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This poem is in response to the Poetry Potluck for Writing 201: Poetry.

I dissolved in a puddle of tears when I read this poem by John Updike (at right) for the first time in Garrison Keillor’s book Good Poems. I was reading in the car and my hubby had to pull over and stop. He thought something was wrong with me.

I’m an animal love and have had my heard broken my fair share of times from putting pets to sleep. I never get used to it. This poem left me totally undone. It spoke to me on a deep level about how some of us strive to the end of our days to be acceptable to those around us.


Dog’s Death

She must have been kicked unseen or brushed by a car.
Too young to know much, she was beginning to learn
To use the newspapers spread on the kitchen floor
And to win, wetting there, the words, “Good dog! Good dog!”

We thought her shy malaise was a shot reaction.
The autopsy disclosed a rupture in her liver.
As we teased her with play, blood was filling her skin
And her heart was learning to lie down forever.

Monday morning, as the children were noisily fed
And sent to school, she crawled beneath the youngest’s bed.
We found her twisted and limp but still alive.
In the car to the vet’s, on my lap, she tried

To bite my hand and died. I stroked her warm fur
And my wife called in a voice imperious with tears.
Though surrounded by love that would have upheld her,
Nevertheless she sank and, stiffening, disappeared.

Back home, we found that in the night her frame,
Drawing near to dissolution, had endured the shame
Of diarrhea and had dragged across the floor
To a newspaper carelessly left there. Good dog.