“Peasant Children,” Vladimir Makovsky, 1890, WikiArt

Early waking, daily labours, I am old now,
Naps in afternoon, yet shepherd-family
Children come around, my little comforts
And magpies. “Tiziana, tell us about Ritsá,”
In unison demanding. My shepherding dog,
Spoke with her eyes, thoughts we shared,
Few words needed, herself mountain-lost
Pup, mud-matted hair. With adoring eyes
She said, “I will always be yours.” Thus
Our life-journey began, bond of trusting
Love, loyal companionship, always at my
Side, equal to mother and her dog-child.

“Tell us about Kora,” my harpies asked,
Their favourite story, memory recited by
All again and again, offerings of fruit and
Honeyed bread, mothers thanks for after-
Noon occupying fidgeting bodies, restless
Minds, Ritsá at my side, eager as these
Children. Thus we began: “Child of six
Years, Kora, wayward soul, wandered into
Dark forests near family stone cottage,
Parents and our clan in alarms. Entangled
Hillsides she disappeared, sunlight into
Darkness, single scrap of clothing found.”

“Girl with Doll,” Vasily Tropinin, 1841, WikiArt.

Led by gravity, Kora stumbled into ravine,
rocky streams and waterfalls. One slip, Kora
Would be forever lost, falling to her death,
Washed away beyond the eyes of men.
Pleading for help, her parents and siblings
At my door appeared, my Ritsá they sought.
To their house I took oxen cart, jarring ride,
Ritsá by my side. Once at Kora’s home, Ritsá
Went Kora’s bed, pallet on floor, woolen
Blankets and her doll, couple sniffs required,
Ritsá knew what to do.

“Kora is missing,” I whispered. “In forests
Dark, she’s lost.” Ritsá understood, eyes and
Thoughts connected, mental image of Kora
Shared, spindly child, dark eyes and hair,
Simple dress and sandals. Shrill barks, Ritsá
Understood, nose in air sniffing, she ranged
Forest edge, disappeared through thicket,
Animal path, men young and old following,
More distraction than help. Ritsá picked her
Way amongst rocks, fallen trees, meandering
Course, circling back on itself, young Kora
Found on age-old mountain paths.

“Love Me, Love My Dog,” Frederick Morgan, 1879, WikiArt.

Since then, adolescent Kora and Ritsá have
Become fast friends, daughter I never had,
She visits often, keeps hearth fires burning
Throughout chilly nights. Her muzzle white,
Ritsá prefers warm bed or flickering flames.
Bright eyes, Ritsá knows every word we say,
No secrets kept from her. Thus is my family
And my story recited to visitors knocking
At my cottage door. Blessed by Ritsá, puppy
Found on mountain trails. To this day, I
Remember when Ritsá and I first spoke, not
By words, but knowing eyes and thought.

Poem of connections, dogs and people, one continuing since antiquity, specially
with shepherds and their roaming flocks. Related poem: “Return of Ritsá” 



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