Dogs Have Changed

and I blame it on World War II.
My kids treat their dogs like children,
taking them to sitters or doggie hotels
when they’re out of town. They hire a girl
to walk them and to pick up their shit
in plastic bags. She chases their Goldendoodles
around the yard looking for a drop zone.
They even have health insurance
that will pay the vet for routine visits,
teeth cleaning, ass gland expunging. It’s odd
how different dogs have become. As a boy,
I loved my pets, all of them, about one per year.
In my day (as the old are prone
to say), we didn’t fence our dogs. They ran
wild from dawn to dark. They romped
and sniffed, drank muddy water, ate
dead animals, and chased semi-trucks
down by the highway. Some were fast.
Others were not. Dad gave me
his Army entrenching tool. He told me
to keep it folded, but within easy reach
for the next shellacking.

Al Ortolani is a poet and retired teacher. His poetry has been published in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and New Letters. Ghost Sign, a collaborative work, released in 2017 from Spartan Press, and was designated a Kansas Notable Book. On the Chicopee Spur, a collection of haibun, will be released from New York Quarterly Books in April 2018. He currently directs memoir writing workshops for Vietnam vets across Kansas in conjunction with Humanities Kansas and the Library of Congress.

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