Fifteen years, she’s still cleaning shit out of the kennels
at minimum wage. Still saving the dogs too far gone.
The biters. The aggressors. The overly anxious.
Hello, Chance, she’d whisper into his dark cage after work.
I’m here for you, shutting quietly her truck door.
Come along now, singing the long road home.
Scraps-of-life dogs. Year after year, more hay-laden makeshift kennels.
Word of “the dog lady” spread.
Dogfight-dogs. Amputees. The dogs of PTSD.
I’m here for you, Hank.
Come along, sweet Gunner.
Under the stars, or in the rain,
or among the arrowleaf balsamroot in spring,
they run and sniff the five acres of meadows and mud.
Her house twice refinanced.
We’re all damaged, she’s been heard to say.
She’d take them all.
Hello, Buddy. The liquid-light of morning.
I’m here for you, Dallas. Kibbles roll into his bowl like coins.
Come here, sweet Sandy. Water glistens from the hose.
Sandy wags her tail, locks eyes with
the lady who saved her and sees her reflection,
a thousand miles deep.
Yvonne Higgins Leach is the author of Another Autumn (WordTech Editions, 2014). Her poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The South Carolina Review, South Dakota Review, Spoon River Review, and POEM. Her latest manuscript was a finalist for the 2019 Wandering Aengus Press Book Award. A native of Washington state, she earned a Master of Fine Arts from Eastern Washington University. She spent decades balancing a career in communications and public relations, raising a family, and pursuing her love of writing poetry. Yvonne’s latest passion is working with shelter dogs. She splits her time, living on Vashon Island and in Spokane, Washington. For more information, visit www.yvonnehigginsleach.com