Dogs. Snow. Mary Oliver.

My dog, Raven is rolling in the snow. With wild abandon she’s tossing it over her head and rubbing it all over her body in a snow massage. I am jealous.

Animal gladness is a fine thing and I am so grateful I found Mary Oliver’s hymns to dogs. Dog Songs: Poems.

Mary Oliver was an American poet who won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In 2007 The New York Times described her as “far and away, this country’s best-selling poet.”

Mary is known for her astounding, deeply seen and deeply felt exploration of the natural world as it sinks into her soul and life. (And our souls and lives.)

With hope readers discover this volume (and all Mary’s works) and because Raven is rolling in the snow, and because there’s weeks and weeks of winter left for all dogs to do that … here’s my tribute to Mary Oliver.

(Sandy note: I can only share bits of her work, but I hope you find it all.)

“A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know almost nothing.”


“The Storm (Bear)”

… he spins

until the white snow is written upon

in large exuberant letters,

… a long sentence, expressing

The pleasure of the body in this world.



I had a dog
who loved flowers.
Briskly she went
through the fields,

yet paused

for the honeysuckle

or the rose,

… the way

we long to be—
that happy
in the heaven of earth—
that wild, that loving.


“The Sweetness of Dogs”

…I am for the moon’s
perfect beauty and also, oh! how rich
it is to love the world. Percy, meanwhile,
leans against me and gazes up
into my face. As though I were just as wonderful
as the perfect moon.


From the book’s essay, “Dog Talk”

“…I have seen Ben place his nose meticulously
into the shallow dampness of a deer’s hoofprint and shut his eyes as if listening. But it is smell he is listening to. The wild, high music of smell, that we know so little about
. … Dog is one of the messengers of that rich and still magical first world. The dog would remind us of the pleasures of the body with its graceful physicality, and the acuity and rapture of the senses, and the beauty of forest and ocean and rain and our own breath. There is not a dog that romps and runs but we learn from him.”


“Benjamin, Who Came From Who Knows Where”

What shall I do?

When I pick up the broom

      he leaves the room. …

Then he’s back, and we

       hug for a long time.


My dog Raven is a rescue dog. Like Mary Oliver’s dog Benjamin in the previous poem, her early years were obviously not happy. There was suffering. She’s happy now, rolling in the snow. Dear Mary Oliver, I am sending my Raven poem out to you …

“Raven’s Crate”

Raven is bending her head

into a hard corner of the living room.

The rest of her long, black, sleek body

lies relaxed on the floor.

She gazes at me with eyes almost as dark as

her coat.

“This is the way I lay in my small crate before

I came to live with you

and love you. But I still need to feel it hard

on my neck. Sometimes.”

(Pics: decades of my dogs in snow.)

 Summer IS coming. It will melt: lake and dog and loons from my next novel, “Deadly Turn.” 

 From the screened sleeping porch I watched Pock swim the cove biting bits of water he thought was floating debris. The lake was his pool and playground and often he had company. Wings tucked tight to their bodies, our resident loons torpedoed themselves back and forth under his belly, knowing he’d never catch them. From the far side of the cove, one bird raised a haunted cry. Loons are supposed to be the soul of lakes, but there’s edgy insanity to their loud laugher—high notes that sound strangled as they drop into silence. In coves all over the lake, other loons answered, their territorial cries overlapping echoes until they were wild orchestral music silenced by an unseen conductor who allowed one last lingering note—a performance that sang itself into my blood like a transfusion.

Sandy’s novel, “Deadly Trespass, A Mystery in Maine,” won a Mystery Writers of America award and was a finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest. In 2018, she was nominated for a Maine Literary Award. Find her novel at all Shermans Books and on Amazon. Find more info on the video trailer and Sandy’s website.  The second Mystery in Maine, “Deadly Turn,” will be published in 2019.

About Sandra Neily

Sandy’s novel “Deadly Trespass” received a Mystery Writers of America award, was named a national finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest, a finalist in the Mslexia international novel competition, a runner- up in Maine’s Joy of the Pen competition, and recently, an international SPR fiction finalist. Sandy lives in the woods of Maine and says she’d rather be “fly fishing cold streams, skiing remote trails, paddling near loons, or just generally out there—unless I’m sharing vanishing worlds with my readers. "
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