By Charlie SacchettiBy Charlie SacchettiBy no means would I call myself a lover of poets or poetry. In my freshman poetry course, at Temple University, I struggled greatly trying to understand guys like James Joyce, e. e. cummings and John Keats. To boot, my professor was one of those “way out” fellows who had a striking resemblance to Maynard G. Krebs along with a very similar demeanor. I could barely understand him! When you take all of this into account, you could see how this course would not be a favorite of a baseball-playing accounting major. As years went by, my disinterest in any poem continued until I heard talk show host Bill Bennett give an emotionally charged reading of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Power of the Dog,” on the day that Bennett’s pet died. As I remember it, I believe it was about 2005.
It struck me then and it struck me even more when we had to put our pet Yorkie to sleep in 2015, at the age of 16. In 1999 my wife Luann and I decided that our daughter, Rosie, deserved a reward for several reasons. She had fought tenaciously to emerge victorious in a multi-year legal battle against our town’s board of education and had been a gigantic help to our family, stepping in to assume some extra duties as her mother embarked on the “student teaching” part of her advanced degree in education. Rosie wanted a Yorkshire terrier. I went to work to find a suitable breeder. A customer of mine told me about a lady in Reading, Pennsylvania, who bred Yorkies in her home.
He told me they were bred lovingly, in a family atmosphere. I have always believed that the best way to find a good answer for something you need is to “pick the brains” of people who you respect and hold their answers in high esteem. So, following his suggestion, in November, we traveled the 75 miles to the home/kennel and met the young mother, her 2-year-old in arms, and checked out the pups. She had only two Yorkies left from the litter of eight. Rosie picked up the male and he greeted her in a very special way.
He licked her on the face and peed on her coat. How can you turn down a pup who is that creative? Rosie had found her Yorkie. She named him “Inky” after her favorite Phillies player, Pete Incaviglia.As time went by, we experienced the wonderful blessing of a pet that simply brightened our day and made us happy. Our pup was paper-trained in and raised in a crate. He took to doing his business very easily and whenever he had to go, he would run into his cage and go on the newspaper. Of course, a loud “good boy” and a treat followed each visit to his Philadelphia Inquirer restroom. I remember the day I was working at my computer, lining up my sales calls for the next day. I had placed some customer account papers on the floor next to my chair. The pup ran into my office to say hello and I stopped momentarily to pick him up and pet him. To show his appreciation for my greeting, he proceeded to pee on the business papers, no doubt noticing that they were indeed made of paper and therefore “fair game.” What could I do? I said, “good boy” and gave him a treat.
After all, I had plenty of blank account papers, and he just did what he was taught. I did, however, from that day forward keep my paperwork on my desk.Every dog owner has stories of the cute little things that their pet did. We are no different. He used to intentionally push his toys under the couch so that we would have to get them out. This meant that our little guy (4½ pounds fully grown) would now have a playmate holding his toy which just had to be thrown and retrieved. He always cooperated when Rosie wanted to dress him up for his birthday, Christmas, Halloween or for any other occasion. He was a real ham. The thing I remember most was when we would announce that it was bedtime, he would run into our bedroom and go under our bed as if to hide. He knew he had to sleep in his cage, in another room, but he figured it was worth a shot to try to stay up, just like any little kid would do. The joy and the blessing lasted for 16 years.We made the extremely difficult but proper decision to put Inky to sleep two days after his 16th birthday. Kipling’s poem filled my head as we took our last ride together to the Mount Laurel animal hospital.
With all three of us petting him and with the support of a truly sympathetic staff, he quietly and painlessly left this earth. Kipling questioned why one should “give your heart to a dog to tear.” If you have a dog that you love and enjoy, you already know the answer. If heaven is as great as I think it is, God has to have a section for us to throw a ball or two or maybe even leave some old business papers lying around! IAH
Charlie Sacchetti is the author of two books, “It’s All Good: Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change,” and “Knowing He’s There: True Stories of God’s Subtle Yet Unmistakable Touch.” Contact him at email@example.com
The Power of the Dog
There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And 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 which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find — it’s your own affair
— But … you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.
When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!).
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone — wherever it goes — for good,
You will 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?
– Rudyard Kipling