How Could You

  By Jim Willis, 2001 How Could You?

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.

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.

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'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 

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, 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.

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 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 


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