"At last deep in the stairwell I hear a tread,
it is him, my leader, my love.
I run to the door and listen to his approach.
Now I can smell him, what a good man he is…." (1)
"If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."—Anon.
The light through the blinds is bright so it must be around 8:00. I twist my head around and look at the clock: 8:20. Just then something cold presses against my arm. I pry my eyes open and look into a pair of soft brown eyes. "Morning Bella." And then the licking starts, so I stretch and get up, stroking the smooth fur on the way to the kitchen. Once caffeinated, I grab my cap and mask, and Bella grabs the nearest toy and starts jumping around. I put the harness and leash on her and we're out the door.
Straining the leash she pulls me down the hall but wait, someone left a cart in the elevator lobby, and it must be approached slowly and inspected carefully. Satisfied that the intruder poses no immediate threat, she turns and enters the elevator.
We head out of the side exit. This first walk is a business trip so it's a quick pit stop and a turn around the building, Bella sniffing along while I examine the spider webs glistening after the early morning watering.
Back inside it's time for more coffee and breakfast. I pop a can and spoon the beef chunks into her bowl and garnish with a cup of dry food. I pull a carton of yogurt out of the refrigerator—she'll get the cup when I'm finished.
"The way the dog trots out the front door
without a hat or an umbrella,
without any money
or the keys to her doghouse
never fails to fill the saucer of my heart
with milky admiration." (2)
After I shower and fully dress, it's time for the first real walk of the day. A trip around a few blocks of our neighborhood is an epic trek. Nearly every inch of ground must be sniffed, sticks and bits of paper must be pawed, birds must be chased away, and most of all…squirrels. The sworn enemy of these climbing, leaping rodents. Bella explodes into action, barking, running, and trying to climb the tree that the bushy-tailed malefactor has fled up. "Good girl, Bella, you treed him," I say to soothe her after yet another failure to bag her prey. "You did your job."
"After we eat we go for a walk to the piers.
I leap into the standing warmth, I plunge into
the combination of old and new smells.
Here on a garbage can at the bottom, so interesting,
what sister or brother I wonder left this message I sniff.
I too piss there, and go on.
Here a hydrant there a pole
here's a smell I left yesterday, well that's disappointing
but I piss there anyway, and go on." (3)
Squirrels successfully fended off, neighborhood sidewalks having passed inspection, flowers smelled, fellow canines sniffed front and rear and given friendly paws, we are safely home. Time for me to go out alone on my own business. Bella gives me the usual "Going out without me?" look, then settles back into the chair I was going to give away until she claimed it during the first week I had her. (January, how long ago that seems.)
"this manic animal
whose innocent disruptions
make nonsense of my old simplicities
as if I needed him
to prove again that after
all the careful planning,
anything can happen." (4)
I've been away a couple of hours and when my key hits the lock I hear a jingling on the other side of the door. I open it a crack and a long snout emerges. I push her back gently and she runs to get a ball or a Milk Bone and brings it back to me, then drops it and jumps up and puts her paws on my chest, her way of hugging. We dance into the room and the petting and licking ritual takes place.
Things settle into the usual routine of me reading or writing, her sleeping on the bed or in her chair, occasionally looking up to be assured I'm still there. Eventually I fix dinner—she watches carefully to make certain I don't forget to share—and then it's time for the early evening walk, an abbreviated version of the main morning walk. More grass to sniff, more dogs to greet, more birds to stare at and chase, but with luck, the squirrels have settled in and it's too early for rabbits.
"I always wanted to be a dog
but I hesitated
for I thought they lacked certain skills.
Now I want to be a dog." (5)
One last quick business trip after the sun has set, a brief patrol of the grounds, and it's back in for the night, Bella stretched out on the bed and me reading until I'm ready to sleep.
"How I could ever
think or feel myself more
deserving of a single thing than
this being, whom I call by a name the same way
my parents chose a name for me." (6)
I stroke Bella along the length of her body and scratch her head, and caress her ears, whisper goodnight, then evict her from the bed. She goes stoically to her chair and curls her long body to sleep, perchance to dream….
"You can even tell what they're dreaming about
by the way their legs jerk and try to run
on the slippery ground of sleep." (7)
I whisper goodnight one more time and turn off the light.
(1)Thom Gunn, https://www.ronnowpoetry.com/contents/gunn/Yoko.html
(2) Billy Collins, https://bookriot.com/best-dog-poems/
(3) Gunn, op. cit
(4) Linda Pastan, https://bookriot.com/best-dog-poems/
(5) Michael Ondaatje, https://bookriot.com/best-dog-poems/
(6) Holly Amos, https://bookriot.com/best-dog-poems/
(7) John Brehm, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/40632/if-feeling-isnt-in-it