“The Animals’ Savior”
Copyright Jim Willis 1999
I looked at all the caged animals in the shelter...the cast-offs of human society.
I saw in their eyes love and hope, fear and dread, sadness and betrayal.
And I was angry.
"God," I said, "this is terrible! Why don't you do something?"
God was silent for a moment and then He spoke softly.
"I have done something," He replied.
"I created you.”
“How Could You?”
Copyright 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 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 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. 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.
I Died Today
You got tired of me and took me to the shelter. They were overcrowded and I drew an unlucky number. I am in a black plastic bag in a landfill now. Some other puppy will get the barely used leash you left. My collar was dirty and too small, but the lady took it off before she sent me to the Rainbow Bridge . Would I still be at home if I hadn’t chewed your shoe? I didn’t know what it was, but it was leather, and it was on the floor. I was just playing. You forgot to get puppy toys. Would I still be at home if I had been housebroken? Rubbing my nose in what I did only made me ashamed that I had to go at all. There are books and obedience teachers that would have taught you how to teach me to go to the door. Would I still be at home if I hadn’t brought fleas into the house? Without anti-flea medicine, I couldn’t get them off of me after you left me in the yard for days. Would I still be at home if I hadn’t barked? I was only saying, “I’m scared, I’m lonely, I’m here, I’m here! I want to be your best friend.” Would I still be at home if I had made you happy? Hitting me didn’t make me learn how. Would I still be at home if you had taken the time to care for me and to teach manners to me? You didn’t pay attention to me after the first week or so, but I spent all my time waiting for you to love me.
I died today. Love, Your Puppy
an essay by Jim Willis ©2002
Jim Willis is the author of Pieces of My Heart - Writings Inspired By Animals and Nature. To learn more about Jim's work, please click here to visit his website. His book can be purchased on Amazon.com.
The sign on the mailbox post was hand-lettered on cardboard and read "FREE KITTUNS." It appeared there two or three times a year, sometimes spelled this way, sometimes that, but the message was always the same.
In a corner of the farmhouse back porch was a cardboard box with a dirty towel inside, on which huddled a bouquet of kittens of different colors, mewing and blinking and waiting for their mama to return from hunting in the fields. The mother cat managed to show them enough interest for the first several weeks, but after having two or three litters per year, she was worn out and her milk barely lasted long enough for her babies to survive.
One by one, people showed up over the next several days and each took a kitten. Before they left the woman who lived there always said the same thing, "You make sure you give that one a good home - I've become very attached to that one."
One by one the kittens and their new people drove down the long driveway and past the sign on the mailbox post, "FREE KITTUNS."
The ginger girl kitten was the first to be picked. Her four-year-old owner loved her very much, but the little girl accidentally injured the kitten's shoulder by picking her up the wrong way. She couldn't be blamed really - no adult had shown her the proper way to handle a kitten. She had named the kitten "Ginger" and was very sad a few weeks later when her older brother and his friends were playing in the living room and someone sat on the kitten.
The solid white boy kitten with blue eyes was the next to leave with a couple who announced even before they went down the porch steps that his name would be "Snowy." Unfortunately, he never learned his name and everyone had paid so little attention to him that nobody realized he was deaf. On his first excursion outside he was run over in the driveway by a mail truck.
The pretty gray and white girl kitten went to live on a nearby farm as a "mouser." Her people called her "the cat," and like her mother and grandmother before her she had many, many "free kittuns," but they sapped her energy. She became ill and died before her current litter of kittens was weaned.
Another brother was a beautiful red tabby. His owner loved him so much that she took him around to meet everyone in the family and her friends, and their cats, and everyone agreed that "Erik" was a handsome boy. Except his owner didn't bother to have him vaccinated. It took all the money in her bank account to pay a veterinarian to treat him when he became sick, but the doctor just shook his head one day and said "I'm sorry."
The solid black boy kitten grew up to be a fine example of a tomcat. The man who adopted him moved shortly thereafter and left "Tommy" where he was, roaming the neighborhood, defending his territory, and fathering many kittens until a bully of a dog cornered him.
The black and white girl kitten got a wonderful home. She was named "Pyewacket." She got the best of food, the best of care until she was nearly five years old. Then her owner met a man who didn't like cats, but she married him anyway. Pyewacket was taken to an animal shelter where there were already a hundred cats. Then one day, there were none.
A pretty woman driving a van took the last two kittens, a gray boy and a brown tiger-striped girl. She promised they would always stay together. She sold them for fifteen dollars each to a laboratory. To this day, they are still together...in a jar of alcohol.
For whatever reason - because Heaven is in a different time zone, or because not even cat souls can be trusted to travel in a straight line without meandering - all the young-again kittens arrived at Heaven's gate simultaneously. They batted and licked each other in glee, romped for awhile, and then solemnly marched through the gate, right past a sign lettered in gold: "YOU ARE FINALLY FREE, KITTENS."
The Rainbow Bridge
Just this side of heaven is a place called the Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to the Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together....
I am posting this poem, Desiderata because it is so beautiful. Laura
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.
© Max Ehrmann 1927