~Making a difference: one black dog at a time through education, awareness and action~
Tribute to a Dog
You will find these words inscribed below a statue of "Old Drum" in the town of Warrensville, Missouri. In 1870 a neighbor shot Drum. He said the dog had tried to attack him. The dog's human companion knew that wasn't true and he took the man to court.
On the day of trial, Missouri Senator George Vest happened to be in the court house. The Plaintiff's attorneys knew Vest to be a lover of good dogs. So they begged him to speak to the jury.
He agreed. Vest spoke in a low even voice. When he was done, the Jury and the Judge were weeping. The plaintiff was awarded $500. He had only sued for $200.
The words of Senator George Vest are as powerful today as they were more than a century ago. Truth never tarnishes with time.
"Gentlemen of the Jury: The best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps, when he needs it most. A man's reputation may be sacrificed in the moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its clouds upon our heads.
The one absolutely unselfish friend that many can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog. A man's dog stands by him in prosperity and poverty, in health and sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer; he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounter with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master, as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When the riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.
"If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him, to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace, and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by the graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad, but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even in death."
Excerpted from "Sergeant's Dog Book" by D.E. Buckingham, V.M.D.1935 as printed on www.akc.org .
We often hesitate to adopt a dog from the Humane Society because we figure we don't know what we're getting into adopting somebody else's used dog. We assume that if the dog is at the pound, there must be a reason. He chews up your smelly shoes, he pees on Aunt Molly when she comes to visit, he rummages through the trash.... there must be something really wrong for the dog to be at the pound.
But that's the big myth. In fact, adopting a dog from the pound, they often have some kind of record about the dog. Any training he's had, whether he's been an outdoor or indoor dog, plus they've spent a few days around him and knows if he's friendly, aggressive, fearful, etc. Dogs don't just appear on their doorstep. People turn them in, and in doing so, they fill out a fact sheet about the dog.
My very first dog was a dog pound special. She was a year and a half old, and knowing nothing about dogs, boy was it a tough choice! I didn't want to train a dog from scratch, so I didn't want a puppy. I wanted the dog to at least be housebroken and maybe sit or lay down on command.
According to their records, Gypsy was housebroken, knew SIT, and preferred the outdoors. I liked what I saw in her eyes. They were calm. She wasn't jumping around and barking like the other dogs. There was no sign of aggression or fear. She sat calmly, looking at me with a question mark in her eyes. Today her eyes are full of joy and laughter and love. And the question mark is in my eyes.
Because I don't understand how she came to be abandoned by two different families. Somebody, somewhere, spent a lot of time with this dog. And it shows. She knew a lot more when I adopted her than just SIT. She's about the closest thing to the perfect dog that I could ever imagine, and it baffles me utterly that anyone would have gotten rid of her. And to think how close she was to the gas chamber. She'd been there for a week already, and I don't know the time limit they try finding a new home before the axe falls, but I don't think it's much more than a week.
Obviously not all pound dogs are going to be as perfect as Gypsy. And she's got her quirks, as do all of us. But the moral of the story is, never to assume that just because somebody dumped the dog, that there's something wrong with the dog. Maybe it's the owner that was the problem.
Shari Coxford is a freelance writer and founder of the All Free Spot freebies web site, which offers free pet goodies You may reprint this in newsletters and on Web pages as long as you use it in its entirety, including this resource box with the author's information. Author retains all copyrights. To reprint this article in traditional print media, please contact the author
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 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 have 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 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, 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 dog-speak, 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 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.
A note from the author:
If "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 & neuter campaigns in order to prevent unwanted animals.
When I Am Old
I shall wear Turquoise and soft gray sweatshirts...
and a bandana over my silver hair.....
and I shall spend my Social Security Checks on
Sweet Wine and My Dogs......
and sit in my house on my well-worn chair
and listen to my dog's breathing.
I will sneak out in the middle of a warm Summer night
and take my dogs for a run, if my old bones will allow...
and when people come to call,
I will smile and nod as I show them my dogs...
and talk of them and about them...
The Ones so Beloved of the Past
and the Ones so Beloved of Today....
I still will work hard cleaning up after them
and mopping and feeding them
and whispering their names in a soft, loving way.
I will wear the gleaming sweat on my throat, like a jewel
and I will be an embarrassment to all...
and my family...
who have not yet found the peace
in being free to have dogs as your Best Friends....
These friends, who always wait, at any hour, for your foot fall...
and eagerly jump to their feet out of a sound sleep,
to greet you as if you are a god.
With warm eyes full of adoring love and hope that you will stay
and kiss their dear sweet heads...
and whisper to their very special company....
I look in the Mirror...
and see I am getting old....
this is the kind of woman I am...
and have always been.
Loving dogs is easy,
they are part of me,
accept me for who I am,
my dogs appreciate my presence in their lives...
when I am old this will be important to me...
you will understand when you are old....
and if you have dogs to love too.
Where to Bury a Dog…
But there is one place that is best of all…
If you bury him in this spot, the secret of which you must already have,
He will come to you when you call—come to you over the grim, dim frontiers of death, And down the well-remembered path, and to your side again.
And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel,
They shall not growl at him, nor resent his coming,
For he is yours and he belongs there.
People may scoff at you,
Who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his foot fall,
Who hear no whimper pitched too fine for audition,
People who may have never really had a dog.
Smile at them, for you shall know something that is hidden from them,
And which is well worth knowing.
The one best place to bury a dog is in the heart of his master.