Stories & Lit
Musings on the world's oldest friendship in personal essays, memoirs, fiction, classics and, of course, humor.
When God made the sea,
looking over his shoulder
was a pack of dogs.
— Connie Hills
Life with Dogs
A good dog’s journey:
traveling light but never
sailing alone around
the room, walking, then diving
into the wreck of my heart
To salvage the bones
because the world does not end
in aimless love when
wagging tails and cold noses
pull us out of the darkness.
I BOUGHT OPIE, the little 17-pound rescue mutt I love beyond all reason, a new squeaky ducky to play with. Opie, who at first was afraid of it and thought it was alive, took it out in the grass and killed it by chewing its squeaky to death in a sustained, 15-minute effort.
He flopped onto his back and furiously squirmed around —a behavior we call the “worm”—and, using his front paws, threw the ducky in the air and caught it in his mouth, shaking it, shaking it, shaking it.
This went on for maybe 90 seconds, and I was transfixed.
A Boxer’s greeting is a joy to behold. They jump into the air in such a jubilee of delight, it’s as if your return to hearth and home were the most noteworthy event of the century when all you’ve done, say, is walk to the mailbox and back. Return after an hour or more and you’ll get backflips, trumpets and a procession of drum-beating pageantry befitting a king.
Our child was wee
Scared of the dark
Moved to the desert
Where scorpions lay in wait
Sophie came to us from the pound
A big beast and ferocious
Gentle she was not
Loyal to a fault
Her tail was strong
Her tongue always ready
To share in happiness
Or just uplift spirits
Sleepovers with little girls, Ringlets and pajamas
She was in the middle of the bed
Her stocky frame occupying the bed
For she was one of the "girls"
One of the worst things I have ever witnessed was my dog being hit by a car. I don’t have a kid, and I imagine that would be a million times worse, obviously, but I do have dogs. I don’t dress them up in outfits, much, or let them share my ice cream, often, or call them my child, unless they’re doing something particularly impressive, so I’m not one of those “Real Housewife” people just yet.
IF NO OTHER LISTENER
Except myself and the dogs, would I write
Poems for them?
Rhythmic yips and a growl,
Refrain of woofs,
Their names repeated twice,
A high yowl sliding down a rail
To a quavering whine.
And they do like some arrangements
Better than others, they go from fast to slow.
Lots of range in the howl,
And the yaps, staccato, snappy as orders,
Until I can’t continue their poem
The dogs are my early-warning system. I have three hounds and a small scamp of indeterminate heritage. All rescues. They bark. They bark at people walking dogs. They bark at people not walking dogs. They bark at kids on bikes. They howl at deer, rabbits, squirrels and phantom creatures I can neither hear nor see. They usually stop after a few minutes and return to the house, but one afternoon, like Saint Teresa at prayer, they barked without ceasing.
A German Shepherd mix slated for euthanasia watched Karen Shirk from behind the bars of his cinder-block cell in a cacophonous county animal control building. With his long black muzzle and imploring brown eyes, he looked at her with that heartbreaking shelter-dog mix of worry, fear, confusion, and hope. “This is a good-looking boy. Do you know anything about him?” Karen called from her wheelchair to a nearby worker. “Can he sit? Can you sit, boy? Sit.”