Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Rudyard Kipling: The Power Of The Dog

I stumbled upon this last night and thought I'd share it. Those of you who can relate to the 'power of the dog' will understand. Of course there are many things those of us who love animals, and specifically dogs can relate to. Not too long ago in an email to me, author Sam Keen (Fire in the Belly; Hymns to An Unknown God) wrote: "I once had a Border Collie who loved to walk the hills. She got cancer and was incontinent and all but immoble. One day she wentout on a two hour walk with all the spryness of her youth. We returned to the house and she lay down and died. Atticus would understand."

Ah yes, the power of a dog. How they touch our hearts.

The Power Of The Dog
by Rudyard Kipling

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie--
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find--it's your own affair--'ve given your heart for a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!);
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone--wherever it goes--for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart for the dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long--
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?


Kevin said...

Thanks so much for posting that, Tom. It means so much to those of us who share our lives with our four legged companions. All the best to you and Atticus.


Thomas F. Ryan said...

Hi Kevin. Atticus and I are back in Newburyport today and I just had a conversation with a fellow who knew the 'very political' me. He asked me, "What changed? What motivated you away from politics and towards the mountains?"

"I got a dog," I told him.

Ah, the power of a dog (as you well know).