A wryly emotional narrative poem honoring a dog that I grew up with.





by Lloyd Pye


I don’t like dogs.

Anyone who knows me can tell you that.

I don’t like the way they unexpectedly, slyly,

Press their wet, yukky noses against your leg,

Or your backside…or your crotch.

I don’t like the fact that dogs have fleas.

I don’t just dislike fleas…I hate fleas.

So combine fleas and yukky wet noses

And you know why I really don’t like dogs.

Anyone who knows me can tell you that.

Despite my antipathy, I once had a dog.

Well, me and my family had him,

And a lot of other animals, too.

I didn’t think much of them, either.

I really don’t like animals of any kind.

Our dog’s name was Moe.

My sister picked him out of his litter

By saying, “Eenie, meenie, miny, moe,”

So Moe it was.

Moe was a cross between a Collie and a German Shepherd,

Which made him more or less a long-haired Shepherd.

Black and white…a bit more black than white.

He could have gotten any number of odd

Genetic combinations out of a mix like that,

But what he actually got was a pretty good blend.

He lucked into the best traits of both breeds.

He had the territorial, protective instincts of Collies,

Born from countless generations of sheep herders,

And he had a Collie’s gentle nature, too.

The smallest toddler could engage him in a wrestling match,

Pull his fur, twist his ears, fall on his ribs, step on a paw…

Moe would take all that abuse without so much as a yelp.

And woe to the strange human males who blundered into a

Possibly threatening position behind my mother or my sister.

He would go into a frenzy of barking, letting everyone know

Their security perimeter had been breached.

Moe was a terrific watchdog.

As for the German Shepherd side of his nature,

He was every bit as smart and fearless as any K-9 hero.

No wonder Shepherds are the breed of choice for police dogs.

They have a bone-hard toughness sired from the inside out,

From marrow to gristle to skin to teeth...

Don’t get in a fight with a Shepherd in a dark alley.

Moe was that kind of dog, too.

He came to us when he and I were both puppies.

I was about ten, he was about six weeks.

He grew up in our big yard with its big house on a big hill,

Making his home somewhere up under the house.

It was the kind built a couple of feet off the ground,

Which was heaven in summer for a medium-haired dog.

When he finished his terrible two’s,

His day-to-day routine underwent a routine change.

He started going off for extended spring forays

With other dogs from throughout our small community.

Those were all male dogs, of course, just like Moe,

Gathering together when the females came in season.

They all knew when it was time to hit the road because

The answer for them was indeed “blowin’ in the wind.”

One day Moe would disappear and be gone for a week or two.

We might see him running with the pack somewhere in town,

But he never came home to eat or drink or rest.

He had other things on his simple dog mind.

Did I mention I don’t like dogs?

Anyway, Moe’s first few years with the pack didn’t go well.

He’d finally drag himself home, whimpering and limping,

With patches of fur missing and tooth cuts all over him.

He’d hole up in his “home” under the house for a week or so,

Letting his wounds heal and probably going over in his mind

The various mistakes he’d made in the fights he lost.

By about his fifth year, though, things changed for Moe.

He had risen through the ranks of the neighborhood dogs.

He’d paid his dues and learned his lessons.

He took his place at the head of the pack.

That was the way it was with those dogs.

Matter of fact, it’s that way with humans, too.

All the young bucks are eager to go out on the hunt,

But only one or two consistently bring home the bacon,

So to speak.

Sure enough, for the next five years or so,

Just about every puppy born in our neighborhood had

Moe’s high-carried head and traces of his black-white shag.

This was no problem for the neighbors, of course.

Everyone accepted the system for what it was:

A way to insure that in each new breeding season

The best sire possible produced the most litters,

And the pack fights insured that the best dog won.

That was Moe’s forte—he could fight.

He wasn’t a cantankerous dog, but he could fight.

He was a tough, gentle, dog’s dog.

Eventually, when Moe reached around ten,

And I was off fighting my own pack battles in college.

His fighting skills began to fade.

Like a human pitcher who’s lost the smoke on his fastball,

Moe lost his ability to dodge the snapping jaws and slashing teeth

Of young dogs fighting for their piece of the action,

So to speak.

During my last couple of years in college,

Moe started reverting to his youth.

He’d limp back from a pack run with cuts and fur missing,

But then he’d need two weeks under the house to recover.

When he reached twelve and I graduated from college,

Moe stopped running with the pack.

He had accumulated too many hitches in his git-along,

And the reward was no longer worth the effort.

That’s true with humans, too.

Anyway, one year I was in the Army and home for Christmas,

And Moe was pushing fourteen and staying under the house,

Spending nearly all his time there,

Shuffling out once or twice a day to eat.

Then my brother noticed Moe hadn’t been out in a few days.

“Better crawl up under there and check on him,” my father said.

He said it to me but my youngest brother knew what that meant.

I gazed at him, a teenager, and he shrugged. “Okay, I’ll do it.”

Sure enough, my brother found Moe dead, gone a few days.

Enough to bloat a bit, even in the Christmas cold.

Spring seduces,

Summer thrills,

Autumn sates,

Winter kills.

Winter killed Moe, and no one had to say what came next.

I got the shovel and my brother went back up under the house.

He tied a rope on one of Moe’s stiff legs and dragged him out

While I dug him a nice, deep hole right beside the house.

The largest, deepest hole I ever dug in my life.

To this very day.

It was a real, honest-to-goodness grave.

I don’t like dogs, but Moe deserved that much.

Now, you might think that’s all of the story,

But you’re wrong, there’s just a bit more.

Standing there with me and my brother,

Watching the whole process of me digging

And my brother grappling and dragging,

Was a high-headed, long-haired, black-and-white dog.

He didn’t belong to us, he belonged to a neighbor.

He just happened to have strayed into our yard to visit.

That was always okay in the little town where we lived.

Back then any dog or kid was safe in anyone else’s yard.

He was an energetic young rascal, a couple years old,

Yipping and yapping and doing his best

To entice my brother or me to play with him.

But we were busy and didn’t pay him any mind,

So he ran in circles around the decaying corpse,

Trying to get it to rise up and chase after him.

Oh, how we wished he could have succeeded.

He couldn’t, of course, and the time finally came to

Slide Moe into his nice, deep, well-earned grave.

And as I began shoveling the dirt down onto his body,

The young dog with us quickly picked up on our game

And began to flick dirt into the grave, too,

Between his legs the way dogs do.

He was a smart one, just like his granddaddy.

How ironic that one of Moe’s widely extended family

Would be there to see his old Gramps off into the next world…

Assuming dogs have such a thing, which I’m not sure about.

But that young dog also symbolized the continuity of Moe’s life.

He was an affirmation of what we all hope for by the time we die,

Which is that our lives should attain some nobler meaning than

Simply taking up space for however many years we endure.

Like I said earlier, I really don’t like dogs.

Anyone who knows me can tell you that.

But like I also said,

I once had a dog.

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