Czeslaw Milos
Czeslaw Milos

Consciousness. “I think that I am here, on this earth, / To present a report on it, but to whom I don’t know,” wrote the poet Czeslaw Milosz late in life. “As if I were sent so that whatever takes place / Has meaning because it changes into memory.

Milosz’ poem came to mind recently when news broke that Lala and Tom’s beautiful ambling old bernese mountain dog, Tallulah, had died. Several evenings later, over drinks and condolences in our kitchen, LaLa asked rhetorically: Do you think we’ll go to heaven with our dogs?

Implicit in LaLa’s question is the assumption that our dogs are welcome in Paradise because of their innate capacity for kindness and unconditional love. But are we? Which leads to other reflective lines in Milosz’ 10-part poem, Consciousness. The poem is included in the 1986 book, Unattainable Earth, the Nobel Laureate’s self-described “attempt to approach the inexpressible sense of being.”

Tallulah (top) and Mollie (bottom)
Tallulah (top) and Mollie (bottom)

Here are those lines – offered now as a blessing for Tallulah – and for all the animals still roaming our hearts, yours and ours … Mollie, Prissy, Caitie, Bucky, Edison, Alex, Arlo, Bambie, Cisco, Ruby, Josh, et al.

The warmth of dogs and the essence, inscrutable, of doggishness.
Yet I feel it. In the lolling of the humid tongue,
In the melancholy velvet of the eyes,
In the scent of fur, different from our own, yet related.
Our humanness becomes more marked then,
The common one, pulsating, slavering, hairy,
Though for the dogs it is we who are like gods
Disappearing in crystal palaces of reason,
Busy with activities beyond comprehension.

I want to believe that the forces above us,
Engaged in doings we cannot imitate,
Touch our cheeks and our hair sometimes
And feel in themselves this poor flesh and blood.

Czeslaw Milosz, 1911-2004

For more about Milosz


Dallas Lee

Dallas Lee, former writer and editor for The Associated Press and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, retired as a speechwriter from Bank of America. He is author of The Cotton Patch Evidence: The Story of Clarence Jordan and the Koinonia Farm Experiment (Harper & Row 1971).

  1. Wonderful. I, too, had a Molly and a Prissy, but also (really, they had me) Snubs, Treu, Maggie and my present schnauzer, Sweetie, who literally screams when I return home from even the shortest chore as though she were afraid I would never return. How much our dogs (cats, too) enrich our lives. I believe they are God’s gift to, us an example of the love He has for us.

  2. Cliff Green

    I share J. Morgan’s belief, and I will answer your initial question as to whether we will go to Heaven with our dogs: Hell yes!

  3. Our dog is loved beyond reason and sense. I don’t know how I got along before her and I can’t quantify the hole she will leave when she departs. Still, I have analytical moments when I ask, for example, what DO dogs dream about? And what are the concepts she uses to explain the strange things humans do (vaccuuming up dog hair, reading, talking into a thing that hangs on the wall, running away from palmetto bugs).

  4. Lee Leslie

    Surely it must depend on the dog. Here’s Hoser – for 17 years, he was a loyal, nurturing friend with odd sense of humor. He returned to me as an angel dog (courtesy of my sister, Jean) and still watches over me.[img][/img]

  5. [img]C:Documents and SettingsCharlie SmithMy DocumentsMy Picturesrosie (4).jpg[/img]

    Rosie was a friend for 18 years and if the image goes through this is her at 17. I have always been attracted to dogs that will look you in the eye to make sure you are telling them the truth. She did this to strangers also which intimidated some. I miss my friend.

  6. Melinda Ennis

    Dallas—thanks so for sharing. I particularly love “the melancholy velvet of the eyes.” Perhaps instead of doggie heaven there is doggie reincarnation. We had our Susie for 18 years (that’s right) and she finally died last spring. We got a brand new pup, Josie, last Christmas. Sometimes when I look at her sweet devoted face, I see the “melancholy velvet” of Susie’s eyes looking up at me with the same faithful affection.

    1. Thanks, M … I remember Susie, and fondly. She could handle a crowd and make us all — each one — feel special. And I know how her loss hit home. Congratulations on Josie. Hope to meet her sometime soon.

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