Sleeping with A Pheasant

A Poem for Cammy Jane, 9/5/2000-2/9/2007
By Judith Vander Weg, January 2010, Updated February 2015

I’m sleeping with a pheasant, Puppy.
Cupped hands cradle your toy
And gently press its belly to my lips.
The warmth of my breath
Arouses your scent
And I inhale deeply,
As if life depends on it.

Wild and giddy playmate!
I see you prance and stalk
And sneak from behind
To snatch this bright bird
Whose raspy call is muffled
In your gentle grasp,
And game for capture and release.


Hunter of toys,
Your delight is a shadow.
In your absence
The call is silent,
The stuffing gone dry,
And it is no game
To have you and let you go.


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Should the time ever come
When tears have washed
Every trace of your scent
From my memory—
I will release you.
But, for the moment,
I’m sleeping with a pheasant.


The story behind the poem:

There were no symptoms, no warnings, no intuitive curiosity to cause a consult with our vet. Only necropsy confirmed what we couldn’t have known. Taken from us in a matter of hours, Cammy (Calamity’s Best Shot), died of hemangiosarcoma at the age of six. It’s unfathomable that a tumor was growing in our dog’s heart. To say Cammy died peacefully in her sleep is incongruous with the ugly, graphic reality of that violent rupture in her glorious chest. Late in the afternoon, when the pathologist’s report was sinking in, we were able to smile at one small detail: “Dietary indiscretions,” including lettuce and mushrooms, were found in Cammy’s tummy. Common fare for a creature who ran to the vegetable drawer every time I opened the refrigerator!

I am guilty with the blessings that she didn’t suffer any indignities and that her beauty was never diminished. I thank God for her and know in my heart we never wasted a minute of the time we had together.  

It has been almost three years since Cammy’s passing and this is the first time I have been able to “go public” with this (her) poem and picture. The pheasant and I hung out for many, many months. Now our daily doses of joy and laughter come from a Golden pup named Zena, short for Zenith. The pheasant loves her, too!


Judith Vander Weg, a cellist, lives in Grosse Pointe, Mich., with her husband John and their Golden, Zena. She encourages everyone to write down their thoughts and memories of these precious creatures who inhabit our lives and hearts.