As part of the 2019 Dear Poet project, students around the country and the world wrote letters to Ellen Bass in response to a video of her reading her poem “Lost Dog” aloud. Ellen Bass wrote letters back to four of these students; their letters and her replies are included below, along with several additional responses from students.
Ellen Bass also wrote a response to all of the participants of this year's Dear Poet project.
Thank you for your letters in response to my poem, “Lost Dog.” It’s been said that a poem begins with the writer and ends with the reader. Your letters make me feel like this poem has now made its full cycle. I’m gratified that it’s touched a place in your hearts, your imaginations, your lives.
And I am touched by all you’ve shared with me—it’s a gift to me to hear about your own dogs (and cats), your friends and families, your loves and losses.
I’m honored by your close reading of this poem and delighted to hear about the images that are vivid to you, the lines that most speak to you, the way you enter the poem and recognize your own experience in mine. You’ve brought up deep questions and realizations about loss and happiness and what it means to appreciate the people and creatures we love. You are all so attentive and insightful!
Some of you mention that you like to write or hope to be writers and I want to encourage you to pursue your dreams. When I was in high school I also loved to write, but it seemed totally unrealistic to me that I could become a writer. Wanting to be a writer sounded like wanting to be a movie star—a fantasy. But here I am, a writer after all. I believe that listening to your deepest, truest desires is as good a compass as any. So I hope you will keep writing.
Thank you again for reading my poem and for your letters.
Ellen Bass reads "Lost Dog" for Dear Poet 2019.
Dear Ms. Ellen Bass,
My name is Sabrina, and I am currently an eighth grader in Long Island, New York. I am an aspiring poet and writer, and initially derived my love of poetry from writing song lyrics. I especially love beautiful imagery in writing, which is why your touching poem, “Lost Dog,” really struck a chord within me. The moving imagery and the idea of loss kept me engaged while reading your poem.
Is this poem based off of real life? If so, what breed is your dog and how old is he? I really admire how much the narrator loves her dog. I can relate because I have a two-year-old grey tabby cat, Daisy, who’s obsessed with spiders and hair ties. But, I still love her unconditionally! About two years ago, I even wrote two novels about her adventures in a fantasy island in the sky. She is truly precious to me! Each time my violin teacher exits the front door, Daisy runs outside, but she always comes back within five minutes. Although it’s such a short time, my heart always leaps in fear, then calms down each time she comes back in, pawing and meowing at my leg, demanding pets and kisses. Because she squints her eyes each time she returns home and plops down in her bed, purring, I can tell she enjoys the warmth of her home as much as I do. This always makes me happy, no matter what kind of day I’m having.
After watching you read your poem in a video on the Dear Poet Project 2019 website, some questions came into my mind: When you read your poem to an audience, does it help you interpret your own work differently than when you were writing it? I’ve noticed that reading a story, poem, or any piece of writing out loud is truly different from reading it silently, even if it is your own work. I heard the passion in your voice as well as the small smile at the end, when you said, “If I could lose him like this every day/ I’d be the happiest woman alive.” I also wonder, in general, when you read your poetry out loud, do you experience any new or different emotions than when you wrote it?
What first caught my eye in your poem was the second line, “damp grasses fragrant with anise and mint,” which is a gorgeous piece of imagery. I could feel the grass tickling my ankles and smell the strong spices and herbs. Fun fact: my mother uses anise daily especially when she cooks oyster mushrooms and bitter melon together with BBQ sauce! This line really awakened my sense of smell, which made me feel as if I was the one standing in the moist grass. I enjoyed another piece of imagery, “no sleek/ black silhouette with tall ears rushing/ toward me through the wild radish.” This allowed me to feel the tense silence in the air that followed the absence of the dog and the growing black hole in the narrator’s heart. The radish was another detail that struck out to me. Although it is only one word, the distinguishable, bright pink vegetable helped me picture the surroundings in my head. It really is cool how one word in poetry could stand out so much, and depending on the context, can make a huge difference in the interpretation of the poem!
The repeated “no’s” and “not’s” also contributed to the panic I felt when I read the poem. If the woman in the poem is you, was there a heavy uneasiness on your heart when the dog ran away? The poem really captures that building sense of dread you feel when you fear you’ve lost something. I felt my heart tightening with every image until, thankfully, he returned to his cozy home. This leads me to my next question: if you've ever lost a pet, did you feel the same way?
Another detail I loved was, “Now he sprawls on the deep red rug, not dead” because of how the red-colored rug and the word “dead” are connected. The red could be a symbol of blood, which then brings me to sigh in relief since the dog is on a rug, not in a pool of blood. Thank goodness!
In addition, the lines, “joy does another lap around the racetrack/ of my heart” allowed me to feel the excitement, relief, and euphoria the narrator experienced. This reminded me of a dog or any elated animal chasing their tails and running around in circles, which is an adorable image that made me want to just jump up, squeal, and hug the dog!
The entire time I was reading the poem, it was as if I was in a roller coaster and slowly creeping up the steep slope, chunka-chunka, until the ending. Normally, when anyone thinks of loss, they would only connect it to being distraught and grieving. But instead, the narrator brought out the happiness from the loss and stated, “If I could lose him like this every day/ I’d be the happiest woman alive.” To me, these last two lines were the climax of your poem. They showed me that the woman recognized the relief of her dog coming back home more than the pain and fear from his absence.
Was it challenging to write about a poem where happiness was being brought out from loss? Again, if this dog is your pet, how long did it take you to realize that the relief and contentment you felt was actually ultimately derived from the anxiety and fear of losing your dog? Did this irony recurrently cross your mind throughout your process of writing this moving poem?
“Lost Dog,” has truly opened up my mind to new ways of interpreting loss. The ending left me in a state of wonder because of how happiness and loss are two very opposite words. Yet, the way you used them made them seem very connected, like two different colored threads tightly interwoven to create an alluring pattern in a rug.
Thank you for writing such a delightful and mesmerizing poem. You have truly taught me to view loss and happiness with a different eye, and I am forever grateful for that!
Sending warm wishes and hugs,
Long Island, NY
Thank you for your insightful letter. I couldn’t ask for a more thoughtful reader than you! Your comments are so attentive to the images, the language, and the complex realizations about loss and happiness.
I’m glad to hear that you are writing your own poems and stories. With an intelligent and sensitive mind like yours, you have the ability to become a fine writer. I hope you will continue to follow that path.
Now I will try to answer your good questions.
Yes, the poem is based in real life. I did lose our dog exactly like this. I wrote this poem shortly afterward. That was many years ago now when he was young. He was a mutt—part black lab, part shepherd, and probably part many other things. He was a big (90 pound) handsome dog. He lived to be fourteen years old and died about four years ago. We have his photo in the living room and his collar and tag sit there with the photo. Although I miss him, mostly I’m grateful to have had him so long. I like hearing about your tabby, Daisy. We have a cat named Missy who is also dear to me.
Yes, when I read my poems out loud, I do experience new and different emotions than I did when I wrote the poem. There are times I’m surprised by how much I feel when I read the poem to someone. I think this is about the power of having a witness. Once when I was teaching a poetry workshop we all wrote poems and I wrote one too. Then we shared our poems. Mine was about a time shortly after I was divorced when I had to force my young daughter to go with her father and she didn’t want to go. When I wrote the poem, I was quite calm—just focused on writing the poem. But when I read it, I started crying—really sobbing! Fortunately my students were adults and fortunately I was not overly embarassed about crying, but I was totally surprised!
Your question about whether it was challenging to write a poem where happiness came from loss is a deep one. Not only is it at the heart of his poem, but I think it’s a thread (using your beautiful and apt imagery) that weaves through our lives. Loss can open our hearts and awaken us to the beauty and love that still remains.
When I wrote the poem I didn’t know what the end would be. This is usually true of my writing. I knew I wanted to write about how frightened I was when I thought he was lost and how happy I was to have him back, but the irony you ask about didn’t come to me until I wrote my way to the end of the poem. Writing a poem, for me, is an exploration of something that I want to investigate and I’m always trying to be open to whatever the discovery will be.
Thank you again, Sabrina. And thank you for those warm wishes and hugs which I send back to you.
Dear Ellen Bass:
My name is Margaret. I am a sophomore in Houston, Texas. I am writing to you because your poem, "Lost Dog,” really spoke to me. The first time reading “Lost Dog” I was confused. How could losing something so important to you make you the happiest woman alive? I was so intrigued by the intense curiosity your poem gave me. I needed to investigate and interpret the deeper meaning. I tried to decipher the lines on my own, but, after a while, the lines blurred and molded together, and I gave in to my weary eyes. But your poem just kept calling me and bringing me back in. I had to learn.
What I found in your poem that really took me back was the fact that you never call your dog a dog in the poem. The reader just used the title to infer what was really lost. In your poem, you refer to your dog as a “black silhouette with tall ears rushing / toward me through the wild radish”. You write as if you're scared, almost terrified, of it. This reminds me of the metaphor that depression is like a big scary black dog; it follows you and never leaves. Although I do not have depression, some of my friends and family have been diagnosed and take medication. One has been suffering for about six years, and I try and help as much as possible. My friend's diagnosis made this poem have a truly deep and personal meaning to me.
Reading this poem brought back the memories of when I would try and take care of them. When I first met someone with depression, I was unclear what the sickness was or how I could help them at all. I had only known their happy and bubbly personality so this change; I was heartbroken over their new nature. So, I started doing research and figuring anyway to help or make them feel even slightly better. I tried so many things to stay involved in their life and so many things to help: writing small, short letters or just little notes and talking to them as much as I could. It seemed asinine to keep persisting in my involvement in their life, but I was advised to keep doing so. Seeing someone I love so much suffer so greatly really took a toll on me. After about six months of constant care, I was tired. I wanted a vacation or for them to have some type of breakthrough. For about three years they had little improvement with only desultory, not organized, breakthroughs. But in that fourth year, we all started to see the light come back to them. I was so happy and proud that they had come this far! They had really started to make progress. In my eyes, they were glowing, but I knew it would still take time. Now, about six years later from the diagnosis, they are doing so much better.
Your poem reminded me about the constant struggle that people with mental health issues face every day. It is a constant push and pull of flooding emotions. Your last two lines—“If I could lose him like this every day, / I'd be the happiest woman alive”—just hit me with the same feeling of seeing my friend's progress for the first time; I feel joy for their progress they are finally moving on, but I also feel heartache because I know it will not last forever. My love for them has only grown stronger during these six years of pain and struggle. I love that they have come this far and are still moving forward. When I saw the light start to trickle back in, I was the happiest woman alive.
Thank you so much for writing this poem. Through my careful analysis, I found the poem speaks and touches a lot of people. Mental health is an issue so many people face every day, but one must find reassurance in healing. There is hope.
Thank you so much for your honest letter and your very personal response to the image of the dog in my poem. This is the beauty and magic of poetry, I think. That each person brings their own life to the poem and it’s a different poem for each reader.
Thank you also for sharing about your experience with friends and family who are suffering with depression. You describe the challenges of being a supportive friend when the recovery can go on so long and seem so intractable. It’s hard for the person suffering not to become discouraged and it’s also hard for the helping person to feel that the small things she does are really helping. But you are such a smart and good-hearted person to do research on what helps and to take the advice you’re given to reach out in all the ways you have. It’s true that doing these things that may seem insignificant is not insignificant at all. Staying connected is the deepest thing we can give to each other.
I’m glad to hear that the person or people you were close to are recovering and doing much better. And that seeing that makes you “the happiest woman alive.”
I also just want to say something that you probably know—that it’s natural for the helping person to need a vacation, to want a break. It’s clear that you are a devoted and loving friend. I hope that you take care of yourself as well as others.
Lastly, I just want to echo your affirmation that there is, indeed, hope. And I feel hopeful just reading your letter. You are such a kind and caring soul.
Dear Ms. Ellen Bass,
Your poem “Lost Dog” is one that truly spoke to me when I was reading it. As an owner of a pet myself, I found myself relating to your poem quite a bit. Although I do not let my dog out unattended as I live in a rural area with many wild animals such as foxes, hawks, and bears, there are still times where I cannot find her and worry that she has managed to escape and is fending for herself in the wilderness. This fear of what could have happened to her is unbearable, and the only cure is inevitably finding her after frantically searching the entire house.
The language you use in your poem is also incredibly descriptive. From the “faint tinkling / of tag against collar,” to “damp grasses fragrant with anise and mist,” your language helps me feel like I am in the exact situation that you describe. I can feel the fear when you cannot find the dog, and my heart overflows with joy when he is found to be lying on the ground inside the whole time.
Your poem is centered around how we feel when we cannot find our pets, so I have one question for you: Do you think our pets feel the same way when we leave the house and eventually come back?
Thank you for your letter about my poem “Lost Dog.” As a writer, it means a lot to me that you felt like my poem described your experience, as well as mine. That’s what writing is all about for me—reaching across distance and time to share our lives.
Your question is thought-provoking—do our pets feel the same way we feel when we can’t find them when we leave the house and then come back? I really don’t know the answer to that, but certainly animals think and feel more than many people give them credit for. I wrote this poem many years ago and our dear dog has since died (he lived to fourteen years old which is a long time for a big dog and although I miss him, I feel happy that we had the pleasure of his company for so long), but I remember that he certainly didn’t like to see suitcases appear. He knew just what a suitcase meant! And he was afraid to be by himself overnight, so we always had someone stay with him. When we returned he was joyous, but as long as the person who stayed with him was someone who liked dogs, he was quite content to be with them. There’s a song written by Stephen Stills called “Love the One You’re With,” and that was our dog’s motto.
I find it fascinating to read about how animals think and what they feel. There are many wonderful books about that. One is Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel by Carl Safina. Another is The Dog Lover Unit, by Rachel Rose, which is about Canadian police dogs and the police who work with them.
I hope you have many happy years with your dog. And that you continue to read poetry.
Dear Ellen Bass,
Our assignment was to write a letter to a poet. I wrote the letter and it was rejected by my ELA teacher, but i still love your poem so I am still going to write the letter.
My name Is Walter and I am from Deagu, South Korea. I live in Beijing, China, and I am in 8th grade and I read your poem “Lost Dog.”
I am Korean lives in China. I came to China 10 years ago because of my father’s business. Even though Beijing has very bad air quality, it is still an amazing city to live in.
Our school consists of half native speakers and half foreign language speakers, and I think our class learned many skills throughout the poem unit. I am thankful to all the chancellors that gave us the chance to read amazing poems.
I am one of the two students that chose to work on your poem “Lost Dog.” While reading your poem, I could feel the anxiousness that you felt when you “lost” the dog. With the description that you wrote down, I could visualize the empty streets and grey sky.
I would like to share my interpretation of your poem. Your poem “Lost Dog” is meant to express the emotions and the feelings which come through the sequence of lost and found. You described the feeling of waiting as “It's just getting dark, fog drifting in, damp grasses fragrant with anise and mint, and though I call his name.”(2-4) This phrase describes the emotion that you felt after the day is getting dark, which shows that you were very worried and called the name of the dog but there was no answer.
It shows your miserable feeling when you thought that your beloved pet was lost andthat the only thing that you could do is to wait. This poem was written to describe the feeling of waiting.
At last, I have some questions about your poem “Lost Dog.” Did the main character find the true values of her dog after losing it? If that is true, why didn’t she notice the true value before? I once also owned a dog before, but it ran away from me and was never to be found again. Like you, anxiety rose to my lungs when my dog vanished into the woods. When I returned home with nothing behind me, I knew that I would undertake much of the pressures from my parents and my inner self. Even until now, I would still feel guilty about my careless manners and my ignorance. I could really connect my experiences with your poem, thus why I am inquiring so many questions. If you could answer all of them, I would really be the happiest man alive, just like what you said in the poem.
Thank you for writing to me about my poem “Lost Dog.” I admire that you didn’t let the rejection stop you from sending your letter to me! There are so many obstacles in life, but often there’s a way to move forward anyway. Langston Hughes, the great American Poet and social activist, wrote, “I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you wan tto go, if you really want to go.” I’m glad you really wanted to write to me!
Thank you too for your interpretation of this poem. You’re exactly right about how frightened I was when I thought my dog was lost. I’m so sorry that you also lost your dog and that he was never found. I hope you don’t continue to blame yourself too much. It’s good to learn from our mistakes and I’m sure that if you ever have a dog again, you’ll be very careful. But we all make mistakes or feel that we didn’t do well enough and learning to forgive ourselves is important.
Of all the letters I’ve received, your question is the deepest and the most challenging to answer. I am the main character of the poem, so I’ll talk about myself directly (though you are right not to assume that it’s me since in a poem we can speak as anyone). You ask if I found the true value of my dog after losing him and if so, why didn’t I notice the true value before?
I felt the true value of my dog intensely in the experience of losing and then finding him. Being so frightened and worried, followed by the relief of having him safe, made me pay attention to how much I loved him. I knew that I loved him very much before he was lost and found, but as with many other experiences in life, I didn’t feel the intensity of that love all the time. Most of the time I, like other people, go about my day without truly being aware of everything marvelous around me—and in me. For example, most of us move through our lives without noticing how fortunate we are to have two legs and to be able to walk or how amazing a tree is, how it pulls water up through its trunk and releases it from the pores in its leaves—or how the tree gives off oxygen that we need to breathe! If we paid close attention all the time to everything that has true value, we would always be in awe. That would be a wondrous state! And one that is worth trying to move closer to. But I’m just an ordinary person and I don’t always pay that much attention. Writing poetry, though, helps me to wake up and notice and be grateful—that’s the main reason that I write.
All best wishes,
Dear Ellen Bass,
My name is Lucas, and I’m in 7th grade. Personally, I have a love for dogs. I have just recently convinced my parents to get one. I used to have a dog. His name was Malcolm, and he was a Chocolate Lab. He was a sweet dog, too. When I read your poem, it made me think whether I ever wanted my dog to get lost for a little bit, too. When Malcolm was alive, I lived in London, and in London there is a lot to do. I lived across a park where there was a playground, a field that we played soccer on, and lots of trees. We brought my dog there frequently. He would go in the trees and look for a squirrel or something. I usually went after school where it was getting dark out, so it was hard to see far in the London mist. We took a flashlight with us every time we went out there at night so we could look for him. I thought about this some more, and I don’t think that I really ever wanted to lose my dog. I thought some more and wondered, maybe my Mom or Dad did? Maybe once or twice they thought about not turning on the flashlight and just going home? Your poem made me think about my childhood some more and, nowadays, I don’t get to do that so often. Thank you for that.
Your made me think about one other thing - words. At the moment I’m studying for a big test coming up that gets me into high school. It is called the SSAT. Most of the SSAT focuses on vocabulary. When I read your poem, there were a lot of words I didn’t know. So I searched them up and put them onto notecards to study from. On the SSAT there is also a essay section where we have to choose between a creative prompt and general question. I used to feel more confident about the general question because when it came to the creative prompt, I just didn’t know what to write about. Reading your poem makes me feel a lot more confident with the story answer. Your poem reminds me that I can write about anything. So again, thank you. I truly hope I can hear from you again, and I hope you can keep writing poems that inspire people to think and to know that anyone can write about anything.
Glen Head, NY
Dear Ellen Bass,
Hello, my name is Emilio. I am writing to you today because of the Dear Poet Project. I chose to write this letter to you because a few years ago on Christmas Eve my old dog ran away. The weather outside was very warm this particular winter, but the next day the windchill was below 0ºF. We printed out and put up lost dog posters but could not find her. A few weeks later we came to the grim realization that she was no longer alive.
My family and I were not as sad as we thought we would be because she was a smart, old dog. We believe that she knew she only had limited time left on this earth so she ran away. Maybe to spare us the tears, but maybe she just wanted to run away one more time and feel the cold rush of air and the thrill as she was running. Either way we will always miss her and save a special place for her in our heart.
Listening to your story I could feel the apprehension of waiting for the dog to come back after expending all of your energy to chase it down and call for it.This poem meant a lot to me because it clearly displays the emotions of a dog owner as their dog runs away. I like to think that our dog Sierra is still looking out for us, running wild, and chasing after squirrels.
Dear Ms. Bass,
My name is Amara and I am a 9th grader from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I wanted to reach out to you regarding your poem "Lost Dog.” I really enjoyed this poem and I wanted to share my thoughts and a few questions with you.
Firstly, I really liked the length of this poem. Poetry can be extremely abstract, and when the work is fairly long, I sometimes find it hard to digest all of the writing. However, your poem was a perfect length for a reader such as myself. Secondly, I enjoyed the imagery you used in your writing. I really felt like I was in the poem itself, which I think is a crucial aspect of good writing. When you wrote “joy does another lap around the racetrack of my heart”, I could physically feel that. For me, that is the feeling of sudden excitement, when your heart rate picks up out of nowhere because you’ve just been hit with a wave of happiness. I could also see the dark, foggy environment and I could feel the damp air. I could hear the familiar tinkling of a dog collar, or lack thereof, in this case, and I could picture the dog.
At first, I imagined the dog to be a black labrador from the description of a “sleek black silhouette”. However, as soon as the dog was said to have “tall ears” an image of my sister’s roommate’s dog immediately popped into my head. His name is Bozeman and he’s one of the cutest dogs I know. I attached a picture of him. Is this what the dog in your poem looked like?
I liked when you wrote “Now he sprawls on the deep red rug, not dead, not stolen by a car of West Cliff Drive.” I have a clear image of the dog laying down with a smug expression on his face, as if escaping and causing a great of worry was no big deal, because, after all, he found his way home. I also liked how you included two possible worst-case scenarios. I think it was a nice touch, as I am someone who resorts to thinking worst-case in a crisis.
However, I was most intrigued by the last two lines of the poem. The majority of the poem paints an uplifting story with a happy ending. But readers are left on what I can only describe as somewhat of a cliffhanger when you wrote “If I could lose him like this everyday, I’d be the happiest woman alive.”
These finals words are quite eery and sad. If this was a true story about you, did this dog run away often? Did he run away and never come back? Did he pass away? Again, if this is a true story, can you tell me about this dog and what made him special to you?
Finally, I explored your profile on the Poets website and saw a bit more of your work. Your book The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse caught my eye. I myself have never been the victim of such a trauma, however, a member of my immediate family has. Although I never felt the direct pain that she felt, the raw emotion had a ripple-effect on my surrounding family. It was truly a hard time for all of us. However, I believe that things such as your book create a sense of community among victims and survivors of sexual abuse, which is crucial for some individual’s healing process, to know that they are not alone.
My final question: Because you have written a variety of both books and poems, which do you like writing better?
Thank you for sharing your work with the world and taking the time to read my letter.
Dear Ellen Bass,
On November 19, 2016, a friend of mine’s dad passed away. It happened so suddenly, so unexpectedly because he had no medical problems that anyone was aware of. I felt sad for my friend, but also because I felt like I had not known his dad well enough. I felt like I’d never taken the time to have a meaningful conversation with him. When I’d gone to their house a few months before, I didn’t know that I would never see my friend’s dad again. Maybe if I knew him better, things would have gone a little differently when I figured out that he died.
My name is Rowan. I am a sixth grader and I am writing because your poems “Lost Dog” and “If You Knew” really speak to me in a way that other poems don’t and make me think for a few seconds. After I read “If You Knew” I had a flashback to me going over to my friend’s house a few days before the funeral, and it just really made me surprised and sad. I hated myself for not showing my friend’s dad much kindness. I guess that I was sort of blaming myself for his death. Your poems really made me feel just as regretful and confused as I was when I learned about his death. They also have enough details that I can relate to, while also making it so I am in the poem.
The reason I really like your poems is that they are relatable and to the point. They also have a ton of imagery that you can picture in your mind’s eye. In “Lost Dog” in the last couplet “If I could lose him like this every day I’d be the happiest woman alive.“ I think that it really relates to people who have dogs and also fills the readers with a flood of emotions like relief and happiness, while also making them feel like this can happen to anyone and you were the only one who cared to put it into words to express all of those feelings. Relating to the emotions readers feel after reading your poems, another thing that I love about your poems is all the imagery and details.
They suck the reader into your poems and keeps them there, making them feel just as relieved when it turns out your dog was safe in “Lost Dog” stanza 2, or just as scared as your friend after seeing her aunt die in “If You Knew” stanza 3, lines 3-7:
“a young gay man with plum black eyes,
joked as he served the coffee, kissed
her aunt’s powdered cheek when they left.
Then they walked half a block and her aunt
dropped dead on the sidewalk.”
It is just made me so shocked how that one guy was one of the last people to meet your friend’s aunt, and not even know that he would be the last one to. In “If You Knew” it is crazy how much we don’t know about the future, and we really need to cherish every moment of life because the next moment may be your last.
While reading your two poems and reaching that third stanza in “If You Knew” it really made me. How do we make the most out of every moment? Do we truly appreciate the moment that we are in, or are we never going to be satisfied? After reading those two poems, I want to truly appreciate every moment of my life.
Dear Ellen Bass,
For most people, dogs are something that brings joy and light into our lives. They are what cheer us up after a long day at work or a rough day of school. They are always there during the good times and always there to make things better when you feel down. They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, so I think that dogs are the sugar to make it sweet. But when we lose that spark they give our lives, the love they gave us turns into hurt and despair, but those of us who do get our precious pets back, get the feeling of pure joy that comes with it.
When I was about three years old, my family got a baby golden retriever with soft gold fur and big brown eyes, we named him Oscar. We all loved him and he loved us all too, but he and my brother had always been closer than the rest of us. They say a dog is a boy's best friend and for my brother, it was true. As he got older, things got harder for him, we found out he had dyslexia, he moved schools a lot and everything started changing, he got into a lot of big accidents and I don’t remember much about them except for that after all of them, Oscar was there and would not leave his side until he was better. But as Oscar also got older, he got into a few accidents to and had to have multiple surgeries.
Oscar was always a laid back dog, he would run and play with us when we were younger, but he never cared if we didn't want to. He would lie at our feet and sleep peacefully as we relaxed on the couch to read or watch TV. Then we got our second dog, Norman, an English bulldog who was incredibly playful but didn't know his own strength. He would try to force Oscar to play with him but would be too rough and Oscar ended up hurting himself because of it.
Oscar and my brother are so similar in so many ways. I think it's because of this that they connected so well. But Oscar is now 9 years old, and the average age for Golden Retrievers to live to is 10 years old. I don’t want him to die, but now it seems like it's coming soon. Oscar never really plays anymore, he sleeps all day and falls down a lot.
I love him so much and I don’t want to lose him ever, but I know it will happen eventually and I will just have to live with that. No dog will ever take his place though, no matter how many dogs we have he will always be our one true dog. I can only imagine how it felt for you to get your dog back after you thought you had lost him. When I eventually lose Oscar though, I don't think I will get him back. In this case “Gone but not forgotten” will be the perfect phrase for when the time comes for me to say goodbye. Your poem will always help me remember him.
Dear Ellen Bass
I am Angelo, I’m in 6th grade in Houston, Texas. I love your poem called, “Lost Dog.” It is very expressive and you can have so much connection just by reading this poem just like me. I personally have problems with losing my dog a lot and it is very stressful. I always have to go out to find him, and sometimes it may take like two hours just to try to find him. One time I lost him in the streets, I became so worried and scared because I was looking for him and he was just running and walking in the sidewalks and streets. I was so scared for life because I thought to myself like, “What if he gets run over”, “ Am I gonna lose him”, and “ I hope he doesn’t die”. When I saw him, I started to run so fast to him and just in time I got him before he went to the streets again. When I had him I became relief that I got him back and I was kinda mad at the same time because he kept on going to places that may hurt him, but at the end pf the day he’s just a dog and he’s safe. I love dogs so much that I’ll get sad or scared if I see a stranded dog in the streets, seeing my dog lonely and being out, may get hurt or be hit by a car but luckily I’m always there with him when he feels sad or lonely. I love my dog so much, he always comfort me and he’s the best pet I’ve ever had.
The one sentence that I admire from your work is, “I call his name until my voice cracks/ There’s no faint tinkling of tag.” I adore this sentence because I can connect with the feeling and somehow it expresses it’s feeling by itself. It is very stressful when you have to go out find your lost dog or pets as well. I got this like paranoid feeling when I lose my dogs because I fear that they might take his away, be ran over by a car, get hurt, or get lost and become a stranded dog. My dog is very special to me because he makes me calm down and he’s very playful. I always desire to be with him everyday, and I love when he’s very playful because I feel cheerful, joyful, and it just makes me satisfy with joy making smile a lot. I also love this poem because it makes your body full on connections, opening your brain with events that may have happen to you, and it makes you instence. I personally love writing because you can express and show off to yourself by writing and write about how you feel and a lot more. You can make opinions, statements, solutions, and can make people have all their feeling connect to something powerful. Writing is truly a very mortal and powerful thing to do. It is my favorite hobby because I can write or make songs, write about love, depression, furious, heartbreak, and etc. Writing is like the best way to express how you feel in your life and it also shows off your personality. I admire your poem so much that you may be a inspiration and one of my favorite poets. I wish I can see you one day, and talk to you. I wish we can have lessons together and you can teach me more about writing and poems to make me good. Also I have two questions. How did you start writing in life? Who was your inspiration to writing? My dream is to go to Yale or Harvard to write stuff, a project that I’m doing right now is trying to find a cure for cancer. Hopefully one day I can see you and talk to you!
Dear Miss Bass,
If we lost something everyday, we wouldn’t see the true value in it’s return. As a sixteen year old girl who has yet to experience the harsh ways of the world, I can truly say I have lost things as well. But it is only in the act of losing something, or someone, that we can truly connect with them more. My late Great-Grandfather was the person who taught me that. After he passed, I could see him in everything. His eyes were the same color as the flowers planted outside of my house. I hadn’t noticed that until he was gone.
I think that is the reason why your poem, “Lost Dog”, spoke to me when I heard it. I didn’t know why I felt an inevitable connection with it at first. But now I understand. It’s hard to comprehend what one has lost until it is found. When I read your poem, I immediately began to realize that my Great-Grandfather is finding his way back to me everyday. Whether it be through memories, or small details that he would see through his eyes that I’d now see through my own, I have your poem to thank for the realization that I have found the connection again.
As a girl who is still trying to navigate through this hectic life I was given, I thank you for letting me understand the meaning of loss. Because while the pain may be unbearable in the moment, it sure does get a lot better. I also thank you on behalf of everyone else whom your poem has touched.
Dear Ellen Bass,
The last two lines of your poem, “Lost Dog” are brilliant. I understand how retrieving that which was lost is the best feeling. It reminds me of the Bible Parable of the Prodigal Son, in which both the son and the father are happy to have found each other; assuming the narrator is you, is the dog happy to see you also? It would be nice to know that a dog loses itself so that it can be found. It is also nice to wonder that if dogs are that intelligent, does this truly make them man’s best friend? I know these questions aren’t entirely answerable, but they kept wanting to be asked…
“If I could lose him like this every day
I’d be the happiest woman alive.” – Ellen Bass
P.s. – Keep up the great work
Dear Ms. Bass,
Your poem "Lost Dog" is very good. Have you lost a dog before? Do you have a dog? Have you ever felt like you didn’t know that you loved something after you lost it? Just like in your poem.
Recently my Great Dane Rafiki died of cancer. He was diagnosed over the summer with Stage 4 Lymphoma. We tried everything from chemo, drugs, and caring as much as we could. Rafiki was a great dog and he held on for as long as he could. He was only four years old. Rafiki died the night before he was going to be put down. We sat and pet him until the final breath. Rafiki was a good soul and I thought of him while reading your poem. After his death, he was cremated, and my stepsister and I got necklaces with some of his ashes. The rest of him is in an urn in the living room. On the bright side, we have lots of pictures and his ghost roams the house. He knocked over my pens in the middle of the night.
Thank you for writing a wonderful poem.
Dear Ms. Bass,
My name is Rachelle (RAY-chull) and I’m a senior in Los Angeles, California. For most of the year, my English class has been reading Moby Dick and practicing different essays. But since second semester started, we’ve started a series of entries in our journals where we can write creatively. This has been a highlight to my last semester in high school. Though I do not particularly write a lot of poetry, if at all, I do have a lot of appreciation for personal pieces. I’ve been writing since I was a little girl, given that I was introduced to creative writing when I was 9. I’ve written a lot of personal pieces; from documenting my mental health to fictitious stories about the boy I like. A lot of thoughts run through my head at all times so it’s natural to relieve it if I can. Life is an ever changing, unpredictable river; you can either let the current control you or go with it. I choose to write about the views as I go.
I enjoyed your poem very much. Though I’ve never had a dog of my own, I weirdly related this poem to the way I feel about someone I love. It constantly feels like they’re about to slip through my fingertips. His familiar presence in my life has always been comforting but when I need it most, he isn’t there. When you said, “...I call his name until my voice cracks…”, it reminded me of something I wrote in my journal several times. I can’t really explain it, but I feel that line deep in my bones. And when you said, “Joy does another lap around the racetrack of my heart,” it puts words to the feeling I get when I see this person I love. I relate to this poem because no matter what happens to this person, I will always want to see him and be with his familiar tendencies; even if I had to “lose him like this every day/ I’d be the happiest woman alive.”
I have several questions for you; writer au writer. I’ve had times where I would write every day and then times where not at all for months, or sometimes here and there. My question is, how do you keep writing prevalent in your life? How long have you gone without writing? How often do you have writer’s block? What triggers creativity for you? What’s a typical day in the life of Ms. Ellen Bass I haven’t thought about pursuing writing as a career in a very long time but I am seriously interested in finding out more about a professional writer.
All the best,
Los Angeles, CA
Hello Ellen Bass,
I just read your poem “Lost Dog.” I can really relate with your story. One day I was playing outside in my backyard, my dog Breezy was running around. I was not paying attention to my dog I was just playing basketball. I heard my mom walk in and out of the house many times. I noticed that my dog was no longer in sight. When my mom came outside to do some garden stuff I said, “where’s Breezy?” My mom said “probably inside.” So basically an hour later, I go inside and looked for Breezy and I did not see her. So I came yelling outside that Breezy is not in the house. Fast forward we are now looking for Breezy. She must have jumped the fence. It is starting to get dark and as soon as all hopes are gone, we seen people with chairs in their driveway sitting there and they said as we got closer, “Hey, are you looking for a dog?” “YESS!!” I said. They go up to their door and open it and there was Breezy.
Ann Arbor, MI