Monday, September 10, 2012

HOW COULD YOU? - By Jim Willis, 2001

When I was a puppy, I entertained you with my antics and made you laugh. You
called me your child, and despite a number of chewed shoes and a couple of
murdered throw pillows, I became your best friend. Whenever I was "bad,"
you'd shake your finger at me and ask "How could you?" -- but then you'd
relent and roll me over for a belly rub.

My housebreaking took a little longer than expected, because you were
terribly busy, but we worked on that together. I remember those nights of
nuzzling you in bed and listening to your confidences and secret dreams, and
I believed that life could not be any more perfect. We went for long walks
and runs in the park, car rides, stops for ice cream (I only got the cone
because "ice cream is bad for dogs" you said), and I took long naps in the
sun waiting for you to come home at the end of the day.

Gradually, you began spending more time at work and on your career, and more
time searching for a human mate. I waited for you patiently, comforted you
through heartbreaks and disappointments, never chided you about bad
decisions, and romped with glee at your homecomings, and when you fell in
love. She, now your wife, is not a "dog person" - - still I welcomed her
into our home, tried to show her affection, and obeyed her. I was happy
because you were happy.

Then the human babies came along and I shared your excitement. I was
fascinated by their pinkness, how they smelled, and I wanted to mother them,
too. Only she and you worried that I might hurt them, and I spent most of my
time banished to another room, or to a dog crate. Oh, how I wanted to love
them, but I became a "prisoner of love." As they began to grow, I became
their friend. They clung to my fur and pulled themselves up on wobbly legs,
poked fingers in my eyes, investigated my ears, and gave me kisses on my
nose. I loved everything about them and their touch -- because your touch
was now so infrequent -- and I would've defended them with my life if need
be. I would sneak into their beds and listen to their worries and secret
dreams, and together we waited for the sound of your car in the driveway.
There had been a time, when others asked you if you had a dog, that you
produced a photo of me from your wallet and told them stories about me.
These past few years, you just answered "yes" and changed the subject. I had
gone from being "your dog" to "just a dog ," and you resented every
expenditure on my behalf.

Now, you have a new career opportunity in another city, and you and they
will be moving to an apartment that does not allow pets.

You've made the right decision for your "family," but there was a time when
I was your only family

I was excited about the car ride until we arrived at the animal shelter. It
smelled of dogs and cats, of fear, of hopelessness. You filled out the
paperwork and said "I know you will find a good home for her." They shrugged
and gave you a pained look. They understand the realities facing a
middle-aged dog, even one with "papers." You had to pry your son's fingers
loose from my collar as he screamed "No, Daddy! Please don't let them take
my dog!" And I worried for him, and what lessons you had just taught him
about friendship and loyalty, about love and responsibility, and about
respect for all life. You gave me a good-bye pat on the head, avoided my
eyes, and politely refused to take my collar and leash with you. You had a
deadline to meet and now I have one, too. After you left, the two nice
ladies said you probably knew about your upcoming move months ago and made
no attempt to find me another good home.

They shook their heads and asked, "How could you?"

They are as attentive to us here in the shelter as their busy schedules
allow. They feed us, of course, but I lost my appetite days ago. At first,
whenever anyone passed my pen, I rushed to the front, hoping it was you that
you had changed your mind -- that this was all a bad dream... or I hoped it
would at least be someone who cared, anyone who might save me.
When I realized I could not compete with the frolicking for attention of
happy puppies, oblivious to their own fate, I retreated to a far corner and
waited. I heard her footsteps as she came for me at the end of the day, and
I padded along the aisle after her to a separate room. A blissfully quiet
room. She placed me on the table and rubbed my ears, and told me not to
worry. My heart pounded in anticipation of what was to come, but there was
also a sense of relief. The prisoner of love had run out of days.

As is my nature, I was more concerned about her. The burden which she bears
weighs heavily on her, and I know that, the same way I knew your every mood.
She gently placed a tourniquet around my foreleg as a tear ran down her
cheek. I licked her hand in the same way I used to comfort you so many years
ago. She expertly slid the hypodermic needle into my vein.

As I felt the sting and the cool liquid coursing through my body, I lay down
sleepily, looked into her kind eyes and murmured, "How could you?"

Perhaps because she understood my dog speak, she said, "I'm so sorry." She
hugged me, and hurriedly explained it was her job to make sure I went to a
better place, where I wouldn't be ignored or abused or abandoned, or have to
fend for myself -- a place of love and light so very different from this
earthly place. And with my last bit of energy, I tried to convey to her with
a thump of my tail that my "How could you?" was not directed at her. It was
directed at you, My Beloved Master, I was thinking of you. I will think of
you and wait for you forever. May everyone in your life continue to show you
so much loyalty.

A Note from the Author: If "How Could You?" brought tears to your eyes as
you read it, as it did to mine as I wrote it, it is because it is the
composite story of the millions of formerly "owned" pets who die each year
in American & Canadian animal shelters. Please use this to help educate, on
your websites, in newsletters, on animal shelter and vet office bulletin
boards. Tell the public that the decision to add a pet to the family is an
important one for life, that animals deserve our love and sensible care,
that finding another appropriate home for your animal is your responsibility
and any local humane society or animal welfare league can offer you good
advice, and that all life is precious.

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