Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Get a Tissue

I'm sitting at my desk at work with tears rolling down my face. Sheesh. I'm such a wuss. But you try reading this and not cry!

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 homecomings, and when you fell in love. She, now your wife, is not a "dog person" -- still
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.


Monique said...

ugh, that was awful.

I could never imagine giving up my girls. We would have to just wait it out until we found a place that accepts pets.

I sometimes feel so bad when I come home exhausted and don't acknowledge their presence. I'll make sure tonight to give them extra love.

Paws Awhile said...

I cried. I am going to post it on my blog too.

Rosanne said...

I just put on my makeup!! I read this before and it still gets to me. We adopted our newest little girl about a year ago. It broke our hearts going through all the Humane Societies. We got our Harriet at a no-kill facility up in Arlington that does great work. The dogs they have there (it is a farm) can stay there for life if they don't get adopted. And the volunteers there are just wonderful! The woman who took care of our Harry still contacts me to check on her! She wanted to keep her for herself but she already had 4 dogs. I donate to them whenever I can for the good work they do. Check them out:
They are the best!

Kelly said...

I could never give up my black Lab Anna, or any pet I've ever had. My heart breaks reading this!

jennsquared said...

I'm sobbing as I read this. We rescue our kids (2 Great Pyrenees and 1 lab/chow mix) because of these type of stories. Sadly, the world does not have enough of people who will adopt the older pets.

Lindsay said...

I had tears in my eyes as I read this at work. If I were at home, I would've probably cried more. What a sad story. :(

Big Ben Patton said...

This post is definately hard not to shed some tears over, being an animal lover makes itespecially hard. I remember this same story with a collie/lab mix I had as a kid.. Still makes me sad to this day.

I have taken in three differnt cats over the last few years from the outside, gotten them fixed and made them a wonderful home. I make sure to pay them special attention every day. At first my wife just didnt understand, but after four years of it she has finally clicked with them. If money were not an object for me instead of that nice red ferrari Id just buy a bunch of land and open a resort for unwanted animals and just have an animal farm. I hate to think about the latter option just because people have moved on, grown up or just gave up.

Jillian said...

Wow, this story WAS sad. But good! :-(

Daisy said...

That story brought tears to my eyes, too. My Mommie volunteers at a no-kill cat rescue shelter 3 days a week. She says it is so sad to see all the adult cats that are "surrendered" by their owners. Those first few days, the cats are so fearful and confused and sad. Kittens usually find homes within a few weeks, but the older cats sometimes stay at she shelter for many, many months. I wish people would not adopt any pet unless they are willing and able to make a lifetime commitment.

gigibelts said...

Oh my god.. I'm at work, I'm not supposed to have tears in my eyes.

Melissa said...

Oh my goodness - That is so sad!

wildcatsthree said...

I could never do that to my babies either. 4 of my 5 pets came from a shelter or rescue group, and most likely were cast off by someone who didn't want them anymore. I think it's a sad commentary of us as a society that so many pet owners think their pets are disposable. It is so sad

Bunny said...

This is sad!! :(

Roxy said...

I love dogs way too much to ever do this to them.

I'll be sure to spread the word too.

blueviolet said...

That is way too sad.....