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 bellyrub.

 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 home comings, 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 have 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 dogspeak, 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 you, My Beloved Master, I was thinking
 of. I will think of you and wait for you forever.  May everyone in your
 life continue to show you so much loyalty.

 The End
 ______________________
 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 the essay for
 a noncommercial purpose, as long as it is properly attributed with the
 copyright notice.

 Please use it 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. Please do your part to stop the killing, and
 encourage adoption.
 
 


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