Sunday, January 2, 2011

Is Your Dog a Member of the Family? #278

Photo by Amy LV

We have many animals at our house: one dog, one fish, four cats, two rabbits, nine sheep, nineteen chickens, and a bunch of inchworms that Hope just found in the snow and added to her terrarium.  Some of these animals feel like members of the family, especially our dog Cali.  She really does look like she understands us, and Hope, Georgia, and Henry use their own dog voices to interpret what she is saying.  We get some real laughs out of that.

Students -this poem came from something real in my life, something very everyday. The part that took the longest part for me to write was the ending.  I tried many different endings before I settled on the one you see above.  I tried: You may think he's just a dog/but my dog is my brother and Some dogs are only dogs/but my dog is my brother before I settled on these final two lines.  I also tried separating the last two lines from the rest of the poem, leaving a space between the first seven lines and the last two, but in the end, I decided to keep it all together.

Try this with one of your own poems.  Reread a poem aloud many times, concentrating especially on the ending.  Write three or four different endings and read your poem aloud with each of them.  Ask a friend to read your poem aloud with each of its new endings and listen to see which you like best.  You could even read your new endings to your dog.  Who knows?  Your dog might understand!

The Cybils (Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards) finalists were announced yesterday.  For some great lists of books-not-to-miss, check out the finalists  here.  A book in which I have two poems, SHARING THE SEASONS, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, is on the poetry finalist list!

(Please click on COMMENTS below to share a thought.)


  1. Like the ending you chose best! I have three dogs like this.. They love when I read to them.

  2. Deeply enjoyed this poem--and I like the ending you chose the best. This ending is very direct and it leaves extraneous others out of the picture. The focus is all on that, particular relationship.

    My son Angus insists that he knows dog-language. For his part, our dog Hoot, is one of those "talking dogs" who say things that sound like "I'd love to" and "Let's go." It isn't barking, which he does, it's more like a low volume howling song.

    Hoot certainly knows the words "outside," "walk," "snack," "ball," and "fetchuns." He pretends he has no idea what "come" means...

  3. Amy - another great ending - it has an almost Native American feel to it - very approproate. Whenever I think of dogs and language, it's funny to think that dogs know more of our language than we know of theirs (for the most part), and I'm always amused by the idea that dogs in other countries - say France, Germany, or China - speak a foreign language. They know the Chinese word for "sit" but I sure don't!

  4. Cynthia, Blythe, and Bill, Ah, my dog lovers! It is so intriguing this language-of-animals. I love seeing my daughter interpret Cali's every movement, and we get some good giggles out of it. (You'll love that, Bill!) Thank you for your thoughts on the ending. It took a while to get there. A.

  5. Amy, I'm now just looking back and catching up on your poems. I read this one with my mom, and this one really touched us. Our older dog, Billy, has a special place in our heart, for he is named after my mom's brother, who passed away the same week our little maltese was born. We've always said that my uncle Billy's spirit is in our dog, for they have similar mannerisms. We plan on printing out this beautiful poem of yours and posting it next to a picture of our puppy, Billy.

    As always, your writing inspires me!

    Julie Batelli (and her mom, Debbie!)