Thursday, April 2, 2009

HOW COULD YOU? - By Jim Willis, 2001

A man in Grand Rapids, Michigan incredibly took out a $7000 full
page ad in the paper to present the following essay to the people of
his community.

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. Please do your part to stop the killing, and
encourage all spay & neuter campaigns in order to prevent unwanted animals.
Please pass this on to everyone, not to hurt them or make them sad,
but it could save maybe, even one, unwanted pet. Remember...They love

Now that the tears are rolling down your face, pass it on! Send to
everyone in your address book and around the world! This IS the
reality of dogs given up to shelters!

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