Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Covid-19: Turning into my Dog by Marty Krasney

LUCY BURDETTE: I belong to an alumni writers email list, and last week one of our members posted a poem about how his dog is handling the Covid 19 crisis. I loved it so much that I asked him if I could share it with you. And he agreed...

Dexter (with Marty) ready for a walk in the rain

"Covid 19 - Turning Into My Dog" by Marty Krasney

Dexter's doing what Dexter always does.
That mostly means napping at one of ten
of his favorite places around the house,
or, if not quite napping, seeking comfort.
Top of the list, the bed in the guest room,
usually the bolster near the headboard,
unless there's a sunlit patch further down.
He likes to lie on his back on the couch
in the booklined den with the Tibetan
rug. Dexter's a Tibetan Terrier;
does he remember from prior lifetimes?
There's a narrow place next to the toilet
which he leaves quickly if I come to pee.
Surprising he likes it on the cold tiles;
that too might be linked to his heritage.
They were temple dogs when not herding yaks.
The old green leather chairs in the kitchen,
especially when someone's visiting,

(though that's now just a memory for us both)
or I'm reading, and there's something to eat.

All night, the chair near the TV upstairs
except when he hears animals outside
and runs back downstairs to investigate.
That's when he barks to say this is my house.
then stops off in the kitchen for a drink.

Moving from place to place, from there to here.
Kind of settled but not really settled.
Paying attention though not clear to what.
Maybe aware that death comes for everyone;

meanwhile, making a life, around and through.
Warmth and connection, blessed solitude.

Today pretty much the same as yesterday.

With luck tomorrow will be like today.
That's been Dexter's response to the virus.
And starting this past week, it's mine now too.

Lucy again: I hope you love that poem as much as I do. Now I'm desperate for a Tibetan terrier. Do you have an animal in your life who's offering survival lessons for these times? Or a poem or book that's helping you through?

Here's another lovely poem John and I saw posted on the lawn of the courthouse in Key West on Sunday:

If you think you could use more poetry in your life, here are a couple of resources. Pome sends you a poem every day--some days they speak to me and I save them to read again, and others wash by.

Also the poetry Foundation publishes a poem a day:

As does

About Marty: Marty Krasney served as an executive, adviser and board member for NGOs In education, social justice, civic engagement and leadership development, starting in 1969 at the Woodrow Wilson foundation in Princeton and mostly ending in 2018 with the transfer to a permanent home at the University of Virginia of Dalai Lama Fellows. He helped found that program and lead it for a decade, identifying and developing young contemplative social justice activist from all over the world and engaging them in a lifelong secular community addressing major global challenges. 

He has had stories published in half a dozen journals, most prominently five in Arete, published at Oxford University. He has devoted significant energy to poetry only in the last five years. He’s had pieces published in Innisfree, and is at work now on two book-length narrative pieces. 


  1. Thanks for sharing Marty’s poem, Lucy. I enjoyed it . . . .
    Like Ethel, I find myself working through a list of things each day . . . I love her idea of it being like living a poem.

    Alas, the puppy dogs and kitty cats have all gone on to their reward, so there’s no animal to give us survival lessons. As far as reading poems is concerned, a Robert Frost poem always makes me feel better . . . .

    1. Thanks Joan. I had never heard of Ethel but she was the first woman poet laureate of Oregon

  2. Great poem!

    Sadly, no pets to lead the way here. I'm allergic. And, since I'm working from home, I don't have the time for that anyway.

  3. Our dog Jack has many last names, depending on the degree of aggravation. His hearing is excellent so he is very insistent on going outside to bark at whatever he hears. He is a master of the nap, usually choosing the towel covering two thirds of the couch. He is totally confident and proves it by laying on his back and exposing his belly. He has a strict schedule with his father regarding meal times and walks. With me he knows it’s hopeless so happily sleeps late in the mornings, only demanding his dinner be served on time. He’s a dog who likes routine but is willing to be flexible. Works for me.

    1. That’s a good lesson for all of us, we like routines but are willing to be flexible!

  4. Thanks for sharing the poem and the links to other poetry resources.

    No pets here...allergies, frequent travel (used to be a reason) and living alone prevented me from ever having one.

  5. I love Marty's poem, but more than that, I love Marty's dog Dexter. Dexter is showing us how to be content with where we are and what we have, and what an important lesson that is to learn. And, Ethel's listing poem reminds me that in many ways we are back to a simpler time of living by just taking care of the daily tasks, some mundane and some delicious and creative. Of course, we have our computers, television (with all the many channels), streaming, and cell phones. But, for many of us, we are cooking and baking more, making an effort to get outside a bit each day, keeping up the house, and silent pleasures like reading and puzzles. So, we are getting an infusion of simplicity with our gadgets and devices.

    Like Joan, Robert Frost is a favorite poet that brings me comfort, with Mary Oliver a more recent find (thanks, Kaye). We sadly don't have a dog at this time, but I know what great examples they are of being present in the moment and what great sources of comfort.

    1. It really is an odd mixture of Internet and lost relaxation like puzzles and cooking. You’ll have to fight me for Dexter!

    2. Hahaha, Lucy! Maybe we can do a coin toss for Dexter.

  6. A lovely reflection, Lucy. We are temporarily without cats right now - and the shelter has paused adoptions right in the middle of kitten season. I'm missing them more than ever being home all the time. This, too, shall pass.

    1. Gosh, I understand the need to close the shelter but I wonder what they are doing with all the kittens?

    2. In FL volunteers are helping.

    3. Edith you might check with farmers in your area. I know one of the farms here that supplies our farmers market has just had a litter of kittens--and they found an abandoned kitten they are trying to get the mother cat to adopt with her own. Too bad I can't ship you a kitten!

  7. Thank you Lucy Roberta and Marty. There is so much wisdom in poems.

    The animals in my life include Eliot, a polydactyl kitty with six -- count 'em -- toes on each paw. She moves all day from one napping spot to another, appearing only for meals, as which time she is oh so affectionate. Typical cat behavior.

    Penny Lane is a 6 1/2 year old pomapoo, so cute and smart and evil. She also likes ner naps but has the most energy of them all, bringing toys to us continually, balls for tossing (and she catches them in mid air, short stop style) and rabbits for shaking and baby puppies for loving.

    Then there is Toby, the Boy Prince, a black Pomapoo, who will be 14 on Saturday. He is the perfect dog, Therapy Dogs International certified as an emotional support dog. In his heyday he starred at Toto in a large production of The Wizard of Oz and carried a case load of 8 hospice patients, to whom he brought joy and comfort with every visit. Now he is elderly, has the dreaded enlarged heart and congestive heart failure. Still he loves his daily walks in the neighborhood but misses the pats from the children, keeping social distance as are we all. He won't be with us another year I know, so we treasure each moment with him

    I can't imagine not having this little black dog in my life.

    1. Ann,I met another little dog named Toby last summer. A man and two friends came in my 'house' at the museum where I'm a docent. He carried a little schnauzer cuddled up on his shoulder and asked if it was okay for them to come through. Toby had had surgery and the two friends had come all the way from Florida (we're in northern Ohio) to be with their friend as he said goodbye to his Toby. My heart breaks all over again when I think of it. The little dog was so clearly right where he was used to being, and the friends--they clearly understood that Toby was family.

    2. Toby sounds like an old soul, Ann. What a blessing to have had him in your life.

      Give him a pat from me.

  8. Oh Ann, your Toby has such an amazing resume! I wish there was a youtube of him in The Wizard of Oz. You are so right to treasure every moment. We all should try to do that right now...

    1. I have only still pictures of him in the play. But he hit his mark every time, and he knew exactly when to pull back the curtain on the wizard. But that was almost 13 years ago, way before we captured every moment on our iPhones.

    2. Ann, dear, iPhones are wonderful but I think memories are better. And you can only treasure every moment.

  9. What a lovely poem. I have Koda doing the same thing. He wakes me for breakfast. He moves from space to space in the house to nap. He wants his walks and his treats.

    He's just living his life, happy to have all the people here.

  10. So very wonderful—such an inspiration. And yes, being flexible, and finding joy in little things, very very wise. no pets here except the ducks, endlessly entertaining, and sometimes quacking and swimming like mad, other times head tucked under their wings, asleep in the sun.

  11. Pets and poetry--not a bad prescription for getting through hard times. We have four cats and a mini-dachshund with us right now. And books of poetry spilling from the shelves. Jimmy, the younger male cat, is non-discriminatory in sharing his affections--he loves each of us and is content in any lap, whether you think you need him there or not. He is also still as playful as a kitten and makes everyone laugh with his antics. I especially love it when he's a sleepy cat, a little playful, and curls up with his toy to rest.

    1. I'm trying to picture how the mini dach is handling four cats!

    2. Lucy/Roberta, it has taken all of six months for them to be comfortable around each other. Nemo, the mini-d, is much older than the cats, and has decided to live and let live :-) The more timid of the cats are now okay with him, as long as there's no barking/running going on. The biggest problem is Jimmy, who can't understand why that dog (a dog, really?) can go outside and he can't.

  12. 3.5 cats here. Tong Len, named for a form of meditation designed to ease suffering, is now 17. Seal brown fur turned rusty, he sleeps most of the day and night. He sleeps dear me, tapping my hand from time to time to ensure I won't leave. Ginger, the tiny tattercoat, has moved onto my torso at night, Her purring which I feel in my torso soothes as we breath together. Kitsune still young bored easily, comes and chirps, I get up and we play a rollicking game of chase the red dot. She is my personal trainer at the moment. Finally Major, she is a she. For eight years mis gendered, she is starving for human touch. Last night while I rocked she came to my lap, made biscuits, then cuddled on my shoulder and breast, purring and licking my cheek. All sooth all help I watch them and all is well.

  13. Our part of our road is about 3/4-mile long, with four cul-de-sacs of varying sizes, so neighbors are walking dogs up and down day and night right now. Usually, too-fast drivers make this more of a challenge, but there's such light traffic that walking is actually pleasant, especially for the doggos.

    Our granddogs are isolated in Virginia and Michigan now, alas, although they're doing a great job of helping my daughters and their families hold it together. It's hard to ignore a 110-pound Bernese Mountain dog who thinks she's a puppy, or a 90-pound chocolate Lab who insists on catching a ball for hours.

    My 15-year old grandson was walking the Berner with his mom and dad and noticed that the water bowls usually placed on the sidewalk by merchants were missing, since most of the stores and restaurants are closed. But residents are still walking their dogs, including my daughter and her family. When they were out walking Barli would stop, mystified, at every place the bowls used to be. Seeing a need Zak bought several dog bowls and put them around town, on his own initiative. Now every day he rides his bike to keep them filled from his backpack full of water bottles. I'm so proud of this kid, and his kindness to animals.

    1. that is such a sweet story Karen, thanks for sharing!

    2. Doesn't it give you hope for the future, when a teenager does something so generous? My heart!

    3. That is so sweet, Karen! I love this boy.

  14. Lucy/Roberta, thank you for sharing the poetry and for some doggie insight into today's situation.

    I have a German Shephard, his name is Kenai, he doesn't ever bark, he doesn't even try.
    He doesn't want to answer the door, if the door bell rings, he'll leave that floor,
    "Excuse me but I'm going down the stair, I'm sure the visitors will not care!"
    This dog is huge, 105 pound weight, imposing and gorgeous, but that won't rate,
    As a protective shield, such a dog, you'd wonder, (and he doesn't quake at the sound of thunder,)
    But his shyness is such, that you couldn't depend that he'd be there if you needed a friend,
    With fangs and muscle, and strength and zest, but the heart of a mouse beats in his chest.

  15. Roberta, this is an absolutely perfect poem, Many, many thanks to Marty for this glimpse into his life and, by reflection, into the lives of so many of us.

  16. I enjoyed both poems, Lucy. As you know, we have a Dexter too. He and our newest rescue dog, Alfie, bring a bit of normality to our lives. Dexter is still obsessed with playing fetch and Alfie’s puppy antics keep us entertained. At times, I envy that they are unaware of the situation and yet I think they realize something is different and they are determined to be a diversion. The line in second poem about spreading wet linen on the bushes brings back a vague memory of my grandmother doing that. It makes me think that as terrible as this pandemic is, maybe it is also a correction of sorts. It has forced us to slow down. We are social distancing yet appreciating each other more. There are more acts of kindness. And we are reviving lost living skills out of necessity. This will be over in time. I hope we can remember the lessons we are learning.

    1. Ang thanks for the wise comments! I totally agree that it is a correction for a lot of people, and probably in a good way. Though that is not enough to make up for the horrible pain that many people are suffering. But it’s a little bit of light

    2. Right, any lesson learned is definitely not enough to make up for the terrible pain.

  17. Thank you for sharing— this poem made me smile this morning. Poems have long been my go-to reading for comfort. Robert Frost and Adrienne Rich are two of my favorites. I also like to read song lyrics, with or without the song playing at the same time.

  18. Lucy, thank you for sharing! Your friend Marty sounds like a good fellow! I loved the poem. We need this! I have been reading comfort books since the shelter in place. Since I started reading Alexander McCall Smith, I started reading Auden poetry. Which reminds me. It has been a while since I have read an Auden poem.

    Stay safe!

  19. Thank you, Lucy and Marty! This brightened my day. We could all learn from Dexter. :)

  20. Lucy, I LOVE this poem. Especially, "With luck tomorrow will be like today." Thanks to you and Marty for sharing with us.

    We are entertained and comforted by the two ever-present German shepherds. Life hasn't changed very much for them, except they're missing their weekly car rides to pick up our Friday night Chinese food. As for the cats, we seem to have become a three cat family with the addition of Lucy, who has adopted us. She's mostly in the house now, although still going out on fine days for a while. The other two are house only. Lucy loves the dogs, and she and Dax seemed to have formed a special bond. The two inside cats, not so much! But she is doing better with them.

    On finding bright spots in this, my granddaughter Wren told my daughter yesterday that this has been "the best time ever." She's had both parents home all day and they've come up with all sorts of fun activities for her.

    1. Similar with our grandkids Debs, they love being home with mommy and daddy!

  21. I have no pets so there's no calming effect being provided by Fido here. I don't have any poems to share either.

    Facebook has been full of creative memes making fun of the whole situation in order to laugh to avoid going insane. Some of them I've shared on my page. The funniest one that I didn't share because it is slightly NSFW was dog-themed as well.

    I'll post the text of it here and if it is too much for the blog you can feel free to delete it:

    "Coronavirus has turned us all into dogs

    We roam around the house looking for food

    We're told "NO!" if we get too close to strangers

    And the thought of a car rides sends us wild with excitement.

    Sadly, the ability to lick our own genitals evades us"

    The first time I saw that on a friend's page I burst out laughing.