Archives for posts with tag: dogs

watercolor girl

Tending the Dogs
by Elizabeth Hilts

“A job would be good for her,” Mrs. Pierce told my mother when I was 12 and the chaos of Mother’s schizophrenia was taking a firm hold on our lives. “She should go work with my daughter, tend the dogs.”

Mother drove me over to the Count and Countess’s stone mansion on the Point. He had escaped the Hungarian Revolution with his title; she was rumored to be a Guggenheim. They bred Miniature Schnauzers. Countess and Mother chatted over tea and small cakes carried in by a uniformed maid. “She can start on Saturday morning,” the Countess said.

Five mornings a week the cook doled out each dog’s breakfast: hard-boiled egg, cottage cheese, and kibble. I carried the bowls out to the kennel where the dogs quivered in their crates, stacked four high, five wide. Twenty of them, plus the Count’s dog, Dolly, who I collected from his suite where he lounged on the bed, lounged in the bubble bath. Dolly would not come when called. “You’ll have to come get her,” he’d tell me, his robe falling open, the bubbles parting.

After breakfast, I brushed their teeth, hand clamped firmly around each muzzle while they growled deep in their throats. Washed and blow-dried their cunning little beards. They took their revenge during the walk around the point of land overlooking the tidal inlet, skittering into the underbrush before charging out to nip at my ankles. I was already accustomed to the mad ambush but wasn’t yet immunized from fear.

The cook made me lunch: hot soup and a sandwich, doled out on plain white china. My mother had already stopped cooking by then. I ate in the kennel, understanding that it was possible to be grateful for small simple things.

IMAGE: “Miniature Schnauzer” by Watercolor Girl. Prints available at

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I loved and hated my first job in almost equal parts but I’d never completely understood why, of course, until attempting to write this piece. That’s part of why I write: to gain access to the parts of myself that remain shrouded somehow.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Hilts writes memoir, essays, and fiction; though she has written poetry, no one needs to really know about that. During the academic year, she toils in the fields of academe as an adjunct instructor of English and related subjects. She is in a constant state of revision both as a writer and as a human being. Her work has appeared in Spry Literary Journal, Extract(s), and in the Black Lawrence Press anthology, Feast.

pablo romero
by Judy Kronenfeld

Door accidentally left ajar
and the new dog’s gone,
a splendid flame
devouring the open road.

I scream her name—
the one anthropomorphized
into being as she licked
my fingers through the bars
at the pound—and am not
surprised it has
no claim on her.

Shocked at the profundity
of my grief, I scour
the neighborhood on foot—
wet-faced, unhinged—
then in my car, windows open,
yelling hoarsely into the wind,
but she’s split. The streets
rebuke me with
their emptiness.

Our mammal blood
finds beauty in some furred
beings, as clearly as in
a human face. I see hers
with all the gravity
of a memorial portrait, remember
how we joked “she’s a beauty
and she knows it,” as if that beauty
reflected positively on us!, how we
chuckled as her long white rump fur
swung to and fro as she trotted
chicly before us—like tassels
dangling from a chorus girl’s bodice.

An hour later there she is,
on the porch, waiting politely
to be let in, the vixen! She settles
into her corner of the living room,
agrees to her evening walk
on the leash, licks my cheek when I bend
to release her again. And though I feel
like the teacher whose student
sat in the front row, gah-gah-eyed
all quarter, then slammed her
on the evals, of course I forgive
my dog (as if she understood that)
because something lost–so missed—
returned, returns more than what
was lost. Oh children are patted
down again, comforters drawn
to their chins, parents in easy
chairs after tucking real children in—not
touching pictures to their lips, hating
themselves for that second they weren’t
vigilant—kith and kin at home
in their tracts, ancestors tucked
into his and her plots, none of them
flooded into the next county,
tsunamied to another country—you think this is
too much, but look at us, one furred,
one not, neighborly as we were
in our Pleistocene cave at the beginning
of our long and peaceful friendship,
our housebreaking of the wild, not scheduled
to burn up in the sun, but at home
at the hearth of the world,
our scents marked here forever.

IMAGE: Watercolor by Pablo Romero. Prints available at

SOURCE: Originally published in Cimarron Review 163 (Spring, 2008); reprinted in Judy Kronenfeld, Shimmer (WordTech Editions, 2012).

Sweet Izzy curled up in her bed

My relatively newly adopted mutt, with whom I fell in love at the country pound, took off not too long afterwards, when we were busy with house renovations, and the door might have been left ajar. The experience was so piercing, and the relief so overwhelming that everything I had ever thought and felt about loss, as well as recovery, and related current world and local events (well, the poem made me realize I had been thinking about these subjects) came pouring out, and got swept in.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Izzy, our dog (though she’s quite a bit older here than she was when she ran away from home).

judy kronenfeld

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Judy Kronenfeld’s fourth collection of poetry, Bird Flying through the Banquet, was published by FutureCycle Press in March 2017. Her most recent prior books of poetry are Shimmer (WordTech Editions, 2012) and Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths, second edition, (Antrim House, 2012), winner of the 2007 Litchfield Review Poetry Book Prize. Her poems have previously appeared in Avatar, American Poetry Journal, Calyx, Cider Press Review, Cimarron Review, DMQ Review, Hiram Poetry Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Louisville Review, Natural Bridge, The Pedestal, Portland Review, Sequestrum, Spoon River Poetry Review, Stirring, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and other print and online journals, and in 20 anthologies. She is Lecturer Emerita, Creative Writing Department, University of California, Riverside, and an Associate Editor of the online poetry journal Poemeleon. For more information, please see her website,

by Rhonda Schmidt

At eight years old, I knew bugs and dirt.
I knew bare feet, weeping willows, and sunshine.
My home was the yard behind my house,
the yard where I sat with my brother, my dog, my turtle.
Days passed slowly there, cicadas hummed loudly,
calling attention to the quiet house in front.

Our dog, old and almost blind, was our comfort.
We told him everything, and with one ear cocked sideways,
he listened as we buried our face in his soft fur.

We shared our yard with doodle bugs.
Plump little larvae,
they built homes of sand, perfect little pits,
scattered under the dead oak tree.

There they stayed until they grew and took flight,
we watched them work,
as they flicked sand into the air, moving backwards,
master builders.

Then we gathered little sticks and stirred the sand lightly,
thrilled as we watched them rise to the top of the dirt,
and smiled as they scurried to hide,
sometimes catching one,
feeling the little feet tickle our fingers.

Maybe we set our destiny in motion,
for we would leave our backyard that summer,
our tears and pleading ignored,
our sticks and turtle left behind, the cicada’s silent now.

And so we sat in our father’s Chevy,
his cigarette smoke stung our eyes, his gruff voice offered nothing.
Our eyes wide, our voices silenced,
we pulled deep into ourselves, and waited.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: In this photo I am eight years old, in my backyard with my beagle, Babe (Midland Texas, 1968).


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In our family, we moved often—every three to four years. This was hard for my brother and me. The memory of digging for doodle bugs is a good one. And even though not everyone has seen doodle bugs, they are interesting little guys.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rhonda Schmidt started writing in her fifties, after working as a Registered Nurse for 30 years. She is a graduate student at Southern Methodist University in the Masters of Liberal Studies program. She is a native Texan, living in Dallas, and  yearns to move to any place where summer does not resemble hell.

by James Penha

                    “Where would we be without books?”
                    –KCRW’s Bookworm theme song

Needing to read “One Art,” I grabbed from my bookshelf
this Jakarta morning the Bishop Poems but they wouldn’t give.
I tugged; they resisted; I rocked them, and only slowly
did they swing forward a tad, in concert with Berryman,
suprisingly, and with Bukowski and, with less insistent rhythms,
Aiken. Finally, the clutch of poets broke from their hinges
and the mulch of thousands of white worm-like larvae set
loose blindly seeking shelter. Manic now, I ripped forward
all the poets and they came apart in pieces, like little cardboard
honeycombs. The Homers had always rested horizontally for reasons
I didn’t recall, and when I touched the cover of the topmost,
Lattimore’s Iliad, my fingers went through Troy as easily as Hector slew
Patroclus. Homer, all of them, disintegrated pyreless, into ashes.
Four shelves of books I had carried over continents, over
decades, digested. The shelves as well: these creatures
must be termites, I reasoned, and as I Raided their cradles, can after
can after can beyond the limits of rational killing,
shards of imagery and metaphor ricocheted in the fog of this war.

And later in the day, the lung of my ancient cocker spaniel,
wheezing for weeks, riddled with boils and tumor, quietly
collapsed, his epic life ending in ellipses.

I am left to pet your old photographs and recite Bishop by kindlelight.

SOURCE: Originally appeared in THEMA 27.2 (2015): 73-74.

PHOTO: The author’s beloved cocker spaniel, Tony.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem’s narrative is true. Oh, how I wish it were not. I collected and shipped these books, vital, I thought, for my teaching, my writing, and my soul, from Queens, NY to Detroit to Hong Kong to Dutchess County to Staten Island to four different houses in Indonesia including the one where I lost them all and wrote this poem. The dog, whom I loved too, at least lived his whole life in Indonesia.


A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past quarter-century in Indonesia. He has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and in poetry. Snakes and Angels, a collection of his adaptations of classic Indonesian folk tales, won the 2009 Cervena Barva Press fiction chapbook contest; No Bones to Carry, a volume of his poetry, earned the 2007 New Sins Press Editors’ Choice Award. He edits TheNewVerse.News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Visit him on Twitter @JamesPenha.

AUTHOR PHOTO: The poet . . . in happier times . . . with a book.

Across the Country, Little Ford, Big Dog
by Abby Chew

I started on a Quaker farm in Ohio, where I raised goats and taught my students to waltz and read sonnets and grow food.
I drove my red truck and my white dog to Maine.
Then back through Ohio, toward Indiana and Iowa—we liked names bookended by vowels.
I’d said goodbye to all the friends I’d ever had.
At Council Bluffs, we considered all we could see. All that lay out there across the plains.
We drove through Colorado the day of the Aurora shooting. We watched the sun bleed itself into the mountains.
I laughed out loud driving through canyons. I’d never been inside a canyon before.
We drove through rain. The little truck did just fine, weighted down and low, barreling on.
We are peanut butter sandwiches in a parking lot at Arches and bemoaned the National Park rules about dogs. We wished we had everything in the world all to ourselves.
We stayed one night in a fancy Las Vegas hotel. Every other dog was snack-food-sized. We’ve never been back.
We got to California and made a new home.
We met a man.
We got a second, smaller dog.
We still have the truck.
We still look East every day.

PHOTO: The author and Alice the dog at the Brite Spot in Echo Park, Los Angeles, blocks from where they live with the new man and the new dog.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In this little poem, I wanted only the facts that brought Alice the Dog and me out here to the coast where we now live. A list. Because that trip was so terrible and wonderful. It could only be a list.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Abby Chew earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Currently, she teaches at Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences in Santa Monica, California.

Be Thankful for What You Got,”
William DeVaughn (1974)

by liz gonzález

In my North Town neighborhood,
pit bulls and German shepherds,
trained to kill, jump spiked fences
and crunch Chihuahuas like taquitos.
I carry a big stick when walking Chacho,
my cream and caramel Jack Chi.
We circle a two-block radius,
stuck on flat concrete and asphalt,
stuck seeing the same houses and streets.
Whenever we can, Chacho and I
hop in my ‘95 Toyota Tercel,
and make a quick escape.

We park at the Signal Hill
Home Depot lot,
hike up Skyline Drive,
up the gated community’s
winding paved paths,
past the squeak of bobbing oil pumps.
I’m breathless; Chacho’s ready to run.
We speed walk around Hilltop
Park’s rim and Panorama Drive.
Air swept by Santa Ana winds
reveals Los Angeles high rises
and San Bernardino mountains.
The cobalt blue Walter
Pyramid rises from treetops.
Huntington Beach’s jagged
shore shimmers and froths.
Off the coast of Long Beach,
yachts and freight ships
sail by artificial THUMS Islands.
Behind the Queen Mary,
gantry cranes stand erect,
like metal dinosaurs
ready to do some heavy lifting.

Chacho leads the way on White
Point’s foot-carved trails.
Concrete frames brush, ocean,
and sky in Battery Bunkers’
empty gun encasement.
Salt and sage scent the breeze.
Fennel, that interloper,
waves tiny yellow buds.
A cactus wren feasts
on swollen prickly pear fruit.
Chacho pulls the leash taut
while I stand in awe of the view.
Catalina Island on a fog-free day.
White sunlight rides the ripples.
A lone speedboat
rips the serene surface.

A supermoon illuminates
the Seal Beach boardwalk.
Dusk dabs stuttering clouds
purple-pink. The sinking sun
spills amber honey into lampposts
lining the wooden pier.
Chacho can’t read “No Dogs.”
He runs unleashed, kicking up sand
smooth as a whisper.

After a two or more mile jaunt,
my t-shirt sweat-drenched,
we lounge on Beachwood BBQ’s
dog-friendly patio
in downtown Long Beach.
Chacho nibbles on corn bread.
I sip a pint of craft lager,
eat a small salmon salad—
my version of suds and grub,

and give grace.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Chacho at White Point Royal Palms Beach” (San Pedro, California) by liz gonzález.

liz gonzalez zwark

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: liz gonzález is a fourth generation Southern Californian. Her poetry, fiction, and memoirs have appeared in numerous literary journals, periodicals, and anthologies. She has poems forthcoming in Wide Awake: The Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond and is the author of the limited edition poetry collection Beneath Bone. liz’s awards include an Irvine Fellowship at the Lucas Artists Residency Program and a Macondo Foundation Casa Azul Writer’s Residency. She works as writing consultant and teaches creative writing through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Visit her at

by Kathryn Almy

I didn’t kill it myself, but I seem to float
towards decay.
           Instinct says stop,
drop and roll whenever any corpse washes up,

sand in my fur, this smell
changing me in a chemical way
not even my ancestors understood.

Fluff and bones are trophies, like snow-
flakes, socks, bumblebees: treasures I bury.

I open my mouth to shout in triumph, but
out comes only a hoarse croak
and puff of sticky, tickling down

          —the blades and barbs are black, mashed,
          the little white eyes hardly show,
          the iridescence dimmed.

It feels like being beaten for crimes I cannot see.

There is a knot within me: feathers, bugs, scum, and bark

          —everything I have eaten,

this eternal world beyond the reach of words.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am fortunate to live in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a town of many fine writers. Just one of these is Diane Seuss, for whose class I wrote this poem.

Almy - selfie with dog

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathryn Almy‘s poetry and creative nonfiction have been published in print and on-line publications, including the Great Lakes Review narrative map, City of the Big Shoulders: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry, Shady Side Review, and The Smoking Poet. Visit her at

by Sarah Thursday

I love the teeth of your love
how you pit-bull deep
into the flesh of loving
How you make shrines
in the empty spaces,
abandoned apartments
Shrines to former residents
of borrowed books and toiletries
envelopes full of photographs
and letters in pen
How you never fill
the same space with new
but keep building out
expand the frames and floors
How you know when to change the locks
and when to nail it shut

I love how you calculate
estimate the risk
How you trust
the unnamed algorithm
the intuitive push, flashing “Yes,
love this one, let that one in!”
How soft your wrought-iron grip
holds every name tight
each face, its own story
each moment, a glass in your pane
How you refuse to argue
about the wrong
or right way to love

I love how so much of it matters
how you will forgive
as many times
as they will call
and ask for it
How you defend this weakness
with the expense of wasted time
Your time-to-give being
your love currency
not words, not gifts,
not your doing-for-me
But your minutes and hours
your speak to me, eat with me
your listen and watch with me
sit in this space of air
I breathe with me is love

I love how love-greedy you get
How you collect time
and stuff it in bags and boxes
shove it on shelves, in closets
covering walls, blocking doorways
in empty apartments
You guard-dog this house
an unapologetic hoarder
How you refuse to purge it
refuse to loosen your grip
Set shrines in windowsills
light blood candles
There is always room
for more

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I consider this poem a self-portrait because it describes what I love about the way that I love. This was inspired by another poet’s love letter to herself. I thought about how hard it is for me to let go of others, but that I love that about myself. I love like a pit-bull.

IMAGE: “The Passion Pit” by Dean Russo. Prints available at Visit the artist at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Thursday calls Long Beach, California, her home, where she advocates for local poets and poetry events. She runs a Long-Beach-focused poetry website called, co-hosts a monthly reading with one of her poetry heroes, G. Murray Thomas, and just started Sadie Girl Press as a summer job and way to help publish local and emerging poets. She just completed her first full length poetry collection, All the Tiny Anchors. Find and follow her on, Facebook, or Twitter.

by Catfish McDaris

There I was in the elevator
with my 8 year old Shih Tzu,
named May, she weighed 13 lbs
& was very well behaved

A boy about 4 years old got
on & charged at my dog, I
told him please don’t do that

He ignored me & bent down
& bit my dog’s ear, she yelped
in pain, I spoke firmly to the
child telling him it was naughty
to hurt the doggie, his mother
just stood there & kept quiet

The 6 people in the elevator
yelled at me, “Leave the kid
alone, he was just having fun
with the mutt”

My dog gave them all the evil
eye & did something they won’t
forget until, May Day.

PHOTO: “Shih Tzu dog” by Geri Lavrov. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catfish McDaris has been published widely in publications that include The Louisiana Review, George Mason Univ. Press, and New Coin from Rhodes University in South Africa. He’s recently been translated into French, Polish, Swedish, Arabic, Bengali, Tagalog, and Esperanto. His 25 years of published material is in the Special Archives Collection at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

by Mark Doty

Fetch? Balls and sticks capture my attention
seconds at a time. Catch? I don’t think so.
Bunny, tumbling leaf, a squirrel who’s—oh
joy—actually scared. Sniff the wind, then

I’m off again: muck, pond, ditch, residue
of any thrillingly dead thing. And you?
Either you’re sunk in the past, half our walk,
thinking of what you never can bring back,

or else you’re off in some fog concerning
—tomorrow, is that what you call it? My work:
to unsnare time’s warp (and woof!), retrieving,
my haze-headed friend, you. This shining bark,

a Zen master’s bronzy gong, calls you here,
entirely, now: bow-wow, bow-wow, bow-wow.


“Golden Retrievals” appears in Mark Doty’s collection Sweet Machine: Poems, available at

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Doty is an American poet and memoirist, and the winner of the National Book Award for Poetry in 2008. (Read more at

PAINTING: “Corbi,” watercolor by Susan Crouch.