Following the loss of Marmaduke and Molly, I embarked on a project to compile poems and tributes to dogs that had died. I found them in out of print books and out of the way places. Most of the tributes that were ultimately published in Angel Pawprints; Reflections on Loving and Losing a Canine Companion were written in the early 1900s, although I included a few contemporary poems as well. Through this project I became a collector of antiquarian dog books, vintage photos of dogs, and quotes about dogs. I never tire of reading about dogs and the countless ways in which they enrich our lives. Thus, I was delighted to find this treasure, a new book called Dog Blessings; Poems, Prose, and Prayers Celebrating Our Relationship with Dogs, edited by June Cotner.
The carefully-chosen selections are organized into chapters based on themes, though several could fit in more than one category. Chapters cover all stages of a dog’s life and are titled A Dog’s World, Puppies, Our Bond, Devotion, Aging Gracefully, Partings, Reflections, and Prayers, Blessings, and Inspiration. Several selections are suitable for a pet memorial service. Others are humorous, such as “Queen of Canine Capers,” Destructor of our flower beds/Disturber of our sleep/In spite of all her troubling ways/Her company we keep. One of the most poignant selections, “Voices from the Shelter,” is written in the voice of an old dog in a shelter. It concludes: I can’t see as well as I once did, but I can see a kind face/And sense at least a passing interest in me./I won’t rattle the bars, takes too much energy./But I’ll wag my tail for you to remind you/That someone once loved me very much, and I him,/And I still have love to give. Do you need some? Take me.
I discovered this book during Emily’s last months, and I kept it at my bedside, reading a selection each night. One of the poems that particularly spoke to me is about an old dog named Besty. Emily loved to run and chase balls, and in her younger days was magnificent, running full out across the yard, her legs and ears flying. The poem Besty concludes: I pack a final snowball full of stars/and toss it out to where the horizon flickers…I love the image of Emily, and of all beloved dogs, chasing a final snowball full of stars as we say goodbye.
Dog Blessings is a treasure, a lovely affirmation of the human-canine bond, and a wonderful gift for anyone who loves dogs. For more information, please visit the Favorite Dog Books page.