To My Dog Rex

By Mrs. S.W. Jewett
[published in Our Animal Friends v. 20 (Sept. 1894)] 

FRIEND, if the gift of human speech denied 

     Thy noble race were granted thee to-day,

And thou couldst thus thy inmost thought unfold,

     What wouldst thou say?

If the beseeching pathos of those eyes,

    Fixed on my own with sad but mute appeal,

Could voice itself in words, what more of love

    Could they reveal?

I ask no other token of thy truth,

     Thy deep affection, steadfast loyalty,

Than those far-reaching and imploring eyes

     Unfold to me.

Could human hearts thus meet in full accord,

     And each to each their fervent love express,

How many a life were blessed, now languishing

     In loneliness!

 This little poem, written expressly for Our Animal Friends, the ASPCA’s publication, captures a beautiful sentiment we’re very familiar with: dogs can make you feel loved just by the way they look at you. But notice how she begins by asking (with apparent sincerity, addressing her dog as “FRIEND”) what he would say if he could speak? At the opening verse, she assumes he has (at least one!) “inmost thought” to “unfold” with the gift of speech. By the second verse, however, this “inmost thought” becomes more limited: she begins to assume that what he would say would merely be “more of love.” By the flip of the third verse, Jewett is no longer concerned about whether Rex can or cannot speak, having determined that he would merely say love-related things. The dogs’ eyes “unfold” enough on this topic. The question of speech, to a dog, becomes irrelevant.

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