That given the gift of love and companionshipColin Pope seems to enjoy the work of Billy Collins and here, at least, tries to for the compressed , phrase-making lyric that makes the former Poet Laureate's alternately memorable and predictable. Collins, though, has a superior sense of balance between the lightly described particulars in his poems, the everything things he mentions, and the erudition that frequently emerges; he has the gift of making it seem that his tone is conversational, and the easing from household chores to eastern philosophy is a natural habit of mind. Pope's poem is brief, but it still borders on being a lecture on what is false in our emotional lives; 'Doggie Heaven" is, perhaps, a general indictment just this side of seeming bitter.
we soldier through our lives feeling heroic
turning back to see them following, and then
outside the pearly gates, nothing
but an unanchored line of people
that goes on forever. –
The delicate and problematic issue of humans and their pets, particularly the issue of how we project our unresolved issues upon them, is better addressed by poet Thomas Lux, in this poem:
SO YOU PUT THE DOG TO SLEEP
"I have no dog, but must be
Somewhere there's one belongs to me."
--John Kendrick Bangs
You love your dog and carve his steaks
(marbled, tender, aged) in the shape of hearts.
You let him on your lap at will
and call him by a lover's name:Liebschen,
pooch-o-mine, lamby, honey tart,
and you fill your voice with tenderness, woo.
He loves you too, that's his only job,
it's how he pays his room and board.
Behind his devotion, though, his dopey looks,
he might be a beast who wants your house,
your wife; who in fact loathes you, his lord.
His jaws snapping while you sleep means dreams
of eating your face: nose, lips, eyebrows, ears...
But soon your dog gets old, his legs
go bad, he's nearly blind, you puree his meat
and feed him with a spoon. It's hard to say
who hates whom more. He will not beg.
So you put the dog to sleep, Bad dog.
There is much to discuss here, but I think it suffices to say that Lux lets the details he arranges bring you the twisted irony of the last couple of lines. He gives you a definite a character in the second person and sticks with him, a handy way to engage our curiosity, and presents a swift, pithy history of the owner's affections with his pet and, in doing so, subtly reveals our culture's collective problem with aging and it's refusal to realistically confront the issue of death. Unexpectedly, from seeming nowhere, we find that Lux is really talking about Blaming the Victim. This is the kind of poem Pope may have wanted to write