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For Champ

For Champ

When you love a dog,
you want it to live forever
because you know
just how close
tomorrow is.

You bring that puppy
into your life,
home from the pound
and its harsh chemical smell,
its harsh reverberant chatter
of barks echoing
through tile, concrete, chainlink.

He sleeps like a warm pillow,
nose whistling,
head at rest on your thigh.
Look how big his paws are!
Look how his lip gets stuck
under his bottom tooth, so cute!

When he’s bounding up the steps,
when he’s chasing his tail,
sitting with his head cocked
watching you eat pizza,
tearing a tennis ball to shreds
and leaving bits of bright green
fuzz caught in the carpet,
you love him.

You love him while you tell him no
a thousand times,
while you wipe his puke up
for the thousandth time,
while you bag his poop
hot in your hand
under the thin pink plastic
just so the neighbors won’t complain,

when even the cloying scent
of dog becomes a comfort
in the cushions of your couch,
your bedsheets, your mattress.
You even love the sight of his shedding,
stray fibers everywhere,
on your car seats,
on every shirt you pull from the drawer.

You don’t care.
You love that dog,
he’s your family,
he’s the son that can never disappoint you,
that can never default on his loan,
can never call from a payphone
asking for bail money.

He will never stop loving you
because you had to say no,
and he will never stop
being happy
just to see you
walk through the door.

There’s not an ounce of hate in a dog,
not one single ounce
of vindictiveness or spite.
But there is loyalty.
There is joy.
And yes, there is humanity,

which is why it hurts
just so fucking much
to let go
when tomorrow comes,

because no matter the number
of days you get
walking the sun lit trails
of the in-between,
it always will seem
like time fell just short
of being enough.

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