This past year, I became an aunt to my brother and sister-in-law’s dog, Remi. As the mother to two kitties, I’d always counted myself a cat person, but hanging out with Rem soon had me falling head over heels in love with this dog. Before long, I was #dogstagramming with dog selfies and everything, which got me searching for dog poems. Is “dog poetry” a thing? Oh, yeah!
Turns out, many poets have taken up the pen to capture the essence of man’s best friend. In these poems about dogs, a variety of poets tackle distilling fido’s spirit into verse, with quirky, poignant, and happy dog poems among them. From Emily Dickinson to Pablo Neruda, this selection of poets demonstrate the range of ways we relate to dogs in these short dog poems. And if you’re looking for rainbow bridge poems, skip to the end for a few of the best dog poems for those in grief.
1. “A little Dog That Wags His Tail” by Emily Dickinson (excerpt)
A little Dog that wags his tail
And knows no other joy
Of such a little Dog am I
Reminded by a Boy
2. “The Dog” by Ogden Nash (excerpt)
The truth I do not stretch or shove
3. “Little Dog’s Rhapsody into the Night” by Mary Oliver (read by Mary Oliver)
4. “The New Dog” by Linda Pastan (excerpt)
this manic animal
of my old simplicities-
5. “Bereavement” by Kevin Young (excerpt)
I’ve begun to think of them
as my father’s other sons,
as kin. Brothers-in-paw.
My eyes each day thaw.
One day the water cuts off.
Then back on.
6. “A Dog in San Francisco” by Michael Ondaatje (excerpt)
Sitting in an empty house
with a dog from the Mexican Circus!
O Daisy, embrace is my only pleasure.
Holding and hugging my friends. Education.
A wave of eucalyptus. Warm granite.
These are the things I have in my heart.
Heart and skills, there’s nothing else.
7. “Bitch Is A Word I Hear A Lot” by Kim Parko (excerpt)
I hate the word, and I guess that’s why it is said?
People love to hurt one another.
It is what makes us human.
I do love dogs.
They don’t seem to be evil unless humans make them that way.
8. “The Dogs at Live Oak Beach, Santa Cruz” by Alicia Ostriker
9. “Lost Dog” by Ellen Bass (excerpt)
Every time I look at him, the wide head
resting on outstretched paws,
joy does another lap around the racetrack
of my heart. Even in sleep
when I turn over to ease my bad hip,
I’m suffused with contentment.
10. “Waiting for Happiness” by Nomi Stone (excerpt)
Dog knows when friend will come home
because each hour friend’s smell pales,
air paring down the good smell
with its little diamond. It means I miss you
11. “Dog” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (read by Bill Murray)
— Entertainment Weekly (@EW) March 18, 2018
12. “Dog Around the Block” by E.B. White (excerpt)
Dog around the block, sniff,
Hydrant sniffing, corner, grating,
Sniffing, always, starting forward,
Backward, dragging, sniffing backward,
Leash at taut, leash at dangle,
Leash in people’s feet entangle—
13. “When Buying A Dog” by Jay Ward (performed by Jay Ward)
14. “Dharma” by Billy Collins (excerpt)
The way the dog trots out the front door
without a hat or an umbrella,
without any money
or the keys to her doghouse
never fails to fill the saucer of my heart
with milky admiration.
15. “I’ll Never Forget A Dog Named Beau” by Jimmy Stewart (read by Jimmy Stewart)
16. “we have no choice in the bodies that hold us” by Holly Amos (excerpt)
Thing of dirt and water and oxygen marked by thinking
and reacting and a couch
one may or may not be permitted
to sleep on. He may not permit me
to touch him or to take the bone
17. “A Dog Has Died” by Pablo Neruda, Translated from the Spanish by Alfred Yankauer (excerpt)
No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he’d keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.
18. “Half Border and Half Lab” by Heather McHugh (excerpt)
Customs and chemistry
made a name for themselves
and it was Spot. He’s gone to some
utopos now, the dirty dog, doctor of
crotches, digger of holes. Your airy clarities be damned,
he loved our must and our mistakes — why hit him, then,
who did us good? He’s dead, he ought
to be at home. He’s damned
put out, and so am I.