Copyright 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
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 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
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 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
Director, The Tiergarten Sanctuary Trust, accredited member of The
American Sanctuary Association,
and Program Coordinator, International Society for Animal Rights
Go on to The Betrayal
of "Man's" Best Friend
Return to 9 May 2001 Issue
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