Copyrights Jim Willis for non commercial distribution
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 anymore 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 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 defend 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 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 goodbye pat on the head, avoided my eyes, and politely refused to take my collar and lead 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 realised I could not compete with the frolicking for attention 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 couldn’t be ignored or abused or abandoned, or to 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 and Canadian animal shelters. Anyone is welcome to distribute this essay for a non commercial purpose, as long as it is properly attributed with the copyright notice.
Please use it to help educate, on your websites, in newsletters, or 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 local humane society or animal welfare league can offer you good advice, and that all life is precious.
Please pass this on to everyone, not to hurt them or even make them sad, but it could save maybe, even one unwanted pet.
Remember….. They love UNCONDITIONALLY, if you give them LOVE.
It made me cry. Both of my dogs are rescues... and I'm not guilt free - I was one of those people who chose a puppy over an adult dog. I would never give up my dogs either - but it breaks my heart that there are so many dogs out there in shelters who were once "somebody's family".
It struck a cord for me because my older dog has been with me since I was in college... he was with me through a bad relationship - he licked my wounds after I was beaten - and yet, it was when he was abused that I finally left. He was with me when I had my son - and he became my sons best friend He was with me when I was a single mom - struggling to make ends meet. He was with me when I met my now husband.
And I feel so very lucky that my husband feel as much in love with my dog as he did with me and my son.
Yeah -it touched a nerve.... I copied it and sent it to everyone I know.
It was a cold winter day in Texas. I was 5 at the time. And the only thing I had wanted for Christmas was a puppy. Unfortunatly, I didn't get my wish. Or so I thought. My parents went into another room as my curiosity got the best of me and I crawled off the couch onto the floor by my older sister. My parents walked back into the living room smiling but with no more gifts. I was baffled at first, as I THOUGHT they had gone to get one last present. I turned back to hall where they had come from disappointedly.
And that's when I saw her. A foot tall, snow white except for one brown and black pointy ear. Dark eyes and nose with pink rings around them and a giant bright red ribbon wrapped wround her neck. She was scaredat first as she trotted across the carpet towards me. I was on my hands and knees, wide eyed and shocked. She walked up, looked straight at me and bumped her nose against mine. Her name was Sassy.
I haven't cried in a long time. But reading this made me remember my her. No, I didn't abandon her and put her in a shelter...but we did put her down. I remember like it was yesterday, though it was years ago. 11 years after that cold Christmas, we were at the vet. The doctor told us she was so close to dieing and she was in a lot of pain. Which explained why she no longer jumped at the site of me anymore and why she didn't find joy in chasing her frisbie around the yard. My parents left the decision up to me. She was my first dog. I was 16. And devastated. I remember looking down at her on the cold metal table, thinking to myself, "This can't be the end." As the story goes, they slid the needle inside and all I could do was whisper, "I'm so sorry," over..and over. And the last thing she did was look up at me with sad eyes and right before she left, she licked my hand and wagged her tail...one last time. I stayed by her side while my family left one by one, not being able to take the pain of seeing part of our family leave us for good. Silent tears slid down my cheek quickly as it sunk in that my baby was gone. After everyone had left and I was the last one in the room, I stood up and kissed her cold nose for the last time, then walked out of the vets office. Once outside, I looked down at my hands and realized I was gripping her collar tightly, as if trying to hold onto her. And then it finally sunk all the way in. It finally hit me. The one thing I loved most in life was gone.
I don't remember the next part, but my friend, who was there the whole time, said she saw me from the glass door. She said Iwasstanding there andthe next thing she knew, I had dropped to my knees and screamed. She said she ran outside and got down there with me, cradling me and rocking me as I sobbed my eyes out and cried out on occasion.
Just writing this, remembering this, makes those silent tears come back. Even as I type, tears are hitting the keyboard, one by one, as I remember her....
a foot tall..
love of my life..
one cold, Christmas night.
R.I.P. Sassy....I'm still waiting to see you again.
If you open yourself up, and actually let yourself feel something for the pain that is going on in the world, though it might not be in your home....or anywhere close you can directly see, right in front of your face...instead of blocking it out and acting as if it doesn't exsist,
You feel something.
And trust me, I lost alot of a feeling about alot of things, a long time ago. But I refuse to let myself get so corrupted that defenseless animals suffering and neglected evokes a feeling of...*shrug* Nothing.
At the shelter I worked at in Florida, this was part of the packets that went home with families that adopted pets from us. We got a lot of mixed reactions about it and eventually the city made us quit putting it in the adoption packs.. IMO this story should be required before anyone gets a pet.. It really makes a lot of people think before getting a new pet on impulse.
I too think it (or something like it) should be required reading before an animal is adopted. I also think it should be handed out to people who are about to surrender an animal to a shelter so they have time to rethink their decision before the final paperwork is done. Not for the tearjerker shock value but because sometimes they don't realize the result of what they are doing till it is too late.