Dogs bring a lot of humor, love, and joy into their owners’ lives. They can also provide a never-ending source of inspiration for painters, sculptors, and songwriters. Our pets leave such a long-lasting impact on our lives that it’s not hard to see why they’d inspire us.
Take the classic Dogs Playing Poker paintings, for example. This series of 18 paintings by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge is instantly recognizable and beloved by many. In Tokyo, a statue of a dog named Hachiko was erected in the 1920s to remember how he would walk to the train station every day to wait for his owner. Dolly Parton’s “Crackerjack” is a sentimental song she penned about her childhood best friend Crackerjack, a stray dog she rescued.
Writers, too, can be influenced by the animals in their lives. Read on to find some of our favorite poems written about dogs.
The Top 12 Most Popular Poems About Dogs
1. The Power of the Dog by Rudyard Kipling
The Power of the Dog is a beautiful poem about the important relationship we develop with our canine companions. It touches on the sad reality that our pets are only in our lives a short while but how much joy they bring in their few short years on Earth, as well as the sorrow that follows their passing (“Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware of giving your heart to a dog to tear.”)
2. A Dog Has Died by Pablo Neruda
A Dog Has Died is a heart-wrenching poem that explores the relationship between animals and humans as well as companionship. Neruda introduces his dog to the reader, describing how he was never overly affectionate and how he marched to the beat of his own drum. Towards the end of the poem, the writer describes how much joy his dog took in everyday things and how a dog’s “shameless spirit” is something he envies.
3. Dog by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Dog may at first seem like a poem about seeing the world through the eyes of a dog, but upon further reflection, you’ll find a deeper and philosophically complex poem about free will and religion. While this poem is ultimately not about dogs in the end, we do like the imagery and how Ferlinghetti shows how differently dogs view the world.
4. To Flush, My Dog by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
To Flush, My Dog is a 21-line poem that depicts how much gratitude and love Browning, the owner of Flush the cocker spaniel, had for her dog. Browning describes the appearance of her dog (“Like a lady’s ringlets brown, flow thy silken ears adown”) and his playful and warm demeanor. She refers to her dog as her “loving friend” and describes his loyalty.
5. My Dog Practices Geometry by Cathryn Essinger
My Dog Practices Geometry is a lighthearted poem that explores the themes of animal and human relationships and writing. Essinger uses a lot of personification in this piece to give human qualities to a dog. Personification is a poetic device that, according to Essinger herself, many poets do not like to use. This poem uses it beautifully, creating a wonderful image of the poet’s dog as she chases creatures in her backyard.
6. Epitaph to a Dog by Lord Byron
Epitaph to a Dog was written in honor of the poet’s Newfoundland dog, Boatswain who had just passed away from rabies. This moving tribute touches on human nature and the afterlife. Byron ponders the fact that some people believe that dogs’ lives carry less weight than humans. He says that dogs are “unhonour’d” and “unnotic’d” and even “deny’d in Heaven.” This poem is actually inscribed on Boatswain’s tomb which, funny enough, is bigger than his owners.
7. Lost Dog by Ellen Bass
Lost Dog is a poem that explains what it’s like to lose a dog and then have it return to you. It explores animal-human relationships and the deep connection we make with our pets. The author’s dog, as you might have guessed by the title, is missing in the first half of the poem. He does eventually find his way home, and Bass says that every time she looks at him “joy does another lap around the racetrack of my heart” which is a feeling we think every pet owner can relate to.
8. The Dog by Ogden Nash
Not every poem needs to be full of poetic devices and underlying themes. The Dog is a four-line poem that cuts straight to the chase, which is that dogs are full of love. But, according to Nash, they are the most “lovingest” when they’re wet.
9. Mother Doesn’t Want a Dog by Judith Viorst
Mother Doesn’t Want a Dog is a humorous look into a mother-child relationship when the child so desperately wishes for a pet that the mother outright refuses. The poem states that Mother says that dogs are smelly, loud, and messy. But what Mother doesn’t know is that the child narrating the poem is about to bring home a snake instead.
10. The Ballad of Rum by Peter R. Wolveridge
The Ballad of Rum takes a look at the bond a family can make with their pet. Rum was a stray dog who wandered into the author’s garden one day and was accepted as a family member. Rum had to pull his weight at home, guarding against cats, toads, cattle, and horses. Rum wasn’t the best guard dog when it came to humans, however, as he thought everyone wanted to be his friend. This worked in the author’s favor when a burglar creeps into the yard and Rum, “delighted with company this time of the night” runs to the burglar to get pets but accidentally spooks him away.
11. Dharma by Billy Collins
Dharma is a poem that takes a deep look at the purpose of life and the relationships between humans and animals. Collins speaks about how envious he is that dogs live their lives unencumbered by the things that take up so much time in our minds. He says that dogs trot out the front door without a second thought, “off she goes into the material world with nothing but her brown coat.” Dogs don’t seek out possessions or have any other goal in life than “following only her wet nose.”
12. A Dog Called Beau by James Stewart
A Dog Called Beau is a heart-touching poem about the companionship we find in our animals and how deeply their deaths affect our lives. Stewart, a famous actor, wrote this piece about his golden retriever Beau who became terminally ill while Stewart was away filming a movie. The beginning of the poem introduces the reader to Beau and his somewhat stubborn yet humorous personality. The poem takes a turn near the end when the author reveals that his beloved pet has passed and how heartbreaking it is to go on when our best friends are gone.
Many poets have picked up a pen to capture the essence of their beloved pets, and we feel honored to have brought just a small selection of these beautifully worded pieces to you today. We hope that you’ve enjoyed reading the above 12 poems and that you maybe had a laugh at them or felt moved by them in some capacity.
Featured Image Credit: Edward Indy, Shutterstock
Quoted from Various Sources
Published for: WATPFC