From the Hands of the One Who Loves You Best

For Jeanann Verlee

This is a story about the dogs in my family,
but not about how we named them after local bodies of water
or even about how when I was 20 I finally realized
that only WASPs did that, that the rest of the world
named their dogs whatever they wanted.

This is a story about the dogs in my family,
but not about how we cut a pound of cheddar cheese
into little cubes whenever we took Hudson to the vet,
or, as he came to think, The Place Where I Get Cheese!
Oh, the things you will let a lab coat do
so long as you get cheddar cheese fed to you
from the hands of the one who loves you best.

Neither is this the story about how my father dug graves
for all our dogs at the family farm months before any of them died
just to insure they could be buried in the frozen ground
if they died in the middle winter; how we joked that they wondered
what the hole was for. I feel like someone just walked on my grave.
Like it might even have been me.

We actually buried Winchester on the morning of my sister's wedding:
Dearly beloved, what a beautiful sight.
Wedding to the left. Doggie funeral to the right.
But this isn't a story about that.

This is a story about dogs and chocolate, which they love,
though it can kill them. Who doesn't crave the taste of their poison?
How, when the time came to put them down, we gathered
and shared with each dog chocolate like a rich dark sacrament.
Even then we joked that each dog knew exactly what the sweetness meant.
Not the chocolate! Come on! I'm only 105!

Jeanann, this is chocolate for Callisto.
Break the bar like bread, and let her eat
from the hands of she who loves her best.
Make of your broken heart a dog:
bounding, joyful, warm,
chasing rabbits in a field.

by Taylor Mali

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