Dogs and Poetry

By Richard Garcia

dog glassesEven when Buffy was a puppy, I began to suspect that she could read. At that time, Charles Harper Webb would come over to our house every couple of weeks, and we would critique each other’s poems. There would be poems spread out on the couch. Buffy would lie on the couch, too, on her belly with a pencil dangling from her mouth. Sometimes she would look down at a poem between her paws and seem to regard it.

I thought that was kind of fun but did not take it seriously. Then one day, Buffy stole a box of Milk Bones. She ate all the Milk Bones, and then ate the box. But she did not eat the coupon that gave a discount on the next box of Milk Bones. I found it, neatly chomped at its perforations, on the doormat, right side up.

Sometimes, if I had left a lower file drawer open, she would push the files and papers with her nose. Then, carefully, she would extract one sheet of paper and walk off with it.

One day, I was working on a poem that had been accepted by a journal. The editor had asked for a couple of small rewrites. I finished and then left my desk for a while. When I came back, the poem was gone. I searched all through the house and could not find it. Now I am still not claiming that my dog could read, but I did find the poem on the front lawn, right side up. When I bent to retrieve it I noticed a paw print. Underneath the paw print, there was a typo.

Louie can’t read, but he is fabled in poetry and song. That is, he has gotten into my poems. I have placed him my poem “Louie, M.D., Ph.D.” as a psychiatrist, and the white tip on his tail was the inspiration for my poem “Adam and Eve’s Dog.”

Jim Harrison’s recent poems are full of dogs. Michael Chitwood, a poet known for his spiritual poems, seems to have quite a few dogs in his poetry, too.

And there is this sonnet by Mark Doty from Unleashed: Poems by Writers' Dogs.


We love our dogs, of course, and maybe it is amusing to put them in our poems, or to try and write from their point of view. But most important is what we have in common with the dog: we have both left the garden. Some scholars have even surmised that early man learned how to hunt by studying how dogs hunt. In some situations and cultures we depend on them for survival. Dogs have chosen to have two or three paws in the human world, and are on the same journey of consciousness that we are on. They may even be leading it.



by Michael Chitwood

I pray that my dog will live.


I ask the Lord, the Almighty,

Yahweh, I Am That I Am

to keep my dog alive

even though he has righteous gas

and a broken tooth,

even though soaking wet

he smells like old shoes soaked in urine,

even though he's going to have to squat, trembling,

and shit out the pair of pantyhose he's eaten,

still I pray for his life.


I pray out loud to the Lawgiver, Nation-smasher,

Deliverer, Kingdom-maker, the Old Pharaoh-thrasher himself

and do not feel ridiculous. Out loud.

Please let this dog live, I say

to the one who laid the foundations of the earth,

who shut in the sea with doors

when it burst forth from the womb,

please let this bad, matted-rug-of-a-dog live.


What else could I do

with a dog possibly foundered on pantyhose,

a dog whose sleeping head warms my lap?

What else

but speak aloud to an empty room,

to address walls and windows

and the air beyond

and the beyond beyond,

the Thunderhead Troubleshooter

we turn to when turning the prayer wheel again?


Golden Retrievals

by Mark Doty

Fetch? Balls and sticks capture my attention

seconds at a time. Catch? I don't think so.

Bunny, tumbling leaf, a squirrel who's -- oh

joy -- actually scared. Sniff the wind, then


I'm off again: muck, pond, ditch, residue

of any thrillingly dead thing. And you?

Either you're sunk in the past, half our walk,

thinking of what you can never bring back,


or else you're off in some fog concerning

-- tomorrow, is that what you call it? My work:

to unsnare time's warp (and woof!), retrieving,

my haze-headed friend, you. This shining bark,


a Zen master's bronzy gong, calls you here,

entirely, now: bow-wow, bow-wow, bow-wow.