How Could You?
Copyright (c) Jim Willis 2001, all rights reserved

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 bellyrub.

My housetraining 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, especially 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, 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, 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. 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.

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