelligent, but unwilling to allow us to think we held top spot in the pecking order.
The dog who currently resides at my feet is by far the best hound I’ve ever shared a home with. I can’t claim to own him, because who can really own a friend?
And I truly do consider him a friend. He surpasses the definition on all fronts. Except I was recently forced to pause and question my interpretation after hearing someone recite a poem about a dead dog, returning to his owner with a message from the beyond.
If you’ve not come across Billy Collins, United States Poet Laureate, this is a fine place to get acquainted. His poem, The Revenant, is one every dog lover should read.
And maybe commit to memory.
I am the dog you put to sleep,
as you like to call the needle of oblivion,
come back to tell you this simple thing:
I never liked you–not one bit.
When I licked your face,
I thought of biting off your nose.
When I watched you toweling yourself dry,
I wanted to leap and unman you with a snap.
I resented the way you moved,
your lack of animal grace,
the way you would sit in a chair and eat,
a napkin on your lap, knife in your hand.
I would have run away,
but I was too weak, a trick you taught me
while I was learning to sit and heel,
and–greatest of insults–shake hands without a hand.
I admit the sight of the leash
would excite me
but only because it meant I was about
to smell things you had never touched.
You do not want to believe this,
but I have no reason to lie.
I hated the car, the rubber toys,
disliked your friends and, worse, your relatives.
The jingling of my tags drove me mad.
You always scratched me in the wrong place.
All I ever wanted from you
was food and fresh water in my metal bowls.
While you slept, I watched you breathe
as the moon rose in the sky.
It took all my strength
not to raise my head and howl.
Now I am free of the collar,
the yellow raincoat, monogrammed sweater,
the absurdity of your lawn,
and that is all you need to know about this place
except what you already supposed
and are glad it did not happen sooner–
that everyone here can read and write,
the dogs in poetry, the cats and the others in prose.
I am now forced to second guess my every move, his every thought, and the motivation behind his actions. I would have been happier being blissfully ignorant.
Maybe I still have a chance to make it all up to him.
Maybe I’ll write him some poetry.
Don’t forget to check out what’s cooking this week in the Scullery (here) and what folks are talkin’ bout down at the pub (here)!