Canine Companions

Our canine companions Heidi and Mili

 In moving through life everyday there are events that move us emotionally.  For the writer, there are vehicles of expression that offer us release and celebration.

 My wife Pat and I have enjoyed the companionship of dogs for most of our lives.  We begin each morning in our sunroom with a coffee klatch that includes our two dogs—Mili, a Tibetan spaniel, and Heidi, a mountain feist—who find their way to our laps.  Mili came from our Humane Society and was saved from third-stage heartworms, and Heidi is a strayed and stayed who arrived at our door pregnant with what soon became five puppies.

 Prior to Mili and Heidi, we had Angel, another Humane Society shelter adoption.  Angel was a black border collie mix who was our constant companion at work or leisure for 14 years.  In our front yard garden there is a granite memorial headstone and a black wooden silhouette of her that has her former collar around its neck.

I share this emotional attachment to our own dogs in order to explain why I was so moved by a totally unexpected event while visiting a close friend at her veterinary clinic.  Unable to contain what I had witnessed and felt, I wrote this poem.

 Old Samoyed Whose Name I Did Not Know           

I did not expect to put you down

Old Samoyed whose name I did not know.

You lay on the treatment table

As I came through the clinic’s back door,

And my veterinary friend looked up

To explain that she had just put you to sleep.

I assumed she meant preparation for surgery

Because your thick white fur seemed so alive,

But then I saw the assistant approach

With a solemn expression and the brown plastic bags.

Your head was massive and expressionless.

You were immaculate, obviously loved,

But soon to disappear to light

As they bowed your muzzle, subdued your bushy tail,

And made an unstable package of you

With the dark wrinkled bags and coarse hemp twine.

I was asked to bear your hundred-pound weight

At one end of an unpainted plywood board,

And we shuffled with you to the bed of a pick-up truck

And followed your masters to your affluent home.

I supported you again to the far back yard

Where your master removed the sod

And made shovel prints in the Tennessee clay

That became slick gray murals swirled with red oxides.

He dug the hole, spading the earth

And breaking its back on the accumulating pile.

Not long or wide enough for a man,

A baby’s grave, dug deep in the memory of the soil.

You were nine, he said, the best dog

That they had ever had, and we continued

To measure your life against the hole to put you down.

Me, a stranger to your joys, bore witness

To your strength and beauty seconds after death.

Your masters grieve, and yet they have memories

Of you while I grieve who never saw you run,

Who arrived only in time to put you down,

Old Samoyed whose name I did not know.

14 Comments

Filed under Animal Sanctuary, Writing

14 responses to “Canine Companions

  1. While he did not die, I still cry

    Wynne

  2. This poem penetrates the heart as tears begin to form. It is a most touching memorial to a beautiful creature companion who left the earthbound view but lives on forever and in vivid the memory of all those who experienced his profound presence. Thank you for permitting me to “know” him.

  3. candy

    made me cry, Monty. Beautiful. My Katie is going to be 13 on Feb 14-Border Collie/Aussie.

  4. That’s beautiful, Monty. I’ll give the URl to the post to my email lists.

  5. This is beautiful Monty. I helped a friend just yesterday with the decision and then transition of her friend Bullet. I told her to whisper in his ear that my dog Eku would meet him to show him the ropes, and that he was to go straight home. The transition of our loved animals is never easy. I really appreciate your writing as a witness to this experience from an outsiders. This experience, me with wildlife, many times having to do it myself, is one of the most precious moments (this my reason to create my memorial cards for pets and people: http://www.seedsofsympathy.com). I am going to share this with others. Do you mind if I put this on my web site and give you credit? Thanks for all you do to enlighted us about the world

    • Your fine art renderings of animals is an inspiration to us. Your elephants are over our mantle. Your burros are in our entry hall. I’m glad to contribute in any way to the important work that you do. In the American Indian tradition, I believe that animals are our benevolent teachers.

  6. Rita Ramsay

    A beautiful tribute to one of our four-footed friends who accepts and loves us unconditionally. I am always aware that I may probably outlive my beloved pets, so that each moment becomes more precious. How lucky are we who open our homes to the animals that teach us how to live and love and in such a simple way. Thanks, Monty, for these beautiful words.

  7. Mili

    What can I say, my friend? Precious memories of beloved companions … both two-legged and four-legged.

  8. Lauria

    I love it! The photo is precious. I love you guys and miss you. XXOO Lauria

  9. Jackie Trudel-Lane

    your words painted a picture for me…i felt i was there….thank you monty for your gifts. jackie

  10. Ira Abrams

    Beautiful words and thoughts, Monty. There are two kinds of people on the planet: those that love animals, who see them as part of the tapestry of life, and those with whom one would rather not associate. Love and blessings to you and to Pat. Your friends,
    Ira and Brenda

  11. Lynn DiVincent

    Monty, my friend, you brought tears to my eyes. Our family members who give us unconditional love 24/7 are part of every moment of our lives. They are gifts from God to teach us about loving and giving of ourselves to those around us, especially those who cannot speak for themselves.
    Love to you and Pat, my dear friends,
    Lynn

  12. Thank all of the above for your responses. I’m very glad that the event that I made into poetry also touched you. Monty

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