The World According to Dog: Poems and Teen Voices

The World According to Dog: Poems and Teen Voices

by Joyce Sidman, Doug Mindell

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A celebration of canine companions in poems, prose, and pictures: “The selections are funny, adoring, exasperated, and most of all grateful” (Booklist).
There’s no relationship quite like the ones we have with our dogs—dogs who befriend us; dogs who annoy, perplex, and accept us. This book explores the special bond between teenagers and their dogs—how days of crowded hallways, pointless assignments, and blinding crushes are brought to balance by our dogs.
Including insightful poems by Joyce Sidman and essays in which teens speak for themselves, as well as beautiful photographs by Doug Mindell, The World According to Dog reminds us that at the end of the day, waiting at home, there is always Dog—full of hope and companionship.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547562315
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 12/17/2013
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 84
File size: 13 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

The Newbery Honor winner Joyce Sidman is today's foremost nature poet for children.  Accolades for her books include two Caldecott Honors, a Lee Bennet Hopkins Award, winner of the Claudia Lews Award, and many stars and best of lists.  For her award-winning body of work, she won the Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. She lives in Wayzata, Minnesota. Visit  

Read an Excerpt



I dream of deep-sea fishing: awake to find dog breathing in my face.

Always Take a Dog

Go out walking.
In some part of every day,
step into the waiting arms of the sky and whisk away —
but always take a dog,
so that you have something to follow.

Stroll or saunter,
steam up hills, thoughts rumbling through your head like bees bent on their own courses —
but always take a dog,
so you can watch how he chooses which path to take.

Absorb the light:
the sun-splayed distance,
the close, soft dampness of a cloudy day —
but always take a dog,
so you can see how the wind moves through his fur.

Be alert for what the day might offer you: a gull, a penny,
the pale thumbprint of moon —
but always take a dog,

so you can heed how his nose moves from side to side,
seeking unexpected treasure.

The Usual Spots

Trembling at the door
  wanting Out Mud-faced and weary
  wanting In

Panting fat tongue in Smooth cool garage

      Bearing bits of leaves

Regal atop
    a snowdrift Curled like a cat
    inside a window-square
    of sun

Hey, Comet!

Anna Engstrom, age 12

My four-legged friend is Comet. At school we would call him a "genius of his genus," but at home we say, "Hey, Comet!"

After receiving Comet, we realized that our dog had a lot to learn:

1. Our house is not a bathroom

2. Fetch

3. Puppy eyes = good stuff

4. Jumping off the dock

Comet's greatest accomplishment is probably fetch. Our dog has speed, and caught on to catching the ball very fast.

At our cottage, we would throw his toy into the water from the shore and he would retrieve it. Soon we began throwing his toy off the dock, but Comet still ran back to the shore to enter the water from there. Now Comet knows he won't snap in two if he jumps off the dock.

Comet is timid, especially around other canines. However, when he is playing fetch with his ball, YOU'RE ON HIS TURF! He does not bite or growl — he just stares at you with those puppy eyes and intelligent smile, as if to say, "Come near my toy and you'll regret it."

Comet is the best dog. I wouldn't trade him for the world, because he is my world.

How to Meet a New Idea (Based on the Study of a Dog)

— after May Swenson

Detect from a distance.

Test the air. Approach with interest: ears open, eyes bright.

Remain neutral. Circle carefully so as to view from all sides.

Do not speak. Keep head low, respectful. Refrain from growling.

Sniff thoroughly.

If acceptable, wag tail. If not, lift leg.


Mine Yours is an afterthought, is the main event:
a molehill, a long, elegant,
a period between labyrinthine two sentences of eyes. echo chamber of smell.

I You might detect are sorting out wet earth, the relative age of rank fists of marigolds, squirrels the distant tsunami that passed this way of skunk. last week.

Wouldn't it be fine And I could dive if, through for a moment, that ocean of smell,
we could switch places? finding answers to You could see questions the distant stars. I've never asked.


Sarah Milnar, age 13

This is the story of a dog named Bandy. She was what some people like to call a mutt. You know, the kind of dog that has a shaggy coat and a short stubby tail, and so many different colors of brown, gold, and gray that you get dizzy if you look at them too long. The kind of dog that always seemed out of place, no matter where you went.

When my mother was a girl, she was a bit like Bandy; not the most popular pup in the litter, didn't get the best grades, did not have the latest fashions, which every girl at her school just had to have. She also walked to school, which was considered very uncool.

She made her way home one afternoon, having had the worst possible day. Bad grade on a math test, lost her history essay, had forgotten her lunchneed I say more? It was just a rotten day. She rounded the corner and saw a very peculiar sight: a large box labeled FREE PUPPIES. Inside the box was one little mutt that no one seemed to have wanted.

She couldn't stand to leave it there, so she took the little puppy out of its box. Immediately it began to lick her face. It was love at first sight. At that instant my mother knew she was going to keep it. My mother decided to call her Bandy, because she found her abandoned.

Although there are no remaining photos of Bandy, her memory will live on forever. She helped my mother understand the importance of life and affection. She guided my mother to appreciating everything and everyone as much as possible.

Our thanks to the person who left her there.

At the Last Minute

At the last minute something addles the brain.
Plans are made, bags are packed,
the car is in the driveway,
when the descent into utter madness begins.
Due at the airport in an hour,
I frantically try to tame Neanderthal hair and cover three new zits on a nose the size of China's Great Wall.
I rant and rave, cursing gods who hide essential clothing,
then pray (unanswered) for a new body —
or at least one that will allow me to button my favorite jeans.
When I have finally found
I go looking for the One Who Must Stay Behind.
I go looking for the One Who Must Stay Behind.
I find him dealing with the moment in his own way:
digging up a mess of dead skunk.


Dog and toad play tag under the spring junipers.
I fear for the toad.

The Banner of Dog

Behold the banner of Dog flapping in the breeze:
four pawprints and a burr on a mud-brown field.

He who defends it shows no stiff ruff nor growling gait.
Instead, tail reeling

like a windmill,
he bows to his attacker,
rolls over shamelessly,

and offers up his secret weapon:
charm. In the end,
all swear allegiance.

Behold the banner of Dog waving in the sun:
four pawprints and a burr on a mud-brown field.

Rusty the Squirrel Exterminator

Karen Ann Stahlheber, age 15

Standing on the porch with a small, nondescript terrier at my feet, I scan the yard purposefully. My eyes spot a squirrel innocently crouching in the middle of the yard. Without moving, I whisper softly, "Go get it." A red-grizzled streak shoots across the lawn, barking up a storm. The dog chases the squirrel up a tree and continues barking. I call out his name for ten full minutes before deciding it is useless. I walk out to the lawn, catch the still-barking dog under my arm, and take him into the house.

Motivated solely by food, love, and small vermin, my dog Rusty is a constant source of amusement. Within a few months of his arrival, he had eaten an entire lemon pie and a whole bag of chocolates. Needless to say, I have learned a lot since he arrived. I have learned to put all food away, to push the chairs in at the table, and, most importantly, never to leave a meal unattended for any length of time. I have also learned the location of every other dog in the neighborhood. I have discovered exactly what a dog's idea of "helping" with homework is, and how comforting a squirrel-chasing, book-hogging, face-licking, pie-scarfing little terrier's presence can be.

Dog and Squirrel: Steps in a Flirtation

The bushy flick of your tail catches my attention.
  I am aware of your presence,
  but I am ignoring you.

You are now my bull's-eye.
This will be a fine game.
  It may be a game,
  but I set the rules.

Whenever you lower your guard,
I step forward.
  I never lower my guard.
  All escape routes are intact.

My body is an arrow pointing at your heart.
  O large clumsy one,
  have you any idea how fast I can run?

I draw closer.
The space between us is nothing.
  Odd how the sunlight
  kindles your dark fur.

I can taste the silk of your tail.
You can't possibly get away now.
  I know the precise point at which
  I must flee. Still, those eyes ...

Gaze locked, I pounce!
And you are ...
  Gone, of course.
  My heart pounds! See you tomorrow?


I am trying to understand this.
I am standing with the hose in one hand and the other grabbing the scruff of your neck,
trying to understand this.
The shampoo streaks across your back like honey,
and the foam coats my furious legs,
and the cold, cold water pumped from two hundred feet down chills us both;
and I am trying to understand this ecstasy of stink that has me retching but made you dive and roll, eyes closed in bliss,
feet waving at the sun,
oblivious to my voice,
as if you had discovered all the world's wealth in a single spot and wanted nothing more than to share its bright gold.

Of a Dog

Scott Austen Robinson, age 14

Growing up in a family of dog lovers, I had no choice but to carry this title as I grew up. Please, don't get me wrong: I love dogs. Our family has two on our ranch; one is a German shepherd mix and the other is of unknown breed, but he looks remarkably like a coyote. Blackjack (the shepherd mix) is my mom's and, of course, spoiled rotten. Ace, however (if you haven't already guessed, he's our other dog), would rather run off chasing a deer and come home smelling completely foul than be pampered. If you have a dog, you probably know what I mean by "foul." A dog has some strange instinct to find the worst-smelling carcass within a two-mile radius, roll in it, trot home, and expect to be loved all the more for doing so. More often than not, I'm afraid, Ace is greeted by gagging and is immediately escorted back outside.

What I have found to be the strangest thing about Ace is his choice of toys. Most people think of a tennis ball or a rubber squeaky vegetable as a dog toy. Not me. Oh, for Blackjack, sure, but Ace? Nah, he would much rather play tug-o'-war with a ripped-up shirt. You may think this sounds strange, but believe me, I know. I have spent many hours of my life running through pastures with Ace. I'll usually be desperately holding on to my end of what once was my favorite shirt or pair of shorts. When I finally collapse with exhaustion (it's always me; try as I might, I can never tire my companion), he is barely panting, and in his mouth is a now-unidentifiable rag.

Hornet's Nest

Troublemaker shoving your nose where it shouldn't be they got you all right must have been thirty burrowing all over your fur shoving in those ugly teardrop stingers I had to scrape them from your skin with a stick your eyes so wild so blank so full of pain over and over kept finding more even when we got indoors and your nose began swelling like a laundry bag I pulled a dead one from your burning ear

Understand I tried to draw their fire but they'd marked you out all they wanted was you, you, you


Vacation: two weeks away from you.
Every town had a dog,
and every one of them came to smell your scent on my clothes.
One chased planes.
One limped apologetically.
One had fur the color of hot cocoa.
None of them reminded me of you.

There was a seal in a zoo,
though, rescued from death,
who lay plump and sleek on the stones of his enclosure.
His liquid eyes followed his trainer as yours follow me,
suspecting something taking place in a world beyond his reach.


Of all my friends, dog is often the only one who understands me.

Dog in Bed

Nose tucked under tail,
you are a warm, furred planet centered in my bed.
All night I orbit, tangle-limbed,
in the slim space allotted to me.

If I accidentally bump you from sleep,
you shift, groan,
drape your chin on my hip.

O, that languid, movie-star drape!
I can never resist it.
Digging my fingers into your fur,
  I wonder:
How do you dream?
What do you adore?
Why should your black silk ears feel like happiness?

This is how it is with love.
Once invited,
it steps in gently,
circles twice,
and takes up as much space as you will give it.

Morning Greeting

Casey O'Malley, age 12

Our old stairs creak whenever you walk on them, sagging under the weight of age. Their noise is the only sound in the morning. Everything seems asleep. But when I peer down to the floor, I see a flutter of cheerful wakefulness. A ginger-colored dog comes wriggling up, happy just to see me. Her fur takes on a brilliant shine in the morning, and her endearing brown eyes penetrate right into me. I smile as she paws my feet and waits for me to pet her.

But she isn't satisfied with a simple, superficial pat. With her nose she'll push me over to a chair and wait for me to sit down, her tail wagging furiously all the while. She sets her smiling face on my knee and looks up into my eyes as I massage her velvety ears and murmur, "Good dog ... what a good puppy." Then we'll both just sit there in wordless understanding. After a few silent minutes, she'll lumber back to her dog bed, plop down, and set her head on its rim, watching me with a look of serene devotion.

What Your Ears Remind Me Of

Camouflaged entrances to a secret underground cavern.

The beard of a Sikh warrior,
the tail of his steed.

The lazy fold of the sleeve of some royal garment.

Grandma's antique bone-china gilt-edged Wedgwood teacups.

A windy beach, scored with ripples of sand and sea.

A conch shell, curled and pink,
waiting for whispers.

A lap I used to press against while weeping.


Arielle Dekofsky, age 14

I remember the day my mom called us to come see a poodle puppy who had been abandoned. He was near death and had no will to live; he had stopped eating or taking water. We held and comforted him, all the while coaxing him to lick water and food from our fingers. Slowly he began to lift his head and show signs of a willingness to fight for life.

On the way home, he slept soundly in my arms. He was weak, like a skeleton, and I felt a tremendous responsibility for him. We named our rescue puppy Ninja because he always slipped away in the shadows, hidden by his black coat, watching us longingly but not understanding exactly what we were all doing. But as time went on, Ninja would cautiously approach us, slowly inching his way, making his space in our family.

Ninja has chosen to make his mark by stealing. Nothing is safe, nothing is sacred. He is particularly fond of my hair accessories. He devours all that he can find and promptly regurgitates everything for me to discover. Many mornings I must choose my hairstyle according to what he has not consumed. He desires mainly my possessions: one such thing was a frog finger puppet. This frog made its way all through Ninja's system, which I believe is a medical phenomenon. My mom was on "pooper-scooper duty" and noticed that one of the scoops had big bulging eyes and green feet sticking out.

I wake up every morning and know if we had not saved him that day, he surely would have died. Now, Ninja claims our brick bench outside as his throne, sitting like a gargoyle atop an ancient castle wall, ever vigilant, protecting the family he loves, and his princessme.

Puppy Love

He is everything,
this boy I met today:
blinding sunlight,
dark mysterious caves,
over-the-top scent of lilac,
grace of swan,
languid puissance of jaguar.
He stills my breath,
sets my heart vaulting madly.

We haven't spoken yet.

By the way,
he has your eyes.

Foot Fetish

My feet sometimes start dancing by themselves:
white-socked toes bobbing on the couch like marshmallows.
You stalk them quietly;
brown eyes tracking,
muzzle dipping back and forth to the music in my head.

Who can explain what happens when you finally pounce?
The fierce bites that never land?
The socks damp with the tickle of teeth?
The joy of growling at someone you love?

The One Who Listens

Paige Herfurth Marvin, age 13

The relationship between dogs and teenagers is like no other. After a hard and miserable day at school, a dog is waiting for you to come home. No matter what kind of mood you are in, your dog is there for you. A dog is like a journal. You can confess your deepest, darkest secrets and be confident that your dog won't tell a single soul. A dog will slither under your bed sheets when you're scared of the dark. A dog will sleep at the edge of your bed to watch for monsters. A dog cares and loves you as much as you love her.


Excerpted from "The World According To Dog"
by .
Copyright © 2003 Joyce Sidman.
Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Always Take a Dog,
The Usual Spots,
Hey, Comet!,
How to Meet a New Idea (Based on the Study of a Dog),
At the Last Minute,
The Banner of Dog,
Rusty the Squirrel Exterminator,
Dog and Squirrel: Steps in a Flirtation,
Of a Dog,
Hornet's Nest,
Dog in Bed,
Morning Greeting,
What Your Ears Remind Me Of,
Puppy Love,
Foot Fetish,
The One Who Listens,
This Is a Secret,
The Splash of Your Heart,
Dog Lore,
Bully Lessons,
How I Felt When My First Dog Died,
Honey, Cream, and Licorice,
What Really Matters,
Doggy Bag,
Note to the Reader,
About the Author and Photographer,
Connect with HMH on Social Media,

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