Owner's Responsibilities
Never shall this happen to one of my puppies


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 house training 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, 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. 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 or cat, 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,

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
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, 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. 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 meant for 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.

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 side tribute
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
newspapers, 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 the story

The End