On the lighter side: I miss my dog

January a year ago I lost my first dog.  You can read about him here.  Recently I’ve been missing him and wouldn’t you know it I come across Rudyard Kipling’s poem, The Power of the Dog.  It’s really difficult for me to read.  I’ve tried to get through it with my eyes dry to no avail.

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
But 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 that nature permits
Are closing in asthma or tumors or fits
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers, or loaded guns.
Then you will find–its your own affair
But–you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

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

Should we grieve over lost pets?


  1. I cannot really conceive of a reason why we shouldn’t grieve over a lost pet. Am I missing something?

    • Nash

      Some people really do view pets as mere animals. They dont have the attachment that some people get. Then there are others who believe its wrong to some degree to be emotionally attached to an animal, so I thought id ask.

      • Oh, I thought perhaps that someone, somewhere had made a biblical argument against emotional attachment/grieving.

        I always greatly admired Kipling for refusing knighthood several times.

        Steinbeck loved this poem as well.

        What do you think of Kiplings often confusing references to his religious views? Do you think he made it into Heaven?

        • I actually dont know anything about Kipling. Im not much of a reader of poetry or fiction and resisted it in school. I dont avoid it, but dont seek it out either.

          What, if anything, do you know about Kipling’s religious views?

          • Well he was part of an interesting Deist Mason Order, and more than once early on quipped that he was a “God fearing Christian Atheist”.

            Some of his works contain characters making similar remarks. And the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2006 addressed the Royal Kipling Society, and remarked that he highly doubted that Kipling believed in any version of Jesus that would get him into Heaven.

  2. That is a beautiful poem. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I’ve had a variety of pets over the years: dogs, cats, birds, fish, hamsters, even a horse. I love animals, but I never formed attachments to any of them that resulted in extreme sorrow at their passing. That is not to say that I didn’t care or didn’t feel badly, but I simply never saw them as anything more than animals. The death of members of family, friends, and even some total strangers at times…that’s different.

    I do not hold with any who mistreat animals, but do not care as much for the mistreated animal as I do for the person sick enough to partake of such activity. The attention should be on what is wrong with them, rather than on suffering inflicted alone. Again, this is not to say I care nothing for the animal suffering, but that my duty as a human being is to my fellow man first and foremost, and then maybe animals as a distant second.

    A common notion, one seen in films as well (I’ve seen a few examples in Mel Gibson films), is one that goes like this: “I don’t mind animals. It’s people I can’t stand.” If there is any Biblical connection to the love of pets, it is simply that it is how we treat our fellow man that counts, and putting them second to animals doesn’t cut it.

    The Kipling poem is a great statement on the attachment people have with animals. It reads as the words of one who has definitely given his heart to a dog to tear. I can see how one who mourns the loss of a beloved pet would connect with it.

  4. Marshal,

    I couldn’t figure out a way to communicate my own thoughts on the matter – but you seem to have done it for me. You and I pretty much feel the same way on this issue.

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