A Dog’s Life

(for Jazz)

Your soft and furry skin was like a prize
that felt as if it were a therapy,
reward for when we were too short of time
to pander to your young demands, and yet
you never once gave any less, and more
besides, you did not waver in your loyalty.

That wrinkled face, so soft, with deep dark eyes,
appealed, like downcast seal, to pliant hearts.
We’d have to have a bypass of compassion
to resist enchantment of the first degree,
and look away to stop the heart from melting
with just one sight of sideways tilting head.

You’d run with gay abandon, flapping lips
lifting wings on wind of gambolling speed
back legs attempt to pass your front, that looks
as if it’s doomed to fail. You still succeed.
So, to the welcome after-walk effects;
that cosy warmth against our resting feet.

As innocence turned into character
the stubbornness, the guile, the subtle smile
to greet us at the door, when we got home,
that knowing wag of tail, well versed in art
of language you know well; we only guess,
rewarding you with scratch behind your ear.

But most of all, that special body wag,
the faintest sound of tinkling collar tags,
the clearly unrestrained brief glottal yip,
excitement uncontrolled…

…but then, of late

it must be said, it wasn’t quite the same.
You sniff a tree, as if to pay your due.

The gay abandon lost somewhere in memory,
the softness of your coat turned coarse,
your eyes are slightly foggy, as they search
for some of that shear pleasure; the sound of food
no longer holds its sway on your desires;
hanging on to life and love at home.

I kissed your wrinkled face just one last time,
but knew that you’d not want for more delay.
If you could speak, I feel you’d say: ‘enough’.
To each, their time and so to yours this day.
The hardest part was having all your trust
in us, to make that last … that final call.

© 2013 John Anstie

This seemed a suitable submission for Tony Maude’s challenge over at the d’Verse Poets Pub tonight for Meeting the Bar ~ titled ‘Rhythm and Blank Verse’

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About PoetJanstie

As a young man, John was fit and sporting. Playing Rugby Union for over twenty years, encouraged in the early days by a school that was run on the same lines as Gordonstoun, giving shape and discipline to a sometimes precarious early life. This fitness was enhanced by working part time jobs in farming, as a leather factory packer and security guard, but probably not helped, for a short time, by selling ice cream! His professional working life was spent as a Metallurgical Engineer, Marketing Manager, Export Sales Manager, Implementation Manager and Managing Director of his own company. Thirty five years spent, apparently in a creative desert, raising a family and pursuing a career, probably enriched his experience, because his renaissance, on retirement, realised a hidden creative talent as a blogger and poet. He also enjoys music, with a piano and a forty-five year old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He sings bass in three singing groups: as a founding member of a mixed voice chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices; a member of one of the top barbershop choruses in the UK, Hallmark of Harmony (the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club) and a mixed barbershop quartet, Needle & Fred. He is also a would be (once upon a time) photographer with drawers full of his own history, and an occasional, but lapsed 'film' maker. In his other life, he doubles as a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Family man. What he writes is autobiographical and very often pins his colours to the mast. In 2013, he completed an anthology of the poetry (including his own) of an international group of nine poets, who met on Twitter. He produced, edited and steered the product of this work, "Petrichor Rising", to publication by Aquillrelle.
This entry was posted in age, animals, Blank Verse, Death, family, Love, melancholy, poem, poetry, sadness. Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to A Dog’s Life

  1. Jo-Anne Teal says:

    Of course, this is the one thing we can do for beloved animal friends,isn’t it? For the years of unending adoration and balance they bring to us, our part of the deal is to care for them and ensure they don’t suffer.

    This is, as all have noted before me, a lovely, comforting poem and one perfectly suited to the challenge of paying particular attention to rhythm. The pictures you develop for us are rounded and soft, reflecting a cadence of similar pattern.

    A poem very worthy of a dear old friend.

    Like

  2. Beth Winter says:

    John, As you may know, too recently I found myself in this tragedy. My girl was always at my side and the day came when I told her to rest easy, that the cancer would no longer consume her spirit. Thank you so much for this. Although it brought tears to my eyes, I feel joy in my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My lord, this is heartbreaking. I had to put down my cat of 20 years, Sam not so long ago and it was agonizing but like you, I knew that his future held only pain. It was time and yet the loss is great, the presence sorely missed. I came to know your dear friend through this piece and within your words, he always live.

    Like

    • PoetJanstie says:

      Thank you Gay. Yes it was written in the midst of that decision making, waiting for the vet to arrive at our house to do the deed, we both busied ourselves doing what we each knew would take our minds off the impending doom! Horrible moments.

      Like

  4. claudia says:

    oh dang…you have me in tears john… so sorry for the loss of your dog…they’re such friends…

    Liked by 1 person

    • PoetJanstie says:

      Sorry, Claudia, didn’t want to make you cry, but I confess to cheating, because I wrote it almost a year ago! It was written between the time I made the call to the vet and the time of her passing a couple of hours later. *shivers*

      Like

  5. billgncs says:

    dogs and horses always break your heart – they just don’t live long enough.

    cool profile – I played rugby union myself for about 15 years. Played against the Public School Wanderers when we toured England a lifetime ago.

    Like

  6. Tony Maude says:

    OK John, I know you wrote this a year ago, but it is a wonderful example of how flow/rhythm enhances and reinforces the theme of a poem. The break in the middle of the poem works brilliantly too; it enforces a slowing of tempo with a resulting melancholic feel to the second part of the poem. Thanks for sharing this at dVerse.

    Like

  7. Brian Miller says:

    its a very cool write….and i really like the break part way through with what must be said of now….my best friend as a young kid was a pups…we grew up together and came the time as well for him to move on beyond this world and i can remember that day as well as watching him age as i aged on opposite tracks….heart felt write man…

    Like

    • PoetJanstie says:

      Thanks, Brian, you’re very kind, even though I cheated (having written this a year ago!). But talk of the iambic pentameter is something in Tony’s intro that I found irresistible. You, my friend, are a special kind of poet, whose writing, with or without iambs and pentameter, always flows and is deeply meaningful because it comes from a well of your life, which also has profound meaning and you demonstrate that every time you put pen to paper.

      [I tried to leave a comment on yours, but couldn’t make it happen for some reason. I shall try again later]

      Like

  8. Gabriella says:

    Very realistic evocation of a dog’s aging and that moment when we do hope they trust us!

    Like

  9. A dog — such a companion.. and then finally it’s time to let go.. the suffering of man and beast. really well written.. and a lovely rhythm to it…

    Like

  10. Ina says:

    Such a dear poem for a dear pet 🙂

    Like

  11. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words says:

    Beautiful flow in such sadness…
    each time feels more…never feels less
    you captured the heart-ache of losing one we love as part of us
    Take Care…
    )0(
    ladyblue

    Like

  12. Pingback: The Poetry Zone | THE POET BY DAY, the journey in poem

  13. OMG John, you wrote my heart. My little dog companion of 16 years passed away recently and I have been trying to write the poem but the sting is still to fresh. Beautiful bittersweet tribute to Jazz..made me cry tears of joy and sorrow. Great work!

    Like

    • PoetJanstie says:

      Dorianna, I’m sorry for your loss too. The only way I could write this, was to occupy myself, starting just after the time I called the vet and finishing it just after they left the house with her … It is sometimes helpful to be a poet or whatever I may call myself. Thank you for your kind words.

      Like

  14. John, this really got to me. I’ve been through this too many times (actually, one time is too many) and it renders me helpless. We just had a scare with our little 4 year old JRT who all of a sudden couldn’t walk. I am so sorry for your loss. They are such precious gifts in our lives and I guess it’s that that makes us come back for more, knowing that loss is eventual.

    Like

    • PoetJanstie says:

      Victoria, thank you. You’re right and it never gets any easier, but, for Jazz, after six months of failing health, arthritis and gradually decreasing zest for life, particularly with the struggle to get to eat anything over the past two or three months, we had done all we could and more really. It was truly the right time to relieve her of her shadowy life. She’s left a vacuum for sure; but sometimes feel she’s traipsing through the house behind me …

      Like

  15. Jamie Dedes says:

    I’m so sorry you lost your little companion.Their innocense, trust, unconditional love, make these situations so hard. The poem is a dear homage.

    Like

    • PoetJanstie says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Jamie. I started writing this shortly after I’d called the vet and finished it just after she’d gone. Needed to occupy myself. My wife was busying herself in the garden for the same reason – interspersed with regular checks on Jazz, who was lying down and sleeping for most of the morning, until the vet arrived. She just stopped eating and was very weak; pretty literally on her last legs. She could not have gone much further.

      Like

  16. Craig Morris says:

    What a special tribute John. I know it’s not easy, and you will miss that “knowing wag of tail, well versed in art”, so much, but many happy memories remain.

    Like

  17. Oh my goodness…tears, John. My beloved dog Poppet was almost 19 when I made that decision. I looked into her milky eyes and knew she was saying ‘enough’. But still so hard. This brings it back. It took us 10 years to have another puppy..they say if you don’t want your heart broken, don’t own a dog. I so sympathise with you & B…a family member who is no more. Thinking of you. This is a wonderful tribute and will tug many heart strings among your readers!

    Like

    • PoetJanstie says:

      Thanks for your kind thoughts, Rachel. It never gets any easier, but life still goes on, not in spite of such sad events, but because of them; because, to greater or lesser degrees, their lives bring meaning and purpose to ours.

      Like

  18. I have been there, in that spot where decisions are made. One last gift of love to relieve the suffering of a dear friend. I stayed, and hard as it was, caressed and consoled until last sigh was gone, and body was at peace. We so love our furry family members. I am truly sorry for your loss, John.

    Like

    • PoetJanstie says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Ginny, and for your clear understanding. So many of us have dogs and cats that become more than just ‘pets’. Hard on my children too, even though they’ve grown up, flown the nest and are forging lives of their own.

      We always afford the cost of doing the deed at home; we would never want them to go through the stress of carting them off to the vet …

      Like

  19. so sorry to hear you’ve lost your dear friend John …

    Like

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