The Pact

All those years—paw of again, paw of let’s go
of lake-plash, of come throw, perked ear
of what’s that? of yanked back who’s that?
unsettled pacer of storms, investigator of grass,
distinguished scholar of curbside, delighted
roller in the perfume of foul, sleek 
fetcher, sock chewer, under table sleeper,
taut leaper into air & pond—then, all at once,
it became her turn & the reliable 
body began—the unimaginable undoing; 

while we—scratchers of belly & ear, callers of hey, 
come back, diligent trainers of down come,
companions of dawn, partners of rain,
& errand, stick throwers, ball wranglers, 
chair readers & nappers,
while at our feet with twitch & yelp,
she rustles through the high grass of dream—
understood it was now our turn, 
which meant—as it does with each animal sorrow
—doing the unimaginable.


Copyright © 2022 by Victoria Redel. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 21, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“After the vet met us at 5:00 a.m. and, in the quiet of the office, we put our beloved dog down, my husband asked for her card. ‘Do you have another sick dog?’ she asked with concern. ‘No,’ he said, ‘I’m holding on to your card for when I need to die. It will be perfect. The quiet. The gentle quickness. Victoria right there touching my head and saying nice things.’ He was kidding. Kind of. This poem was my way of honoring that responsibility we take on with our animals. Less an elegy, I hope, than a winding, long sentence of celebration.”
Victoria Redel