The Power of the Dog – Rudyard Kipling

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I saw this photo on Facebook tonight.  The caption indicated that these dogs were killed in action overseas but were able to alert their human brothers-in-arms to the bomb in time for the human soldiers to get away.  It made me think of the Kipling poem, which I've reproduced below.

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And 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 which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find -- it's your own affair -- But . . . you've given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit hat answered your every mood
Is gone -- wherever it goes -- for good,
You will 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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3 thoughts on “The Power of the Dog – Rudyard Kipling

  1. Oh I knew I would cry if I looked at that photo. I don’t think it’s right for dogs to be used like that. They can’t agree to it or know what might happen.

    My heart will forever be broken from a dog (a stray) that I found last summer and recently had to put to sleep. It was a terrible stupid situation. I am so full of sorrow. I swear I think an animal can break my heart more than a person. I feel like a murderer. He had the biggest most beautiful smile. I hope he forgives me.

    1. He forgives you. Trust me.

      And I’m torn on dogs in military service – they do the job so much better than machines, they save so many peoples’ lives, and the ones who are raised & trained to do their jobs love it. And the soldiers with whom they work love them. But on the other hand, you’re right – they have no choice in the matter. So I’m just torn.

    2. … And Kipling’s poem is as heart-breaking as the photo. So many of his works – The Jungle Book and Rikki Tikki Tavvi come to mind – are world-famous and ever-enduring… but I’d never seen the poem until my long-lost uncle from NZ shared it with me not long ago. It’s so, so true – and while I don’t know the history behind it, I’m pretty sure Kipling must have recently lost a beloved furry companion shortly before being inspired to put his grief to rhyme and meter.

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