He wants to honor his dead wife, so he takes the dog along with him just as she did. This is perhaps the only gesture the father makes toward the dog. Throughout the poem, it appears as if the father is indifferent to the dog, if anything at all.
The paradox we encounter in the poem is if a dog can actually suffer from grief with the ultimate question resting on the notion of animals missing human beings. The most ironic aspect of this poem is how the dog appears to be suffering more than the father is. The poet does not go into the father's suffering at all, except to say that he refuses counseling. The meaning and primary idea behind the poem is that all creatures suffer loss whether or not they can express it in ways that humans might be able to understand. It took death for the poet's father to believe that an animal could experience anything such as separation anxiety. The poet approaches death from the perspective of an animal to emphasize that loss is a real feeling experienced by any creature that experienced anything like love. The tone of "Mixed Company" is somber - a tone the poet captures successfully by telling us about the dog's grief. There is no doubt that the tone of the poem is one of sadness; we sense the animal's grief as well as our own empathy for the animal. The poet achieves her goal with this poem - she brings the animal to us as a creature that suffers and while we sometimes see animals as "cute" or "lower life forms," we rarely take the time to look at them as animals with needs similar to our own. The ultimate question is associated with death and what animals do when someone they love is suddenly taken away from them. The poet leaves us to ponder what death means to a creature that may not have the capability to comprehend death. Animals feel loss regardless of why.
The message in this poem is compelling. By focusing on the grief of an animal, the poet allows us to see the depths of grief. She asks us to consider how much more we must feel loss than one of these creatures. While we may know we are grieving, we may not always do it in the best of ways - an example best emphasized through the poet's father and the dog. The dog seems to be handling his grief better than the father does because at least he is getting the grief out of his system. He may tear things up because he is angry and he may not know that he is angry or that he is sad but he does know that he misses his master. The poet's father, a rational human being does not seem to be as capable of handling or expressing his grief any better than the dog. The best that the poet can offer us about the father's grief is that he may be coming around to certain psychological ideas. We do not seem him cope in any way, which is, oddly enough, very human. The poet leaves us with a positive admiration for the dog. She thinks the dog is far better at handling grief than her father is.
"Mixed Company" is a poem that explores the depths of death through the eyes of a dog. While this notion may seem awkward to us at first, the poet proves her point by allowing us to see how the dog copes with death in a healthy way while the father may not be so lucky. While we see dogs as creatures that are far below us on the food chain, they demonstrate that they can feel things - whether or not they know why they are feeling what they do. If we look closely and keep an open mind, we might even be able to figure out a few things. This is a remarkable piece because it breaks death down its common denominator - loss. Loss is no respecter of persons or creatures as the poet illustrates. In the end, we all fall…