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
of murdered throw pillows, I became your best friend. Whenever I was
you'd shake your finger at me and ask "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,
I believed that life could not be any more perfect. We went for long
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
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
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
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
were happy. Then the human babies came along and I shared your
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
of my time banished to another room, or to a dog crate. Oh, how I wanted
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,
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
and together we waited for the sound of your car in the driveway. There
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
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
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
I was excited about the car ride until we arrived at the animal shelter.
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
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
loose from my collar as he screamed "No, Daddy! Please don't let them
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
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
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
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
it would at least be someone who cared, anyone who might save me. When I
realised I could not compete with the frolicking for attention of happy
puppies, oblivious to their own fate, I retreated to a far corner and
I heard her footsteps as she came for me at the end of the day, and I
along the aisle after her to a separate room. A blissfully quiet room.
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
I was more concerned about her. The burden which she bears weighs heavily
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
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
better place, where I wouldn't be ignored or abused or abandoned, or have
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
a thump of my tail that my "How could you?" was not directed at her. It
you, My Beloved Master, I was thinking of. I will think of you and wait
May everyone in your life continue to show you so much loyalty.
A note from the author:
If "How Could You?" brought tears to your eyes as you read it, as it did
mine as I wrote it, it is because it is the composite story of the
of formerly owned pets who die each year in America's shelters.
Anyone is welcome to distribute the essay for a non-commercial purpose,
long as it is properly attributed with the copyright notice.
Please use it to help educate, on your websites, in newsletters, on
shelter and vet office bulletin boards.
Tell the public that the decision to add a pet to the family is an
one for life, that animals deserve our love and sensible care, that
another appropriate home for your animal is your responsibility and any
local humane society or animal welfare league can offer you good advice,
that all life is precious. Please do your part to stop the killing, and
encourage all spay & neuter campaigns in order to prevent unwanted