Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Something for pet owners to think about

As someone who has worked at an animal shelter, and a pet owner, this really touched me. I've read it before, but not since I've had a blog...

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

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

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

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 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.

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