For Papa and Neve
My wife’s instructions upon moving out:
Put the old dog down, Chip.
Today I shoveled snow, Neve followed,
decorating my path with piles of shit.
I did the math, she’s over seventy: my age.
She’s been the meanest dog we’ve had,
only nice to the family, only docile when curled beneath
the piano bench while my youngest daughter practiced.
Tucker was sweeter, smart enough to stay in the safety
of Neve’s outskirts until the day they fought
to blood. After that he started biting.
The car that bumped her shoulder took away years,
but she built enough muscle for long walks
around the farm. All the while growling
at the horses, nipping at the ducks.
Her affinity towards running straight at cars
is still as strong as her stench. And I can’t
chase after her anymore.
On Christmas morning two years ago, I woke to her
stomach bile sticky on the mudroom floor.
My kids cried, ready for a dead-dog holiday.
But she didn’t die, despite failing kidneys.
Instead she started barking
again, reminding us of when she was two,
shipped from North Carolina, so large
the kids demanded a “real” puppy.
We got Tucker three months later,
the scabs on his cropped ears still fresh.
She has already outlived him.
There are pictures of the two of them:
pitch black sheepdogs, herding
five children away from the road.