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Tricia Knoll


Men in Louisiana grabbed me

from the hoarder’s house with the two dead dogs.

They called me Ruth Ann. In their shelter they cut

open my belly and made fleas go away.

Told me I was pretty, but time ran out,

they’d have to kill me. A woman lifted me 

into a cage in a school bus full of dogs,

said we were going to the north country.

She whispered she’d take me if no one else would,

but I passed through three foster homes

full of fun dogs and kind women. I shivered

a lot. I’m little. Noises are big. Feet are big.

I tested snow. I eat moss and sticks as I can.

She, the new one, started calling me Ruth.

I decide whether to come or not. I learn

to pee where she wants. She gives me

good food. I’m gaining weight. I let

her other dog call the plays. Now

she calls me Ruthie Toothie. So unfair.

I don’t bite. I tuck my tail and run away.

I fit under her bed. I hide behind curtains. 

I hate the road by this house. She tries to walk

me to the mailbox but roads whine. Roads

and leashes. I know nothing good happens next.

Maybe. She puts a blanket over me

when I shiver. Over my head. I have a new

pink thundershirt and a coat. I dive

under her bed. Hide behind white curtains

in the big room. She told the other lady

I’m a scaredy-cat. Unfair. I let her hook

a purple leash to me. We walk out

back following rabbit tracks in the woods.

I pee if she tries to put me in a car.

She leaves door open to her shoes.

I carry them to the dining room.

She has so many. I don’t chew them.

I’m a good dog.


Ruthie Toothie II


None of my dogs came with pedigrees.

Their short names morphed, became

endearments. Pearl to Pearly Girl.

Clair to Clara Bell. Shadow to Shadow Badow.

This Ruth is Ruthie Toothie, rhyme

in the service of love. She doesn’t bite;

she flees. I practice slow-down patience.

Break events into small pieces.

Two weeks to bring out a leash,

treats, and invite her to go on a walk.

Walk now lifts her ears. I open

the car hatch after that walk,

sit inside, offer a bit of cheese. She

comes toward my outstretched hand.

A month to get her in the car?




No one wanted you. 

I was talked into you. 

A gray-haired married couple, volunteers 

at the shelter, who knew the months

you had hunkered there in a cage

and who had called you to their laps

convinced me you were special.  

That was before you began to bark

at a leaf blowing beyond the fence

or fleeting shadows by the door. 

You think in exclamation marks. 

You little terrier face has overtones

of teddy bear except for the rat warrior

of your genetics which make holes

in mud irresistible and gave you short

machine legs to take it deeper. 

So your misnomer name Coco

came from the Chanel lineage

of timelessness, the little basic dress,

your absurdity of girliness. 

Once I heard a terrier poem read outloud. 

That terrier, George, loved to curl

behind his man’s knees. You disappointed me. 

I thought you responded to my warmth, 

not inherited comfort seeking. 

You let me wipe your wired beard

of the nettles that stick or the mud that cakes? 

You bite. Not good for a little kick-it-away dog.

Count two men: those working on our house,

doing good work we need done until you sneak up

and grab the back of their pants above the ankle

even as I yell. I explain it’s the little ones

who are the most dangerous; how little defense

you have and how many things shake you

into shivers. 

I never told those old folks or you

that I was downsizing, going for a dog

I could carry in a purse (you’re too big

and too squirrely), but I figure little ones live 

longer than Danes, and to the extent we keep

what we need near us, and hold on, 

maybe until I’m eighty-five so much

the better. Despite your generous flaws. 



Ruthie and Coco, my current two dogs that are little — because I aged and needed to downsize from the big dogs I had earlier in my life. 


Tricia Knoll is a Vermont poet who has lived with 10 dogs over the course of her life. She’s working on a poetry manuscript about dogs — which would be her 10th published collection. Her work appears widely in journals and anthologies. She is a Contributing Editor to Verse Virtual. Website:


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