|Publisher:||Andrews McMeel Publishing|
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Poems, Prose, and Prayers Celebrating Our Relationship with Dogs
By June Cotner
New World LibraryCopyright © 2008 June Cotner
All rights reserved.
A Dog's World
SKIJORING WITH KANE
The world is a large bay of wonder
and here we are, circling the snow-covered golf course under
the ribbon wisps of moonlight — you, mutt with glacial
blue eyes and oil black fur, and me, a girl on skis
skating behind you, seeing your feet kick
through shadows of spruce
and elm. I let go
so that fear waddles on the outskirts
of the golf course parking lot. I let go
because the harnesses connecting our bodies
are taut and stretched and we race
the night, we speed faster than the lone car
passing the adjacent boulevard. Kane, dog of my heart,
if you reach heaven before I do
don't wait for me — run to the distant cloud edges,
let your feet rumble and shake free
a snow storm spiraling toward earth, toward
the winter girl watching from her window, remembering
ice, remembering the soft, swift pads
of one dog's feet.
Stephanie N. Johnson
QUEEN OF CANINE CAPERS
Of mischief-making she's accused,
Our queen of canine capers.
She's masterful at chewing shoes,
And shredding Sunday papers.
Destructor of our flower beds,
Disturber of our sleep,
In spite of all her troubling ways,
Her company we keep.
She often begs to be let out
To take her doggy walks;
Yet once her leash is snapped in place,
She disobeys, and balks.
Our midnight piddler of puddles,
A pooper of the piles,
Creator of huge messes, but
Her antics bring such smiles.
Her face appears quite innocent
Each time that she's chastised;
But careful observation shows
Rebellion in her eyes.
She has a sort of impish grin,
If you can call it that,
Appearing on that face of hers
Each time she steals my hat.
Though loving and affectionate,
Her playful puppy ways
Can wreak such household havoc as
To make one feel quite crazed.
Of course we love her anyway;
There's no way one could not.
So please, dear Lord, our patience grow,
A little, no, a lot!
Susanne Wiggins Bunch
When I walk the dog I let the dog
decide where we go. I keep the leash loose
and follow in her footsteps to the busy street
that scares us both, but it's the only way
to the grand tree at the corner where she stands
in a trance, her nose vacuuming the bulging roots
for a snoot-full of who-knows-what.
Sometimes she heads the other way, to the empty lot,
a minefield of turds I step through gingerly
while she throws herself on the foulest ones
and spins like a washing machine agitator,
then trots to the puddle by the curb and takes
a long drink, lapping it up like champagne,
splashing as if it were the fountain of puppyhood.
Her shanks and feathers drenched and dripping,
she looks at me as if I envy her
and seems to say, Okay, I'm good and wet
and camouflaged in the scent of excrement,
let's go home now and I'll slip beneath your desk
into a dream of running squirrels into trees
and you take the heat for letting me get into
OFF THE TRAIL
The dogs are going crazy, running
in eddies around and around
circles getting wider
their heads and tails bobbing
against the sky — out of sight
The smaller dog's tail
long and tipped white
serves as a fish bobber
to show where the line of dogs
pays out against the currents of wheat.
They bark and yap
in huge bursts of sunlight,
ground soft and green
under their pads.
There is something about dogs
loose as wind that lifts the heart
as they run, fling themselves
over hills and hummocks,
you forget about paths and long to follow
off the well-trod and into the whisper
of grasses practicing free verse.
The dogs are frenzied with all they must fit
into their moments, their necks free
of leashes, their legs given to whatever strides
they choose. They race so fast, with such
buck and canter, that a new smell
jerks them almost off their feet.
They poke their noses without caution,
drink it in as if it were brandy.
When have we last given way to smell,
lingered to draw it into the nose, let it run
warm as liqueur down all the senses of the body?
When has a smell been so grand
we have longed to roll in it,
as the black dog does now,
four legs flailing at air, tongue lolling,
head dancing side to side,
all the full-out running and leaping
abandoned to this?
MOTHER OF DOG
I want to buy him
a lunch pail
some spiffy kid clothes.
Instead I buy him a T-shirt that says
RESPECT THE NOSE.
I'll teach him the new math,
the old rules for playing with others.
He'll be the envy
of all the mothers.
He won't stick chewing gum under his desk.
He won't pass notes in class.
He might eat his homework.
For him, life is recess.
AT LIMANTOUR BEACH
The old dog celebrates.
Sniffs high. Races to the water
and runs a tight circle in the shallows,
two, three, and then another.
She lowers her shoulder
to an irish green swatch of sea lettuce.
She will roll in it, if she can,
if we let her, and wear it
as a badge of this day.
A day she always dreams of, by the fire,
legs churning on the rug — a beach day.
She can never get enough. Every beach
is another notch in her dreamtime.
She selects a rock, smoothed and oval,
carries it dangling from her mouth
like a talisman.
It is a digging rock. She drops it.
Chases it with her paws, poking her nose
in to scent its trail.
Her gray muzzle is thick with sand,
her legs, and around her eyes.
Her tongue is sandpaper, coarse grit.
By the third hole, she must sink to rest
every eight paw strokes, or so,
haunches perched on the slag of her own mining.
We spend the whole day at the beach,
marking the water's edge with a long line
of holes and heaps.
Tonight, while she runs
before the fire, the tide will rise
and replace all her divots.
WHEN DOGS GO ASTRAY
Where are you tonight? Chasing night critters
in the woods, eating food left on a patio
for felines on the lam, sleeping on a stranger's
patio cushions? I find comfort only
in knowing that you are together, my phone number
woven into your collars. I'm puzzled. How did
you get out of our fenced backyard? Did
some workman checking phone or cable lines leave
the gate ajar, just enough for you to make a break
for it when he wasn't looking? O Bartleby!
O Melville! Why couldn't you have been content
to smell unfamiliar shoes, to accept a pat on the head
or to protect our yard from an intruder? You're not
West Highland Terriers for nothing, born to hunt,
born to follow rabbits and rodents to their secure dens,
oblivious to your own needs in the heat
of the hunt. I have to believe you'll turn up
on someone's back step, begging to come inside
a stranger's house. Please choose a dog lover who
won't keep you from those who wait for your call.
DOG RUNNING WITH HIS MAN
For the sleek golden retriever, it is relief,
this bounding along the shore with his man.
Most of the time, it is all he can do to keep
his nerves within his skin, being assaulted
as he is every second of his life with
gorgeous smells, a constant heady flooding
from the world. It rushes at his too-keen nose:
sea salt, dead fish, rich green weeds
left behind by fingers of tide.
So much! The tingling edges of pine forest,
urines sprayed on every tree, sweet
sting of dung, bird tracks and tracks of other dogs
pressed lightly in wet sand, a bit of salami
to the left, dropped from a picnic, faint wood smoke
from a distant bonfire, and oh, the high he gets
from a whiff of female canine musk. Impossible
to know what to do with such happiness,
what he perpetually wants but can barely bear.
How it propels his fast, muscled flanks,
makes his ribs heave, his tongue pant.
At the end of the run, the man bends down,
offers a good boy, pats the young dog, his simple
loyal companion, never knowing
all that he carries, all that he craves.
She has not
turned Lassie / Rin Tin Tin
to save us from
She's never been featured
on Animal Miracles
or the evening news
for rescuing a child from a fire,
preventing a car crash, or
running impossible miles
to tell some former owner
that he is in trouble
or to ask why he abandoned her.
She has never
collared a criminal,
although she's spent time in a cell
for the sin of being homeless —
a menace to the public,
running at large,
begging and unruly,
matted hair dragging from her back legs,
beard as wild as an Old Testament prophet's.
Sentenced to death at the county shelter,
she was reborn, got a second chance
to visit wild places
and roll in piles of leaves,
discover new scents on wooded hikes,
and occasionally get into the trash
because everybody's entitled
to a little backsliding
now and then.
Karen R. Porter
WHAT? YOUR DOG DOESN'T TALK?
Mine does. Mine talks a blue streak.
Has a full English vocabulary, colloquial and formal,
uses simple and complex sentences,
and muscular prose,
accompanied by a full range of gestures, tricks, and expressions.
Grammatically iffy sometimes, but always deeply felt.
A fine sprinkling of Italian and Yiddish, too.
Here is a sampling:
Welcome to our house. I'm Miss Molly. See. It says so on my chair.
Mom, can you believe it? This guy won't get out of the car. He thinks I look fierce. Ha. Ha. Ha.
I prefer THIS chaise lounge (chair, rug, hole) right now, and if I turn around three times first, it'll be even more perfect. Ain't life grand?
I'm really, REALLY sorry, Mom. I didn't feel well.
Move over, would you? And by the way, I was here first.
I'll come when you show me the goods.
Okay then, if I lie down and put my face on the floor between my paws, will you PLEASE give me some?
Are you upset, Mom? Here. Let me love you ... put my head on your thigh ... lick your face ... rub your nose ... put my paws around your neck ... make you laugh with a genius antic. Or we can just sit here, if you want.
G'valt! What's THAT? It moves. It's WAY too big to be a dog. A horse, you say? Well, I don't care what it's called, I'm staying away from it.
Are you talking AGAIN about what a great dog I am? Talk on, and I'll listen and thump.
Ummmm. Get a load of these lilacs ... carrion ... goose (horse, dog, rabbit) poop ... new mown grass ... fish ... birds ...air ... the weird smell in the hallway. Life is delicious, and smells SOOOOOO great.
Okay. If I can't come, I'll just wait here until you get home.
Oooooh! I just LOVE it when you brush me ... tickle my ears ... rub my belly ... my hind quarters ... that place on my back ... no, not there! THERE!
Ahhhhhhh! This is the life.
SWEETER THAN HONEY
Our dog has developed an addiction
to paper. It started innocently enough with
the dirty tissue a woman walking just ahead of us
accidentally dropped in his path one day.
Much to his delight. Not long after this,
he discovered dinner napkins, toilet paper rolls,
and book jackets. Most recently, I caught him
nosing around in our green clay pitcher that
used to contain all one hundred and fifty psalms,
typed up and individually folded like so many
fortunes, waiting to be read. One by one
he is making his way through the songs of thanksgiving,
prayers of lament and hymns of coronation.
Always careful to leave enough time
for three daily naps, a chew on his bone,
and the occasional bark at our neighbor's daring cat.
How sweet are your words to my taste, O God, sweeter
than honey to my mouth. To which I say: A-hem.
OUTSIDE, WANTING IN
His paw a blur of motion
scratching on the screen.
Outside, wanting in.
Door opened, he bounds
across the room, tail beating greetings,
nuzzling us, tongue dangling,
circles twice, thuds to the floor
at our feet, sighs, relaxes content.
a vagrant squirrel hurls insults from the oak
or a supercilious cat twitches right across
the lawn that belongs to him,
or a mysterious shadow slants
across the porch perhaps signaling danger.
At once he's up again, barking,
crashing pell-mell to the door, pawing,
glancing imploringly over his shoulder.
Inside, wanting out.
SuzAnne C. Cole
THE SCIENCE OF FAITH
Every day except Sunday for five years
Sal tossed my dog a treat as he delivered our mail.
Then he was promoted to a desk job.
It's been months since Sal delivered
but when the dog hears the little white truck
coming up the rise, she still runs to the mailbox.
There she waits as the truck drives to the end
of the road and turns around, the white tip
of her tail whipping the air faster and faster
as it comes back her way, her whole body
wiggling with joy when the mailman stops,
sticks a handful of mail in the box, then
The tail slows to a sway,
slows even more as the truck pulls away.
There she stands
head turned to the empty road
tail still as the pendulum of an unwound clock.
My husband calls it operant conditioning.
I say it's the science of faith,
hope stirred by memory and desire.
Excerpted from Dog Blessings by June Cotner. Copyright © 2008 June Cotner. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsA Letter to Readers,
1. A Dog's Word,
3. Our Bond,
5. Aging Gracefully,
8. Prayers, Blessings, and Inspiration,
Sources and Permission Acknowledgments,
About June Cotner,