As I sat reading through one chapter of my beta manuscript, with the Saints-Falcons game on in the background, my dog, Teddy, laid next to me. He was curled up in his favorite fleece, huddled against my wife’s side. Snuggling on the couch is his favorite pastime.
Teddy’s leg kicked, and his eyes were half open, rolling back and forth erratically — he’s a deep dreamer. Wondering what a dog could dream so vividly about, I was reminded of a poem I wrote more than three years ago.
Yes — I used to write poetry on this website. “Runaway” is, in my opinion, the best poem I have ever written. I still find it poignant, which is weird to say about your own writing, but it’s true.
This poem was inspired by Teddy, my lovable Russell terrier. I may have shared the full story of how Teddy came to be a part of our family, and most people don’t believe us when we first tell them.
We found him in the woods. My now-wife, then-girlfriend actually found him huddled underneath the deck of her family’s cabin in December, in the mountains of Pennsylvania. He was well-trained, docile, and would not leave my wife’s side that day. She took him to a shelter nearby and asked that they try to find his owner.
Two weeks later, the shelter called us and said they had found no owner, but they simply could not believe that anyone would abandon such an affectionate and gentle animal. They invited us to pick him up and take him home.
January 17, 2014, the day we brought him home, is still one of the best days of my life, and I say that without a touch of sarcasm or irony.
That’s one of the unfortunate stories of the ski resort town where my in-laws like to spend their winters. A lot of animals have been dumped by vacationers passing through.
I call Teddy a Russell terrier because he is stouter and shorter than the American Jack Russell that most people are familiar with. His wiry fur and scruffy snout, as well as his well-muscled forelegs, indicate that he was bred as a hunting dog, trained to flush prey out of hiding for the larger hounds to run down or the hunter to shoot.
The only problem is: Teddy trembles at any loud, snapping noise, such as fireworks or plastic treat-throwers. My theory is that some hunter tried to train him as a flusher, but Teddy’s general timidity around gunfire made him a terrible little flusher.
I fully believe that Teddy was dumped, and the thought of it still stings sometimes, even four years since we picked him up from that shelter.
My theory has been compounded every time he anxiously paces back and forth as we pack our bags for a weekend trip. Or when he prematurely jumps in the car, and when we ask him to get out, he cowers in the corner.
Or one time, when we got him all riled up to go to the park. We had everything ready, and we let Teddy outside to head for the car. He tore down the driveway and made a wide loop back to us through the grass in excitement. I pulled the door closed behind me, and then realized I had forgotten something inside.
So I said, “Oh, wait!” and turned to open the door again. Teddy’s tail immediately dropped, and he lowered himself to the pavement as if clinging to the driveway and his fleeting hopes of going to the park.
These stories are endearing on the surface, but I can never help but think of the much deeper implications of these reactions: Teddy is absolutely terrified of being left behind, all because some loathsome human being drove him into the mountains, opened the car door, placed him on the side of the road, and drove away as he watched, scared and confused. I have no doubt in my mind that this happened to him.
Teddy loves the woods. I can see it in the way his tail perks as we enter a copse of trees, and in the almost-frantic way he sniffs the ground, as if there were just too many smells to take in all at once.
This is what inspired my poem. So I thought I’d share it for anyone who did not follow this site way back in 2014.
I don’t want to re-post the poem in its entirety, lest Emperor Google punish me, but here’s the first bit and the link to the rest:
Soulful eyes gaze, and through the wild you’ve roamed
In the snowy mountains, sheltered in the night.
What is it that you sought, once lost, once alone?
From under brush you peered and around gray stones
Huddled in the darkness — did you run in fright?
Soulful eyes gaze, and through the wild you’ve roamed.
You can read the rest here: https://redstringpapercuts.com/2014/12/26/villanelle-mud-stained-boots-sd/
Let me know what you think… of the poem or the puppy!