HOW COULD YOU? - By Jim Willis, 2001

Stormy Stewart


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


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How to Make HOW COULD YOU? - By Jim Willis, 2001


  • 1When 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.
  • 2Then 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
  • 3I 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.
  • 4As 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.

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