Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The “Dog’s Death” That Made Me Smile

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In a “Dog’s Death” Updike describes the death of a dog. Updike is able to describe the death in a beautiful and painless way because of the words and descriptions that he chooses to use. At first glance of the title I was under the impression that this was going to be a very sad poem about a dog owner mourning for their loss of their beloved pet. That was not the case as I continued with my reading. Updike goes into great description of the pain the dog is going through, but at the same time makes it sound like something beautiful.

Updike uses a lot of imagery to show what is happening to the dog during its death. “As we teased her with play, blood was filling her skin And her heart was learning to lie down forever…We found her twisted and limp but still alive… Nevertheless she sank and, stiffening, disappeared.” These are some examples of the vivid detail and imagery that Updike uses when describing the death of the dog. In the first quote the owner of the dog is describing how they would play with the dog not knowing that internally the dog was suffering and beginning to die. This gave me the impression the owner was taking the blame for the death of their pet. In the second quote it talks about how the owner found the dog and although it looked like it was dead it was still alive. The first and second quote showed two different perspectives of how the owner was looking at this situation. First, the owner came to terms that their dog was going to die and took partial blame for the death. Second, having found the dog under the bed the owner was under the impression that the dog may have a chance to survive because it was still alive, although it appeared dead.

In the third quote it describes when the dog’s life finally came to an end. About how he saw the body sink and then stiffen, but he did not want to say that the dog had died. Instead he chose to say that at that moment the dog disappeared. He chose the word disappeared because at that moment the owner now understood that the dog was no longer with him. However, before this quote he did use the word died, “…on my lap, she tried To bite my hand and died.” The reason the word died was used in this part of the poem was because it was a time when Updike was trying to show the pain that the dog was experiencing. In physically painful situations it is not uncommon for someone or something to feel the urge to bite or grab onto something hard because it is a way to release the pain that they are feeling. In this case the owner was in his car with the dog on its lap and before the dog died its last hope for living was to release its pain into something else.

This quote also shows how much love was shown this dog. The first thing many pet owners, especially dog owners, teach their pet is not to bite. More often than not the pet will be scolded or beat for trying to bite someone. But this owner knew that the dog was in a great deal of pain and because he loved his dog so much he was willing to do anything for the dog. He wanted to keep the dog alive at any cost, even if this meant putting himself through the physical pain of being bitten. “Though surrounded by love that would have upheld her…,” is a great example of how much the dog’s owners cared about her. This quote shows how emotionally attached they were to the dog and they knew that they loved her so much that it could keep her alive. At the same time they knew that it was the dog’s time to die and that they would have to cope with it.

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These loving and caring owners put an emphasis on the use of the term, “good dog.” More specifically the dog was told these words when it properly went to the bathroom, “…she was beginning to learn to use the newspapers spread on the kitchen floor And to win, wetting there, the words, ‘Good dog! Good dog!’.” When they came home that night they also noticed that the dog had again gone the bathroom and in the last line of the poem Updike ends it with the phrase “Good dog”. Because this that term is used quite a few times in this poem it would seem that it may have made a better title for the actual poem, but it was not the point that Updike wanted to get across.

Updike wanted people to see that this dog’s life had ended and wanted to show with vivid, but caring detail how the dog died. At the same time he uses the term “Good dog” often because he wants to put an additional emphasis on how this was a very tough loss for the owners because they had been blessed with such a great pet. By using this phrase as the last words of the poem it leaves us with the same lasting memory that had been left with the owners. Although they were forced to go through such pain and agony over the death of their dog, they knew that they had cared for and loved a wonderful creature. Updike wants the readers to realize that this dog will always be loved and remembered as a “Good dog”. That is why he ends the poem with this exact phrase.

Ultimately this poem is created to show how while death can be a terrible thing it can also be beautiful. When someone or something is loved and cared for even in its time of death it becomes even more beautiful. Updike takes the story of this dog’s death and descriptively describes what is happening to it during its time of death. At the same time Updike mixes in the fact that these owners cared for their dog very much, and showed how much they loved her during the time she needed it most.

While the title of the poem would make the reader think that this was going to be a sad thing to read it is not. Instead it is something so beautiful because it is able to show how someone can love something so much. The owners loved their dog very much, but when she needed to be loved the most they were able to put their personal and emotional struggle aside and give the dog the love that it needed. This poem shows that with the proper care and love even the death of someone or something can be a painful, but beautiful experience to see or read about.

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