HOW COULD YOU?
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
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 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 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 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.
by Jim Willis, 2001