The New Dogs

There was, every spring, a new batch of pups,

Yipping, nipping, clumsy balls of nappy fur,

Looking for all the world like speckled tennis balls

Before they’d learned any hard lessons at the hands of a racquet.

They chased their tails and each other,

And various other denizens of the barnyard:

Frantic chicks, cranky piglets, the occasional bemused draft horse,

And sometimes they chased us as well, yelping childishly,

Rolling on the ground with us, nipping bare fingers and toes,

Afterwards lying on the ground asleep, looking (save for the rhythmic twitching

Of their paws) positively angelic.


Come late August, the time would come to set them on the coons.

We’d long since stopped thinking about it, much less questioning it

(I had, one year, asked my father if the puppies had to go one time too many

Until, with a look that brooked no further conversation, he said flatly

It’s what they’re born to.), and we went on with the business

Of the soft, slow late summer until one evening just after sunset

We would hear the baying of the hounds out toward the back fields,

Mechanical and workmanlike at first,

But soon strained and syncopated with excitement,

And at some point there would be a cacophony of cries and snarls

Until there was only silence.


The next morning we would see the dogs,

And we’d pet them and rough-house a bit,

And sometimes there might be just a trace

Of an oddly rouged spot on their coats here and there,

Or one of them might sneeze out a bit of fur that didn’t rightly belong to them,

And every year our Uncle Bryce would slyly opine

You boys may want to be a bit more careful around their mouths, hear?


11 thoughts on “The New Dogs

  1. Ugh! Yes. It’s what they were raised for.. to be useful.. but a child sees deeper, and knows a dog wants to be loved. But perhaps that’s just me – hate hunting to hounds. Hate it.

  2. A wonderful slice of life. Reminded me of the book Where the Red Fern Grows for some reason. You have a directly nostalgic approach to some of your writing , it makes for great feeling while reading it. Great job.

  3. man, i really like this one, especially this observation: “Before they’d learned any hard lessons at the hands of a racquet.” thoughtful, well done.

  4. Whoa, I fell in love with the puppies, then came up short when they went on to fulfil their “destiny”. So well written, one sees it all, hears the snarls, saddens at the red patches in their fur, and the warning to be more careful around them now.

  5. leaves entirely open the question ‘what, then are they (we) born to’?
    your telling, always, is the finely crafted posing of questions. which, incidentally, if you go in with Tolstoy at all, is what it’s all about.

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