man in Grand Rapids, Michigan incredibly took out a US
$7,000 full page ad in the paper to present the HOW
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, 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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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 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.
A Note from the Author:
"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 distribute 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 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 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
animals. Jim Willis