Animal Poems: Poems of Companion Species
It Was For The Common Good
The first living being in space was a husky-terrier mix. Her name was Laika, nicknamed Little Bug, described as quiet and charming. She trained extensively for her mission, learning to wear flight suits and eat nutrition gel and to lay resting quietly in her small spaceship. Each time she succeeded in something new she was rewarded with treats and physical affection— in dogs, this stimulates the part of the brain that signals “love”, “joy”, and “contentment” in humans. Before the launch, one of the scientists took the Little Bug home to play with his children. He wanted to do something nice for her. The trust of animals is crushing. She trusted them to love
and care for her, provide her food and water. She learned love and punishment by their hands, had her fear quelled by their touch, closed her eyes and leaned into their hands— She trusted them absolutely. Before final liftoff, one of the technicians recounted that "after placing Laika in
the container and before closing the hatch, we kissed her nose and wished her bon voyage—knowing that she would not survive the flight." Little Bug stepped into her suit like she always had, received the treats and pets she always had— except this time nobody let her out, they sealed the probe, and the whole world waited for her to orbit around the earth. If each human-year is seven dog-years, each human-hour is seven dog-hours. There was a
malfunction during liftoff and she was crushed and burned alive. Her heartbeat played through speakers in the control room. What did she think about as she spent dog-hour after dog-hour in rising heat, restrained by a harness? What would it sound like to hear a heart incinerated? She
thought they would let her out and give her her treat. She trusted them.
— “It was for the common good”, he said.
Sarah Washburn Thornton is a visual + textual artist based in Pittsburgh. They can be found on instagram @swashburnthornton
Open the gates,
Grant them entry,
Let them have soft beds within to lie.
They who come two by two
As before the first deluge.
With hares and squirrels to chase,
Gladly in this new place.
Fur blown gently in soft breeze,
Protectors and companions these,
Loyal and true and so eager to please,
Next to man, they are my finest masterpiece.
Give them water pure,
Fresh food in golden bowls,
But mostly give them a person for their own.
For this one desire,
Make this wish come true,
Some never had such a thing,
And for others
It’s the only thing
To make it look like home.
Give balls for play and chew toys that fit in mouths,
Let them nap under large elms,
When fatigue overwhelms,
Safely and in peace inside this holy realm.
An Old Dog’s Lament
-- Previously published in Medusa’s Kitchen
When you left me at the park bench,
I could not see you walk away,
But I knew you were gone
When you no longer spoke to me,
And your scent faded.
I waited all night in the rain,
Refusing sleep so I would not miss your return,
My matted fur and dry mouth
Greeted the sun of that first new day,
My first day without you.
My eyes had failed me the previous year,
And somehow I had failed you,
Although I do not understand how.
Should I ever smell you again,
I will come to you,
And lick your hand,
And ask your forgiveness,
For whatever was lacking in me.
Now I am elsewhere,
Being cared for by another,
I am one of the lucky ones in that regard.
There's new smells in the air,
But always I am searching
For that one ,which to me, is most familiar
And brings the happiest memories.
Linda Imbler is the author of the published poetry collection “Big Questions, Little Sleep.” Her work has appeared in numerous journals.
Linda’s creative process and a current, complete listing of sites which have or will publish her work can be found at lindaspoetryblog.blogspot.com.
This writer, yoga practitioner, and classical guitar player lives in Wichita, Kansas.