Give Your Heart To A Dog To Tear

Rudyard Kipling is writer of the month in our family. It all started a couple of weeks ago, when we took Brianna to see Jungle Book at our local theatre. As she is a bit partial to acting, drama and the stage herself, she loved it and wanted to read the book. The original, that is (she said she was too big for the kiddie picture book versions). So we downloaded it – for free – onto our Kindle and she’s been picking her way through it as part of her evening reading sessions.

Then she was given a Kipling poem to read and discuss as part of her literacy homework. This reminded me that I had a collection of Kipling poems – which I hadn’t opened for years – on our bookshelves. I thought that all the signs were there that it was time for me to re-read it. So I picked up the book and delved into it. Eventually, I came across a brilliant ‘dog’ poem which I couldn’t remember at all. I must have overlooked it when I read it years ago and I didn’t have a dog. This time, it hit home. It made me think, brought tears to my eyes and urged me to sneak up on George for a big cuddle (which he happily accepted, wagging his tail).

To me, this is one of those poems that you have to share. A poem that speaks to the heart of everyone who has ever had and loved a dog.

THE POWER OF THE DOG

by Rudyard Kipling

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
But when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie–
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years that nature permits
Are closing in asthma or tumors or fits
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers, or loaded guns.
Then you will find–its your own affair
But–you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will
When the whimper of welcome is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone–wherever it goes–for good,
You still discover how much you care
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ‘em the more do we grieve;
For when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short time loan is as bad as a long–
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

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29 Comments

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29 responses to “Give Your Heart To A Dog To Tear

  1. Sam

    We’ve got a Kipling book of poems too, and the book falls open to that poem. Beautiful, isn’t it?

    Sam

  2. I agree it’s heartbreaking when the time to say goodbye finally arrives, but I think it would be more heartbreaking to never let these gentle, faithful creatures into our hearts in the first place.

    Take care, Didi!

    • I completely agree, and this is why I liked the poem so much. I knew you’d feel the same.

    • Faith

      I so agree with the one who said it’s is sadder to never let these wonderful creatures who love us unconditionally into our lives, then it is to loose them. It is true that when you give your heart to a dog or any animal your are letting yourself in for heartbreak, but at least you will have known that love.

      • Thank you for your nice comment, Faith, and thanks for stopping by.

      • Joe P.

        I’m told by many family and friends that I am a cold hearted person,
        because I don’t cry at funerals or weddings or sad movies. When my
        5 year old Black Lab died I bawled my eyes out for two days. I also said no more dogs for me because I could not go through that again!!! It’s been two years now, and guess what
        , Im now looking for another dog. My life is just empty!!!

  3. i don’t remember ths poem either. the sentiment hasn’t changed though the methods of saying goodbye have (thankfully!). made me a bit weepy actually. i often wonder the same – especially as the years pass without notice. Georgia is already almost 3. i’m already panicking.

    • George is almost 3, too, and we’re panicking as well. You know, I thought of you and your recent loss when I first read the poem. I can only imagine how hard it was for you…

  4. Wow. I hadn’t seen this before, but it’s so very true. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I am a great Rudyard Kipling reader too, he writes like I think a lot of the time….(should I be worried?)
    Didi, email me and I will tell you more about Connor’s collar!

  6. I agree with balladeer. As heartwrenching as it is to say goodbye, better than never having the opportunity to say hello. I once had a childhood friend whose dad would not let the family have pets because he felt it was too traumatic when they died. I always felt that was such a loss; death is part of life, and the joy of shared experiences through those relationships are much too enriching to avoid for such a reason. Thank you sharing this beautiful poem, Didi.

    • What a great comment, Robin. You’re so good at summing up the essence of an idea in one beautiful, well-worded sentence. I’m glad you liked the poem…I had no doubt you would :)

  7. It makes me sad to think of the pups I’ve lost. But the joy is always worth the pain.

    It also made my heart ache to read the line about how a dog is as likely to return love for a kick in the ribs as a pat on the head. I hope that’s just a reflection of Kipling’s time and that most people don’t think a kick has no consequence. :(

    • It is a pretty emotional poem, isn’t it? I haven’t yet experienced the loss of a beloved pet (George is my first ever dog and Brianna’s hamsters are still alive), so I imagine Kipling’s words are even more meaningful to people who have had dogs and lost them, like you.
      I, too, cringe at the thought of kicking a loyal dog in the ribs, and I choose to think Kipling chose these words for poetic effect…

  8. lifewith4cats

    You know, I havent read kipling yet. But Ive seen every version of Jungle book on tv I can find. I am sad when I sometimes meet people who live by the creedo in his poem. It hurts fiercely to lose a pet but in a certain way, it helps us deal with and learn about loss too. The love they give,makes us grow in pleasant ways and far outweighs the sorrow in the end. People need pets. Ive gotta get me some Kipling :)

    • I agree, we can’t close our heart to everyone and everything for fear of being hurt…That’s how people end up being sad creatures who lead empty and meaningless lives. And, as social beings, we’re not designed for that. I’d rather live a life of love, emotions and hurt than a life with no feelings at all. People definitely need pets, none of us would be who we are today without them.
      I’d be interested to know how you feel about Kipling. I don’t necessarily like every word that I’ve read, but that applies to pretty much every writer.

  9. I have heart of the jungle book but never once read it…nice to know that Brianna likes it.

    The poem is lovely. I wonder if there is a poem on turtles ;)

  10. Oh yes, I remember reading this many years ago and it still brings tears to my eyes. My little mantra is ‘it’s better to smile because it happened than to cry because it’s over’ which takes a while in the case of losing a 4-legged family member and I confess to still not being able to watch videos of my doggie family of about 15 years ago. But I always have to have at least 1 dog. The heartache of losing them is worth the joy of having them. And why deny a dog a good home because you know you’re going to end up grieving eventually?

    Hey Didi, do you know what plug in you use to get your email subscription box in the top right corner of your blog? I’ve been hunting for 2 weeks for something like that!! Thanks:)

    • What a great, honest and healthy mantra! It’s something we all should remember.

      The email subscription box is a widget that came with my blog theme (it’s a WordPress theme called Pilcrow). I believe most (if not all) WordPress themes have this widget…I just placed it at the top of the sidebar and customised the title. It’s easy, really. Didn’t you say that you’re moving your blog on WordPress? If you do, you should have this feature available regardless of the theme you choose.
      Unfortunately, I don’t know how you could get that on your current website. I’m not a technical wizard, I’m afraid :(

      • Thanks, Didi. No, my theme didn’t come with it. Themes seem to vary a lot with what comes with them:) I’ve made do with a feedburner subscription thingy that’s similar:) Shifting any day now!

      • Yes, I’ve seen those feedburner subscriptions. I use them when I haven’t got the option of an email subscription, but I prefer e-mail notifications for the simple reason that I’m usually so busy with work that I find it difficult to open yet another page in my web browser (whereas my email inbox is open all the time). Good luck with the transfer, I think you’ll like WordPress. :)

  11. Such an amazing poem – and yes it is true that our hearts break when they leave us as they must – but what a soulless barren world we would inhabit without them in our lives, and our hearts. i cannot imagine a life with Chevvy. :)

  12. I like having the opportunity to tell my fellow bloggers why I follow their blogs, and now I must say that Didi, it is your turn. I really enjoy reading the wonderful stories of George and your family as it is always something I can relate to. Now after reading this poem six times in a row, you remind me that even if my work and life becomes so busy that I can’t even get to my computer, when I do get back online, I will always come here.

    • Aww, I’ve gone all mushy now…Thank you so much, I’m grateful for your appreciation. Finding people (like you) that I can relate to is one of the reasons why I’ve got into blogging, too. You browse through dozens (or hundreds) of blogs every week, and once in a while you find one to your heart, written by someone who thinks the same or likes the same things. You’ve never seen and are unlikely to ever see each other, but you become friends nevertheless. That, to me, is pretty amazing…So yes, I feel the same…And you’re definitely on the ‘friends’ list :)

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