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Another Dog’s Death

For days the good old bitch had been dying, her back
pinched down to the spine and arched to ease the pain,
her kidneys dry, her muzzle white. At last
I took a shovel into the woods and dug her grave

in preparation for the certain. She came along,
which I had not expected. Still, the children gone,
such expeditions were rare, and the dog,
spayed early, knew no nonhuman word for love.

She made her stiff legs trot and let her bent tail wag.
We found a spot we liked, where the pines met the
The sun warmed her fur as she dozed and I dug;
I carved her a safe place while she protected me.

I measured her length with the shovel’s long handle;
she perked in amusement, and sniffed the heaped-up
Back down at the house, she seemed friskier,
but gagged, eating. We called the vet a few days later.

They were old friends. She held up a paw, and he
injected a violet fluid. She swooned on the lawn;
we watched her breathing quickly slow and cease.
In a wheelbarrow up to the hole, her warm fur shone.

The poem above, Another Dog’s Death, (from Collected Poems, 1953-1993) is one of two John Updike wrote about the death of his dogs.

Updike, a prolific, Pulitzer-prize winning author and poet, died yesterday at 76 of lung cancer.


Comment from Mary Schmidt
Time January 29, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Yesterday at work, I overheard a woman complain about having a 13-year-old “smelly” incontinent dog, the “stress” of getting new carpet, blah, blah, blah. A few minutes later, it was lunch time and I could check out my favorite internet sites. Nicer to stumble on this poem, about the kindness due our aged dogs.

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