Ode to Katniss
—with a line from Charles Dickens
She is everything her name invokes,
and none of it at all, this Golden Lab
hopping onto my lap, leaning
her plush ears and wet nose
into my face, then sniffing my lips
as though something meaty or sweet
lies there for her to lick. Bred for service,
named for the heroine you already know,
incarnating yes, both hunger and games,
she is a fabulous flunky, they say,
one who didn’t make the cut
but beloved all the same. So here she sits,
as the tree, adorned with ornaments
from my previous life, drizzles
nostalgia over the room with its light.
And the ceramic church nearby,
once wound, tinkles its bells to the tune
of Come to the Church by the Wildwood,
reminding me of my aunt who made it
long before Alzheimer’s struck.
What if, I wonder, Katniss harbors
within her fur her own kind of advent,
akin to adoration’s glow and the tawny
joy of her simple, animal name—dog,
etymology a great mystery of English,
trinity of letters, half-palindrome
at play like she is with her favorite toys?
She rises from the foot of the bed, after all,
when my dreams grow into screams,
then sends ripples of peace across my face
as she lathers it with love.
I realize it sounds impossible,
but what if at Christmas, just as its mighty
Founder was a child himself, this dog
sheds hope everywhere she goes?
by Julie Moore, first appeared in the Journal of Mennonite Writing
Editor’s note: During the holiday season, with years of stories and songs and a sometimes complicated history, our canine companions remind us that joy can be right here if only we allow it in.