The autumn is here, and as the first winds of October blew in, so my beloved old dandie dinmont began to fail and fade. We all knew the time was soon coming when we would have to make the decision to help him be free again to run with the rest of his pack, barking and dashing through the happy hunting grounds in search of birds and squirrels. And on Monday 5th October the time arrived. I was there at his birth, and there too at his death, holding his paw, saying goodbye with love and tears.
These poems are for him. What better memorial can a writer give than an accounting of beginnings and ends?
for Pipkin and Willow 18.iv.1996
We waited all night together, she and I.
She'd been restless that day, panting, scratching nests
between cupboards and under tables.
Any place that was dark and safe.
We knew what was coming.
Past midnight we lay curled up in the big bed,
her head under my hand for comfort.
She moaned then--a little, high pitched sound--
big eyes shining up in the first full moonlight of spring.
It was time.
Time to carry her down the steep stairs and through
the black stuffy tunnel of the passage
to the warm kitchen.
All done, all prepared, only waiting now.
I thought she'd want to be alone, but
if ever anydog said 'Stay' it was her.
So we lay down together again--
she moaning hard and slow in the birthing box,
I stiff and cold on a green garden cushion
--and we waited.
Suddenly her groans became deeper
the very earth trembled as the sun came up
and two tiny paws, a body, a head
emerged in one fluid moment.
He was here.
Garden of Eden
For Willow 18.iv.1996—5.x.2009
We thought it was the
swelling his belly
so round and rigid
He loved apples.
He loved strawberries.
How odd for a dog
to steal those sweet
red summer jewels
from their green bed
with such sly delicacy.
He killed a snake once
before the orchard was planted.
Shook it to death.
Perhaps its spirit remained,
malignant with canker
among the fruit trees.
Sheep television was,
his own canine
Watching, always watching
the subtle move and sway
of the flock
from the orchard edge,
and barking, always barking
—his sarcastic commentaries,
the incessant and annoying
subcontext to all our lives.
‘Wish that dog would shut up’
And now he has,
his garden fiefdom is
silent and dying,
with just the random pitter-pat
of falling conkers
on his grave
to mark times passing.
(both poems copyright c Lucy Coats 1996 and 2009)