The following poem is about a dog our family used to have. We named him Tip.
While growing up, I can remember
having just one favorite dog: Tippy
although we fondly called him Tip.
I have no idea how that name came to be;
that was just his name, anointed and proper.
Yeah, we had other dogs, a black dog
named Trixie who died unexpectedly
at the jaws of Davids’ monster dogs
while she followed them down the street;
and the Chihuahuas that my mom had,
little yippers that barked all the time,
and nipped at our pant legs
if we did something out of character,
which we did as rambunctious little boys.
But Tippy, now he was the dog of the place,
a collie, always wanting attention,
like some girls I know.
Tip liked to follow us, no matter
where we went, whether into the woods
to hunt pheasants or to slough where we watched
frogs leap from the bank into the murky pond,
or followed us when we rode bikes
to Spring Creek to fish or just hang out on the bank.
He often sauntered with us to the railroads tracks
and Huntings where he lay outside on the lawn
until we finished playing pool or
playing golf using croquet balls and clubs.
Often, Tip would get these hanging things,
dried up hair or something, that matted and hung
like a cowbell on cows; so we merely performed
surgery, delicate and dainty, so he looked
like a real dog without any ornaments.
For us, Tip was always around,
at dawn when we milked cows
or drove in from duck hunting—
man’s best friend or in our case,
boys’ best friend—Tip was there
to play or bark or just plain stand there,
watching us with anxious eyes,
his tail flapping back and forth, perhaps
thinking “I am here when you need me.”
Often, I think of Tip at weird times:
during the day when driving alone
along some vacant stretch of Highway 59
or see another collie whose markings seem
like Tip’s. I don’t remember
when he died or how although I should ask.
But for some reason, I don’t want to know,
don’t want to delve into something in the past,
something too long ago to dredge up.
Rather, I want to remember his bark,
his constant following us everywhere.
At those weird moments, I do look around, hoping,
just hoping, that Tip might be there,
want to rub his head on my pant leg,
just once to remind me of those forgotten times
when he jumped up on me for one last dance
in the early evening after chores were done.