Putting Down the Dog

Jack will livestream today’s poem at 9am, ET,  on his Facebook Page here,  and the video saved with all of his past Livestream videos here. 

The other day, Buddy,  Peter’s dog, died. It was not expected. Peter is our church’s music director. Because our services are virtual, we always watch Peter play from his home, Buddy at the corner of the screen watching Peter. Buddy had become, in many ways, the congregation’s dog.

I bring this sadness because of hearing time and time again how important people’s dogs have been to them during the pandemic.

And they don’t know.

Monday afternoon we went downtown with our dog, Vivi. Our daughter was maintaining the ceramist Jeff Blandford’s magical shop. (Is there a ceramist the likes of Jeff? Do go to his shop in Saugatuck.)

The town was all but completely masked, a relieving and hopeful sight. And everyone who saw Vivi wanted to bend down and pet her, talk to her.

Hers is one of the only breeds that in the dog books is described as “kind.” And many said just that: “She seems so kind.”

And then the subject that invariably came up was “We can’t imagine getting through all this without our Benjy, Jojo, Glory, Searcher.”

Every day dogs keep us at our routine. Vivi woofing ever so gently at 6:45—time for breakfast. They keep us walking. They keep us calling for them when they sneak off. They let us scratch and pet them for hours. They curl up with us, a comfort as we endure the news from the only purposefully dangerous president we’ve ever had.

And so, Buddy, thank you. Thanks be to every loving dog who simply and not so simply is always there, devoted, without taking any credit—well maybe a biscuit—for helping us each through each difficult day.


Putting Down Our Dogs

We let the vet
place them

on the last place
they will smell.

Do they see
the unknown

in our eyes?
They feel

our fingers
scratch

behind
their ears.

Then our palms
along their backs.

–Jack Ridl
from Saint Peter and the Goldfinch, Wayne State University Press

The best medicine for this time has come from the great Detroit Poet and merry prankster, M. L. Liebler, and his poetry happenings online. Do follow him, show up for his Zoom readings. Feel better.

On August 4, Matthew Baker’s new bookWhy Visit America? Henry Holt & Co., comes out. It has already received exceptional reviews, and Matt has offered remarkably insightful interviews. Esquire Magazine has called it one of the twenty must-read books published this summer.

Where are the books? Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

See all of Jack’s Facebook Livestream Videos Here.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

12 thoughts on “Putting Down the Dog

  1. were taking my dogs Chebacca and Tipper to the vet. perfectly captured in your poem. You are so amazing. That is all!!!

    B

    • May they be well and with you for a long time.

      After a loss, my dad would come home, look down at our basset Sybil and say, “What’s so bad about a dog’s life?!?”

      XX

  2. Jack, I have felt the same way about the kitties who have owned me…their looks of concern and understanding when I haven’t felt well…their abject honesty that would, a thousand times, outweigh Abe’s…”Honest Queeky” (…short for Queequeg). Regretfully, when it came time for them to leave this earth… my ungodly decision to condemn them, abandoning all nine of them over the years, life by life, in a stark room by themselves because I was too weak to watch the last breath of my best friends…too selfish to give them one last loving hug. I walked away praying, or maybe just hoping, we would someday meet again in the house of the Universal Creator. If that is so, it will be one happy CATerwauling party with me begging for their forgiveness. And, I already know, they will all shower me with it. (As you know I love Vivi…and you and Julie and Meredith–should the 4th letter be an “a?”)

    • Oh my god, this is so authentically beautiful, Carole, Vivi just walked in to get a scratch and lie down beside my chair. I can look up and see your gentle carved artwork of her. I am still sick to my stomach from facing it every time. You do not need forgiven. Your not watching was to preserve the memory of love for each of them.
      They had the gift of a wonderful mom.

      XX

      PS. Meridith is spelled with an I because it’s lighter and she’s light amd little.

  3. Oh how I remember this poem…Remember reading it as we said goodbye to Ellie. The Vet with tears in her eyes as I read…. Thank you – for giving us all the sacred words of poems to see us through. To save us – again and again..

    >

    • And how I recall the incredible kindness of your vet wanting a copy.
      YOU are the one who has helped see me through more than you will evr know.

      XX

  4. One of my greatest comforts when we had to put down our Woodman (after him bring such an important member of our family for 16 1/2 years) was that the vet came to our house and he was on my lap, snuggled together on the kitchen floor. His last scent was his home…
    Sending love to you and Julie, and Vivi!
    Deb

    • And thank you. We miss you! You really have to stop by.
      Lots to catch up on.
      I guess we have o wait till it’s safe. Damn.
      Sure hope you are holding up, you and yours, Joss and the kids, and work for you.
      XX from Julie and me.

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