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 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,
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

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 UNCONDITIONALLY.