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
Anyone is welcome to distribute the essay for a noncommercial purpose, as
long as it is properly attributed with the copyright notice.
Please use it 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 and neuter campaigns in order to prevent unwanted
- Jim Willis
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 asked "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 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 seaching for a human mate. I waited for you patiently, comforted you through heartbreaks and dissapointments, never chided you about bad decisions, and romped with glee at your homecoming, 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 exitement. I was so 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 sneek 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 oppurtunity 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 untill 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 miggle-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 about 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 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, 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, whwnever anyone passed my pen, I rushed to the front, hoping it was you that has changed your mind - that this was all a bad dream...or I hoped it would at least be someone 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 hear her footsteps as she came for me at the end of the day and I padded along the aisle after her to a seperate 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 sence 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 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 coot liquid coursing though my body, I lay down sleepily, looked into her 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 myself - a place of love and light so very different from this earthy 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 aand wait for you forever.
May everyone in your life continue to show you so much loyalty.