These are the last days of my dog, Belle. She remains in good spirits – at least, today – but lymphoma has caused the nodes in her neck to swell to the size of golf balls. The vet says the time will soon come when we shouldn’t let her suffer.
I am walking around with a hole in my heart already. Mary Oliver’s beautiful new book of poetry, Dog Songs, has been some consolation. It is one of the most amazing things ever that someone who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry (in 1984, for American Primitive) would devote an entire book of poetry to dogs.
I know how she feels. Here are two of my favorites:
BENJAMIN, WHO CAME FROM WHO KNOWS WHERE
What shall I do?
When I pick up the broom
he leaves the room.
When I fuss with kindling he
runs for the yard.
Then he’s back, and we
hug for a long time.
In his low-to-the-ground chest
I can hear his heart slowing down.
Then I rub his shoulders and
kiss his feet
and fondle his long hound ears.
Benny, I say,
don’t worry. I also know the way
the old life haunts the new.
Our new dog, named for the beloved poet,
ate a book which unfortunately we had
Fortunately it was the Bhagavad Gita,
of which many copies are available.
Every day now, as Percy grows
into the beauty of his life, we touch
his wild, curly head and say,
“Oh, wisest of little dogs.”