Take Good Care of Old Dogs


Don’t cry that the old dog
has closed her eyes at last,
for she had fields for frolicking
and lesser dogs to bully
when she was young,
a soft rug and warm hearth
at the end of each day.

Weep rather for those
who marked time by her life –
birth and death, love and loss.
Weep that some crumbled
while others grew strong.
Weep that there must always be
those who win and those who lose.

I wanted to post an older poem this week, and this one dates from 1993. I reworked it before publishing it here, reducing both the number of words and the number of lines by about 25%. The things I often notice about my early poems are that (a.) they are wordy; and, (b.) the line breaks (enjambment) are awkward. Not that my poems are perfect now . . . progress, not perfection.

I often write poems about our pet dogs. This poem was inspired by the death of Bonnie, a beloved but difficult Australian Shepherd mix. We always kept Bonnie tied because she was aggressive towards other dogs and certain people, especially a man named Clinton who worked for me. No amount of training or treats – or effort by Clinton, who was certain he knew all there was to know about difficult dogs – could change that aspect of Bonnie’s behavior.

One of my favorite dogs was a Shih Tzu named Casey. Casey was an oddball, not surprising in light of the fact he spent the first 18 months of his life in a cage as part of a backyard breeding operation. Casey never learned to be entirely normal, although he improved greatly when we added a puppy to our family. Daisy, a Westie, taught Casey about getting along with people and other dogs. The two of them became best friends and loved each other immensely. Casey once climbed onto the kitchen table in search of food – a trick he learned by watching Daisy – but couldn’t figure out how to get down. There’s no telling how long he had been up there when I arrived home and took this photo. He was so embarrassed he couldn’t even look at me! (This just occured to me, but maybe he was trying to read the story about rescue dogs in Grit Magazine.) The other picture shows an old Casey stretched out in front of a floor heating unit on a cold day, which reminds me of the line “a soft rug and a warm hearth” in this week’s poem. Take good care of old dogs; ok?

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A New Poem Every Monday
(tho’ sometimes life gets in the way)

Joseph Neely, all rights reserved, 2023