How shall I not adore them, snoozing
right through the Annunciation? They inhabit
the outskirts of every importance, sprawl
dead center in each oblivious household.
They’re digging at fleas or snapping at scraps,
dozing with noble abandon while a boy
bells their tails. Often they present their rumps
in the foreground of some martyrdom.
What Christ could lean so unconcernedly
against a table leg, the feast above continuing?
Could the Virgin in her joy match this grace
as a hound sagely ponders an upturned turtle?
No scholar at his huge book will capture
my eye so well as the skinny haunches,
the frazzled tails and serene optimism
of the least of these mutts, curled
in the corners of the world’s dazzlement.
~David Graham “The Dogs in Dutch Paintings” from The Honey of Earth.
They are part of the scenery, always there, close by and near enough to touch, yet taken for granted until they are gone.
What would I do without them during times like these, when I need their steady gaze and happy wag? They look right into my eyes, trying to discern what I’m thinking and what I’ll do or say next, so I am held to a higher standard. These four-footed fluffy fellows are my conscience, reminding me my motives are always scrutinized.
They may be in the background of the old masterpieces, curled in the corners, just part of the furniture, but day in and day out their love and loyalty dazzle me, remaining front and center in my heart.