It may be that I only realised that it was national poetry day this evening listening to some suitably themed thing on radio 4, but that doesn't make it to late to share a poem I'm fond of. It's Norman MacCaig's 'Praise of a Collie', I found it in an anthology a while ago and not long after my father had had to have his old sheep dog put down (she was much loved, but not at all well) I thought he'd like it until I got to the last verse when I realised that it might be a bit soon. It's stuck with me though so here it is - it doesn't have a happy ending, I cry every time I read it - I hope that's enough of a warning.
She was a small dog, neat and fluid —
Even her conversation was tiny:
She greeted you with bow, never bow-wow.
Her sons stood monumentally over her
But did what she told them. Each grew grizzled
Till it seemed he was his own mother's grandfather.
Once, gathering sheep on a showery day,
I remarked how dry she was. Pollóchan said, 'Ah,
It would take a very accurate drop to hit Lassie.'
And her tact — and tactics! When the sheep bolted
In an unforeseen direction, over the skyline
Came — who but Lassie, and not even panting.
She sailed in the dinghy like a proper sea-dog.
Where's a burn? — she's first on the other side.
She flowed through fences like a piece of black wind.
But suddenly she was old and sick and crippled ...
I grieved for Pollóchan when he took her for a stroll
And put his gun to the back of her head.