“Wessex”

Here is one of my favorite dog poems. It is by Thomas Hardy, who is better known for his novels than his poetry. Wessex was the name of Hardy’s dog, and it is also the scene of his novels, such as Return of the Native and Tess of the Durbervilles.

A Popular Personage at Home

'I live here: "Wessex" is my name:
I am a dog known rather well:
I guard the house but how that came
To be my whim I cannot tell.

'With a leap and a heart elate I go
At the end of an hour's expectancy
To take a walk of a mile or so
With the folk I let live here with me.

'Along the path, amid the grass
I sniff, and find out rarest smells
For rolling over as I pass
The open fields toward the dells.

'No doubt I shall always cross this sill,
And turn the corner, and stand steady,
Gazing back for my Mistress till
She reaches where I have run already,

'And that this meadow with its brook,
And bulrush, even as it appears
As I plunge by with hasty look,
Will stay the same a thousand years.'

Thus 'Wessex.' But a dubious ray
At times informs his steadfast eye,
Just for a trice, as though to say,
'Yet, will this pass, and pass shall I?' 

Not at All Cute

As an apartment dweller, there is nothing that bothers me so much as little yapper dogs who bark incessantly. Their owners arrive at a strange kind of belief that the cuteness of their pets despite all other indications pointing at the fact that excitable small furballs are creatures from hell and their constant barking is nothing more than a canine form of mental breakdown.

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC):

Some barking is normal, but when barking becomes excessive not only is it frustrating for owners, but it’s also a sign your dog may be stressed, or their needs aren’t being met. Dogs use their barking as a means of communicating with us when they need things: to go outside, to play, because they are hungry, or because they are concerned about things. There is always a reason for the barking, and it’s our job to figure out what our dogs need.

All well and good, but apartment dwellers do not seem to get the message. When I first moved into this building in 1985, having pets was forbidden. But now it seems that many prospective renters are unable to get by without a small, noisy, outraged ball of fluff.

The barking gets particularly bad when the owners are away, and the dog is left alone to howl in the empty apartment for food, walkies, love, or whatever.

When I go to the supermarket, I am met by a sign that says Service Dogs Only, but inside there are numerous people, mostly elderly women, with their “furbabies” in tow as “mental health service dogs.” It seems that people are ever more dependent on small dogs with objectionable behaviors.

I know the dog owners are really to blame, as the AKC maintains, but why is it that I have never seen a well-adjusted small dog?

Farewell to Icon

On His Last Full Day

On Sunday, I drove to Altadena to visit Bill and Kathy Korn. Also to see Icon on his last full day in this life. Icon was Kathy Korn’s seeing-eye dog, who, in his thirteenth year,had developed a serious shortage of red-blood cells. He had trouble digesting food, and his breathing was alarmingly shallow.

Although I have had no pets since my elementary school days in Cleveland in the 1950s, I have always developed friendly relationships with my friends’ pets. I can have no animals in my apartment because (1) it would be a violation of my lease and (2) I am allergic—sometimes more, sometimes less.

Whenever I visited the Korns, I looked forward to Icon’s onslaught, in which recently he has been joined by Duchess, Kathy’s current seeing-eye dog. (Icon has been retired for upwards of a year.)

Icon’s “Diploma” from the Seeing-Eye Dog Program


I got a little teary-eyed as I petted Icon for the last time on Sunday evening. I mentioned that we would see each other again in the next life. Who knows?

Dogs in Cars

An Eerie Collection of Photographs

An Eerie Collection of Photographs

I saw it on the CBS News website. It was a slideshow of photographs of dogs sitting in cars. The photographs are the work of Martin Usborne which were published in a book called The Silence of Dogs in Cars. According to the CBS website, which I recommend you visit:

Fine art photographer Martin Usborne has a unique vision of man’s best friend. His book The Silence of Dogs in Cars is a entrancingly intense emotional study based on his memory of being once once left in a car as a child. “I don’t know when or where or for how long, possibly at the age of four, perhaps outside a supermarket, probably for fifteen minutes only. The details don’t matter. The point is that I wondered if anyone would come back. The fear I felt was strong: in a child’s mind it is possible to be alone forever.”

That deep-seated fear and his affinity for dogs led to his often dark series of images where very often the canines look sad or bereft, gazing forlornly through car windows, but really show a range of emotions … not unlike humans. The cinematic photos reinforce the connection between people and dogs.

The name of the dog in the above photo is Buzz. This is my favorite photo of the lot.