How to Make a Dog Live Forever [Poetry Friday]

Happy Poetry Friday! (Wondering what Poetry Friday is? Click here.)


A couple of years ago, an anthologist invited me to submit poems for a how-to anthology. None of my poems were accepted, but this one, which I wrote just to submit to the anthology, has been on my mind recently. Our beagle, Jack, has not been doing so well. Jack, whom we got from the Humane Society and who had been living on the streets, has always been somewhat of a problem child. He’s high-anxiety, has diabetes insipidus, has lots of accidents, distrusts other dogs despite classes, and has struggled to adjust to townhouse living. He can’t really be boarded anymore or go to doggy daycare when I have school visits because he stresses so much he throws up (and more). Many days, he walks so slowly it takes us 10 minutes to walk around 1 small block. We carry him up and down the stairs to take him outside. He wears man-pants (aka doggy diapers) and generates a load or two of laundry every day. Right now, he’s having trouble with digestion and with eating. I give you just some of these details to let you know I’m not exaggerating: To say he is kind of a hot mess and he makes a mess is an understatement.

But we love him. And this past week, it seemed like the end of his life is drawing near, and I’ve been heartbroken about it. Now he is doing better and making a comeback, and hopefully he’ll be with us a while longer!

But after multiple episodes of spontaneous tears at the thought of his death, I’m dedicating this poem to Captain Jack Sparrow, our struggling boy. And I’m grateful for that anthology invitation–you just never know what will lead to a poem you need to write.

How to Make a Dog Live Forever


And for lots of wonderful poetry, don’t miss the Poetry Friday Roundup with Katie at The Logonauts!




32 Responses

  1. I’ve seen your FB posts about dear Jack, am sorry for this sad time. It does go too fast. Your poem is so sweet & loving, Laura. I love the idea of the tail thumping that “heartbeat of happiness”. Yes, Love, that’s what to do.Hugs to you all, and Jack!

  2. Very touching, Laura. I know exactly how you feel, as all our dogs were pound puppies, and more than a few have had their share of idiosyncrasies, maladies, and neuroses. All my best to Jack and his loving family!

  3. I’m so sorry about Captain Jack, Laura. Our 13 year-old beagle has had a lot of issues this year, too, so I know exactly how you feel. Your poem is perfect. Like Linda, I think my favorite line is “her tail thump[s] a heartbeat of happiness for you.” Hugs to you and Jack!

  4. Fingers crossed for Captain Jack Sparrow and your family that you have time for some more selfless love. Dogs are the best at that. They bring out the best in us, too. Great poem. That thumping tail. I know it, too. And feel lucky to.

  5. Alas I’ve never had a dog, so I can only imagine how much a part of the family characters like Jack become. May you not only have many years left with your old man, but good years, too!

  6. “so she can chase the bouncing sun”… reminds me of our dogs…letting go of one…letting another one bound into our lives… That is the good thing about dogs. One will help you forget the hard times with another.
    So sorry that you are in this stage of doggy ownership. It is a tough time. Wasn’t Jack lucky to have you!

  7. What a sweetie your Jack is. I love “hot messes,” whether they are dogs or students. He’s clearly been through so much, but how lucky he is to have someone who adores him as you do. You’ve immortalized him beautifully in your poem. Sending healing thoughts and vibes his (and your) way!

    1. Thank goodness for teachers who love hot mess students. They are the ones who need what you have to offer more than anyone! Thanks for the kinds thoughts!

  8. Oh, my heart is breaking for you. We have a rescue Beagle too. He’s about as disgusting as a dog can be, but we all (including our Schnauzer) can’t imagine life without him. It’s clear from that beautiful final stanza, you’re showering Jack with what he needs: love and TLC.

  9. Laura- Such a beautiful tribute. Absolutely perfect. My mom’s dog, Boo, passed away last fall. She was a total nut case- a puppy mill mama who had seven litters before she was rescued at age 6, was terrified of men, only housebroken when she felt like it, only ate I delivered the food to the corner of her princess bed, lived with my mom for two years, then became my dog when my mom moved into a senior facility. She lived with us for 2.5 years and I was so sad to lose her. I’m saving this poem!

    1. Oh my goodness. Boo and Jack were brothers from another mother! I’m honored that this poem touched you!

  10. So…our Sophie is showing some signs of age, exacerbated by Lyme disease, and your poem brought me to the edge of tears. That last verse…hang on to it, as will I.

  11. Sweet and lucky Captain Jack. He has been loved so well…may we each love as you have. I am sorry you are losing him…and happy you had each other. Thank you for sharing these words today. I will share them with our daughter, who witnessed a dog surgery today…of another well-loved pup who did not make it. We love and then we love again. Hug. xx

    1. Oh, no! How heart-breaking. I started college planning to be a vet, but I’m not sure I could endure the losses. Glad I ended up a writer instead. Thanks, Amy!

  12. If you hadn’t prepared me for the poem, I would have been a mess reading it. The love for our pets—I don’t even know how to describe it. I love my dog so fiercely. And, she is a ten year old Border-Aussie. Ten years of fetching and needing mileage every day.….and the softest ears and the snuggles. This dog has been our family dog through the kids growing up…and starting to fly out of the nest. It’s a love so deep. Carry on, Captain Jack. You good ‘ole pup. Carry on, Laura. Love that this poem has been what you have needed. Thanks for sharing.…and letting us all be in touch with puppy love today.

  13. I am so sorry to hear about Captain Jack. He sounds like quite the dog. I am glad you found the right poem from your past to come into the present and future. I know the dogs I have loved and lost live on in my heart, as well our current dog who is getting older, too.

  14. Your poem is making me cry today as my mother-in-law is facing some serious health issues with her dedicated poodle, Petey. My own dog Charlie is a ball chaser. Right now he is barking once again at the rain. It does this every day, I tell him, but he never adjusts. We love them anyway. Thoughts and hugs for you in your battle with Captain Jack Sparrow (love his name).

  15. So. I am not a dog-lover, and even though we have cats, I don’t think I would ever feel this way about their decline. I do not really love a hot mess, truth be told. And yet–your poem is brilliant precisely because it conveys the heart of puppy love, a relationship that I won’t have but can now appreciate deeply. Peace to you and Jack–I think he’s living on love.

    1. You know, Jack is such a major pain in the patootie that we joke frequently about giving him away. And we have talked in a straightforward, unemotional way about the reality of him not having too long left, and about putting him to sleep if he is in pain, etc. I knew I loved him, but it’s also a love fully aware that he is not an easy dog to live with and that some things will be easier after he is gone. So the strength of my feelings took me by surprise all last week when he was so weak and helpless and so clearly struggling. Thanks for your honesty and kind words!

  16. Look at that noble snout and those sincere eyes! You made me teary, Laura. I carried our dog outside every day for two years. She never had diapers, but that would have made my life easier. I wrote a poem for one of our cats in her old age that was a similar sort of tribute. It’s so hard to say goodbye. xo

  17. Oh, my gosh. Thank you all for the kind comments and hugs. I’ve been tearfully but also joyfully reading them, struck by the power of love, words, and friends.

  18. So sweet, Laura. It’s true, you just never know what will lead you to a poem you need to write. There’s a comfort there. You have one special pooch!

  19. I can so relate to the goodbye portion of this, Laura. We shed many tears before we lost our JontyPuppy — and many, many more afterwards, too. Hugs and love and understanding and sympathy. It is not easy — but it’s definitely worth it for the years of joy — and the memories. I like what Heidi said — living on love. Beautiful!

  20. Oh, my. Your poem has me dripping tears into my lap! Our pets’ lives are so brief…the lives of our loved ones are so brief. Your advice at the end…just perfect.

  21. Sometimes poems come from the deepest, venerable places in our soul. Thankful that Captain Jack is getting better. May his recovery be speedy!

  22. This is a beautiful poem for your Captain jack doggie! sounds like a sweet guy. Loved this line “so she can chase the bouncing sun again and again.” And your ending with “Love.” For that’s the secret to so many things. I hope Jack continues to feel better too!

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