THE OLD SHOW DOG
He always knows -- no matter how quietly you get out the leashes,
how you smuggle the show bag out to the car,
you're going to a dog show and he knows it.
He sits beside the cabinet where the show gear is stowed
as you bustle about attending to the last minute details.
His ears flat, a hopeful gleam in his eyes,
he looks at you.
It is as close as he will come to begging.
You pause for a moment to rub behind his ears,
guilty at leaving him and you think back ...
Remember how it was not so terribly long ago,
when show dog meant just you and him,
striking out in the early morning before the sun came up to burn away the fog?
Everything was bright and new and life was simple.
He was the most beautiful dog in the world
- before you learned about angulation and side-gait.
And your goal then was a ribbon, maybe blue.
And now its points and titles -- anything less is an expensive disappointment.
Once you took pride or found fault in your own performance
(before you became the "saviour of the breed"),
feeling duty-bound to monitor the strivings of others.
Politics once applied only to elected officials.
Would you go back again? Maybe not.
You move on -- it's nearly time to go.
He gets up to follow you from room to room --
age and arthritis narrowing his limits.
You tell him that he will have to stay home,
and turn away before his tail droops slowly to the floor.
And so you leave.
You see his head at the window as you drive away.
Always remember the nobility of his character and the trust in his eyes,
and vow never to do anything to dishonor him -
your old show dog.