Dog's Death

by John Updike

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Companion

Step 1

Ask your students, “What’s the saddest “animal” death in a movie or show? What made the scene so sad? Take us through it.” Then discuss.

Step 2

Read “Dog’s Death” by John Updike. When you’re done, briefly discuss what makes the poem the saddest piece of literature in the history of mankind.

*Content warning: death of an animal

Step 3

Say, “Think of the reasons why we love animals and pets so much. Simply jot down the reasons why they are so beloved by their owners & caretakers.” Then give your students a bit of time to brainstorm.

Step 4

Have your students compose a poem in which they express their love for their pet (or another animal), either through a poem that simply praises them for their love and devotion or, in a similar sentiment as “Dog’s Death,” one that expresses their sadness over losing it.

Step 5

When the students are done, have them share their responses with one another, if they feel comfortable doing so.

The full presentation may be found HERE.

Analytical Lesson

Area of Focus: Various

Step 1

This lesson allows students to analyze various concepts and skills, so it is recommended that you have covered several of the “standalone” lessons before assigning this one.

Step 2

Start by asking your students, “What’s the saddest ‘death scene’ in a movie?” Then field several responses.

Step 3

Show your students the following clip. Then ask your students what made the scene so sad.

Step 4

Read “Dog’s Death” by John Updike, the saddest poem ever written in the history of mankind. As you’re reading, have them pay attention to the poetic elements and techniques that contribute to its poignancy.

Step 5

Have your students open the following document. In this assignment, your students are going to analyze the poem to determine what makes it so emotionally potent. Your students will then choose specific parts of the poem and rate the “sadness” of the text on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the saddest. Then give your students time to work.

Step 6

Ask your students to share the saddest elements of the poem with the rest of the class, the pieces of text they rated a “5/5.”

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Various


  • Appreciation
  • Death / Grief
  • Family
  • Friendship
  • Health / Health Care / Illness
  • Love
  • Parenting

Literary Tags

  • Diction
  • Imagery
  • Selection of Detail
  • Tone

Content Warning

  • Animal Cruelty or Animal Death