Kirby the Sneak is a modern-day American border collie and genius. Genealogy is one of his many interests, and he has traced his lineage back to his family’s nineteenth-century Scottish origins and beyond.

Yes, this and the other things—went on the list;


Along with (and thinking, “Ah ha, that reminds
Me”) his interest in archaeological finds

Of a general sort in his divers pursuits
Of the anthro- (and canine-)pogenical routes

Of his culture and bloodlines, and likewise their roots
(Thus successors and scions, departures and shoots),

In the figures of speech that rely on and key
To the metaphors made of the map and the tree

And suggesting distinctions long since in debate
If a map implies fortune and tree stands for fate,


As over the years he had worked to compile
A pretty compendious Sneak Family file

(With the motto in mind, as he dug in the stacks,
Of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, to just “stick to the facts”)

That he gathered from seemingly fanciful tales
That turned out to be right in a lot of details,

And from passenger manifests, mug shots, mine deeds,
A few courtroom proceedings, a couple of leads

That he gleaned from The Sheepdog Society Page
Of the scandals and stars of The Golden Dog Age. . . .


And whether it turns out the chart in his scrap-
book, in vellum and fixed by a coat-of-arms snap,

Is more helpfully tree or more credibly map,
It goes back to the ’70’s Great Wiston Cap,

The bluest of blue-bloods, the legend, who flew
To a win at The Worlds in a laugher—at two

So precociously shrewd, hyperlexic, and fleet
That the losers made hymns to how bad they got beat;


And back further to 1901 and Old Kep,
Who was known as a kind dog, for sure, but his rep,

Beyond forty-five wins at the National Trials—
With contenders from all the Inhabited Isles—

Was the Eye of Compulsion, the Lunatic Eye
That cannot be resisted (and pointless to try)

The Eye of Unblinking, Surrenderless Nerve
That will stare down embarrassed tornados to swerve,

And that passed to his offspring, that’s hardwired in
To the circuits of Kirby—and all of his kin;


And one father back further, one patriarch prior,
To ane Old Hemp of Cambo, the Foundation Sire—

From a silent and serious mom, and a dad,
Just a buy-you-a-fizz kinda guy at The Grad,

In whom these genes one time and forever assembled,
Who “worked so intensely he physically trembled,”

Who was “following sheep at the age of six weeks,”
“Introduced almost all modern herding techniques”

And flashed on the scene “as a meteor streaks”—
Of the Old World original Borderland Sneaks,


Grand champions all and great checkers of sheep
With their world-renowned monomaniacal creep—

And obsession with vacuums, Sudoku, and Clue,
And back counting paint in a seven-deck shoe—

And further back, still, in the Sneak Family scrolls,
The unchronicled heroes on history’s rolls,

Who themselves had to be, whether lucky or fitter,
A pup at one time in a mom and pop litter,

As Kirby conceived them, with rapturous yawns
And an abacus playing on glistering lawns

By the mountain-fed runnels and ice-water rills
Of the River Coquet in the Cheviot Hills

With their moorland horizons and rounded plateaux
And the glacier-gouged glens made an ice age ago, . . .


And learning the Scottish for “Frisbee” and “ball”
In the picturesque ruins of Hadrian’s Wall

In that phylum of barricades not part of myth
That he, too’d, had some recent experience with.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 32 Number 9, on page 24
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