Spiritual Care Counselor Bette Birnbaum is often moved to poetry by her experiences with families in hospice. Here is one of her recent poems:
The dog, he knows.
Because he can’t remember the last time they scratched behind his ears,
or shooed him off the furniture (which he actually prefers to the floor).
Because he’s been shushed for barking at the strangers’ wheeling roller bags,
and they forgot to feed him – again.
The cat, she knows.
Because she can’t remember the last time they teased her with a string,
or scooped out the litterbox.
Because the house is hushed (which she actually prefers to normal noise),
and they forgot to feed her – again.
The pets, they know.
Because they’ve been locked out in the back yard,
or closed off in the spare bedroom,
or sent away to the neighbors.
The dog and cat, they know.
Because their routines have flown out the window,
and they haven’t heard “good boy” or “here kitty kitty” in weeks,
and they smell decay beneath the antiseptic.
When you see the dog and cat all droopy eared and drop tailed,
or find them trembling in the corner,
or hear them crying for no apparent reason,
please remember that the dog and cat – they know.
Their hearts are breaking, too.