Monday, November 29, 2021

Book Review: "Dog Songs", Poems by Mary Oliver

On the last Saturday of November, I went to Eighth Day Books to buy a certain book (Thoughts Matter by Mary Margaret Funk) and find some Christmas gifts or buy some gift certificates. I ended up buying another book for myself (how shocking!): Dog Songs: Poems by Mary Oliver.

The book had been placed on one of the benches in the poetry section: it was there waiting for me because I guess I needed it.

For the first time in 30 (thirty) years, I am without a dog. Our Norwich Terrier, Brandy (Mark bought her for me 2010) died early Wednesday morning (11/24) at the Emergency Veterinary Hospital: she had held out against a cancerous growth in her right nostril for 17 months. Late Tuesday night, however, she began to hemorrhage from that nostril. It was a bloody mess and I was a mess as I had to drive her across town to that hospital.

Mary Oliver obviously loved dogs, took care of many of them, and recognized how unique each one was, and in these poems, she recalls their idiosyncrasies, their similarities, and how they became part of her life as companions. 

I read through the poems over the weekend and recognized the dogs my late husband Mark and I (and then just me since January 2019) lived with from 1991 to 2021: Ruffis, Pallie, Amanda, Joey, and Brandy: how we talked to them and pretended they talked back, how we played with them and were silly with them, how we took care of them when they got sick or injured, how we got frustrated with them when they didn't behave, and how we praised them when they were good, and how we were with them at the end of their lives, and how we remembered and yes, mourned them.

As the publisher, Penguin, describes the book:

Mary Oliver's Dog Songs is a celebration of the special bond between human and dog, as understood through the poet's relationships to the canines that have accompanied her daily walks, warmed her home, and inspired her work. Oliver's poems begin in the small everyday moments familiar to all dog lovers, but through her extraordinary vision, these observations become higher meditations on the world and our place in it.

Dog Songs includes visits with old friends, like Oliver's beloved Percy, and introduces still others in poems of love and laughter, heartbreak and grief. Throughout, the many dogs of Oliver's life merge as fellow travelers and as guides, uniquely able to open our eyes to the lessons of the moment and the joys of nature and connection.

Here's a sequence of Brandy in the leaves in November of 2015:

I'm going to wait until spring time of 2022 to get a new (rescue) dog.


  1. A Norwich! (for some reason I resumed a Westie)
    NTs are such a wonderful breed. Smart yet stubborn, as are most terriers.
    My condolences.

  2. I'm sorry about Brandy๐Ÿพ๐ŸŒŒ๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ™

  3. Mark and I had three Westies before her (Ruffis, Amanda, and Joey), and took care of his mother's Cairn Pallie too, so we've experienced a few terrier variations! Brandy was a special dog, ornery yet tractable!