Morning with Dogs

Today is Charlie’s 14th birthday.

Well, we don’t know his exact birthday, but 14 years ago he came out from behind the counter at the shelter, on the day after Valentines, and wagged his way our way, landed in Julie’s arms, nuzzled her easy to nuzzle nose, and came home with us.

Charlie is somewhat of a beagle. He was on his last try, meaning he had been returned to the shelter twice and a third return is the dire opposite of a charm. For weeks we pretended we were in a children’s book: Take Charlie to the car and he was sure he was being returned and would throw up; make a mistake on the kitchen floor and we were sure he was pleading, “I’m sorry. Please please give me another chance.” He’s still hand shy and terrified of kids or anyone under five feet tall. You can imagine what happened to the little guy before we claimed him.

Now he has a ten month old sister, a Spinone Italiano, and they are best buddies, Charlie allowing himself to be another of her umpteen dog toys: Drag me along by the collar–sure. Pull my tail–why not? Knock me over in the snow–what could be more fun? They sleep side by side — with us of course — causing us to sleep the sleep of contortionists. (Dog trainers, stop shrieking. Vivi and Charlie are family. Those accusing us of anthropomorphism and sentimentality, you are right. And be damned.)

Charlie sits on command. He’s deaf now, but raise your hand above his head and he’ll sit. So-called VP Mike Pence sits on command, too. He’s also deaf. Charlie is in a way an immigrant, has no papers, and we didn’t return him. He also loves unconditionally.

Morning With Dogs

The old dog won’t get up. The pup
is yelping. We want to sleep another

hour, half an hour, fifteen minutes.
We are old dogs, too. But the pup

is hungry and the light
is crossing the evergreens and now 

that we have found our way out of bed
and on to the dogs’ bowls, the old dog’s

eyes open. The coffee—timed when
to perk is dripping through the grounds.

And though wanting still to sleep, we
divide the morning’s rituals: filling

the feeders for the rampant demands
of chickadees, finches, the one downy;

letting the old dog out first to pee
unencumbered by the pup’s romping

plea to play. This is the opening of our
every day. And we go on, the past

always tugging us back into regret.

–Jack Ridl

First published in The Louisville Review

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24 thoughts on “Morning with Dogs

  1. Happy Birthday Charlie! In my home my well trained dogs climb up on the couch to nap during the day and up on our bed at night. Thank you Jack for this wonderful poem and for making me laugh at the thought of Mike Pence sitting obediently with a hand raised by he who shall not be named!

  2. oh my word, Jack, the comments before the poem made me laugh and cry on a day where I only feel like crying. thanks. 🙂 and then the gift of the poem… bigger 🙂 Annie

  3. Ah Jack…Ellie is 14 next month. And had a slight stroke last Saturday. But – the good vet here has her one the mend with a steroid shot and something for her stomach. A new kind of food too. Love this story – and the message prior….👊😊


  4. Hi Jack – you made me laugh out loud with your comment about Pence sitting on command and being deaf. And you made me sad, thinking of our 15-year-old dog whose legs keep going out from under him – he falls down the stairs and off of couches – and yet he came bounding into a room last night with a ball in his mouth announcing it was time to play. The irony in the whole thing is he makes me more emotionally present. Dogs invite us to be more human.


    Jeff Munroe Executive Vice President

    ph 616.392.8555 x111 101 East 13th Street, Holland MI 49423-3622 [image: WTS_logo_email.png]

  5. Happy Birthday dear Charlie! Wow, 14 years of Beagledom! Pudge will turn 13 in the spring, but has only been in charge of my life for less than four. I love this poem, and how beautifully it describes our relationships with our beloved animals.

  6. Oh, I love that last line! Isn’t that the truth for us all!? What a beautifully poignant treasury of morning moments. Thank you for sharing this!

  7. Thanks, Jack, for this lovely dog poem. Dogs want so much to be loved. And, they want to please us. They remind us daily of the importance of the routines of the day. We become well trained to meet their schedule and needs. They can be the most loyal of all friends.

  8. My love of what the human population COULD be is almost equal to my love of all other living creatures. I share my bed with my rescue cat, “Queeky” who requires multiple yoga positions on my part and puts up with all the writhing it takes me to get into acceptable positions usually without disturbing him. You may be thinking how lame the name “Queeky” is…he likes it, and that’s all that counts. No need for an alarm clock when one has an “alarm cat” who wakes me at sunrise every day when his empty “stomach alarm” needs refueling…I dutifully get up, pour some crunchies into his bowl, grab my camera, snap some photos of the sunrise and post them on my Facebook Timeline. Jack, can you tell how much I love your poem and you, for writing it???

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