I don't know if you've noticed,
but there's been a spate of books
that have come out lately
contemplating or speculating
on the cognition and emotional life of dogs.
Do they think, do they feel and, if so, how?
So this afternoon, in my limited time,
I wanted to take the guesswork out of a lot of that
by introducing you to two dogs,
both of whom have taken the command "speak"
The first dog is the first to go,
and he is contemplating an aspect
of his relationship to his owner,
and the title is "A Dog on His Master."
"As young as I look,
I am growing older faster than he.
Seven to one is the ratio, they tend to say.
Whatever the number, I will pass him one day
and take the lead,
the way I do on our walks in the woods,
and if this ever manages to cross his mind,
it would be the sweetest shadow
I have ever cast on snow or grass."
And our next dog
speaks in something called the revenant,
which means a spirit that comes back
to visit you.
"I am the dog you put to sleep,
as you like to call the needle of oblivion,
come back to tell you this simple thing:
I never liked you."
"When I licked your face,
I thought of biting off your nose.
When I watched you toweling yourself dry,
I wanted to leap and unman you with a snap.
I resented the way you moved,
your lack of animal grace,
the way you would sit in a chair to eat,
a napkin on your lap, a knife in your hand.
I would have run away
but I was too weak,
a trick you taught me
while I was learning to sit and heel
and, greatest of insults,
shake hands without a hand.
I admit the sight of the leash would excite me,
but only because it meant I was about to smell things
you had never touched.
You do not want to believe this,
but I have no reason to lie:
I hated the car, hated the rubber toys,
disliked your friends, and worse, your relatives.
The jingling of my tags drove me mad.
You always scratched me in the wrong place."
"All I ever wanted from you was food and water
in my bowls.
While you slept, I watched you breathe
as the moon rose in the sky.
It took all of my strength
not to raise my head and howl.
Now, I am free of the collar,
free of the yellow raincoat,
the absurdity of your lawn,
and that is all you need to know about this place,
except what you already supposed
and are glad it did not happen sooner,
that everyone here can read and write,
the dogs in poetry,
the cats and all the others