HOW COULD YOU?
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, age 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
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, comfort you through heartbreaks and disappointments, never chided you
about bad decisions, and romped with glee at your homecomings, and when you fell
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
They shrugged and gave you a pained look. They
understand the realities facing a middle-aged dog, even one with
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
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
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