Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

The Last Days of My Dog


9781594204784_p0_v2_s114x166These 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:


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

left unguarded.

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.”






  1. Oh Jennifer. I’m so sad for you all. Dogs are so special. My mom gave me Dog Songs for my birthday and I loved every single poem. You will be in my thoughts.

    • Thank you so much for your kind thoughts – I truly appreciate it. I am so glad you have Dog Songs! Like you – I loved every single poem.

  2. Jennifer, such a sweet post. Prayers for all of you.

  3. Sad to hear, Jennifer. Pets bring so much to our lives, and then they break our hearts. But they are worth it.

    • Oh dear, somehow I just received your kind comment 28 days late. Unbelievably, the old gal is still hanging in there. Reports of her imminent demise were premature!! I’m enjoying every day with her. Thank you so much for your comment.

  4. My mother-in-law was in your shoes just after Valentine’s Day…Sprout had been in the family for 16 years and we all miss her! I was wondering what I could do for her besides a note and a hug…can’t wait to share this book of poetry ! Love and hugs to you and Belle.

    • I think this might be my favorite book of poetry ever… I hope your mother-in-law will love it. Thank you so much for your warm thoughts.

  5. Jennifer, My heart is with you. By coincidence Beth and I also have a dog named Belle. She is a 12 year old black Lab, and thanks to the N.C. State Univ. Vet School she has survived cancer for nearly 3 years. She is still happy, can still swim in the lake, but in the end I know we will lose her and I dread it. Jack

    Sent from my iPad

    • Jack, I am so happy to hear from you! You really have had the long good-bye with your Belle. That’s hard too. Thank you for your very kind message.

  6. Thinking of sweet Belle and my sweet Jennifer. Love you.

  7. Love you too dear Cheryl. Thank you for your sweet message and for reassuring me that I will know when it is time.

  8. Jennifer, you know what a dog freak I am (think of all the many dinners you’ve had at my dining room table with both my dogs lounging underneath). This post has made me think about how lucky we are to have these wise and gentle creatures in our lives. I know that Belle has been a treasure to your family. I’ll have to buy a copy of this book!

    • We are so lucky, Karlen! Without question my life is better for having known and loved Belle. Every day I try to be more like her, but with better breath. 🙂 Thank you so much for your message.

  9. Oh, Jennifer (and Gus, Ruth and Mary). So. many. wonderful. memories. My heart is heavy tonight. What a gift Belle’s steady presence has been over the years. Love to you all.

  10. Love to you too, Dear Miss Anne. Thank you for thinking of us.

  11. Belle is a lucky lady to have spent her life as a treasured member of your family. Must pick up a copy of Dog Songs.
    Roy Blount’s Book “If only you knew how much I smell you” is a favorite. The one that sticks out for me is “What does that mean, ‘expensive shoe’? / I ate it because it smelled like you.”
    Keeping you all in my thoughts at this difficult time.

    • I will pick up the Blount book! Thank you for mentioning it! I love it already. Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and your very kind message.

  12. Jennifer, I am so sorry to hear about Belle. A dog is part of the family, a child, to be loved and adored. I’ve been where you are, watching for those signs that say please help me end my pain, it’s the hardest thing ever. I will say a prayer for you, your family and of course Belle.

    • Taking her to the vet for a check now. It is excruciating. Thank you so much for your incredibly kind message and your thoughts and prayers.

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