Hopefully, you are reading this BEFORE you buy your puppy and take it home, because this is basic information that every new owner should have and understand fully. You know how they say human babies don’t come with an owner’s manual? Well, your baby puppy is going to have one now, and it’s up to you to read it!
When you first have your human baby, you find that it has special needs - lots of sleep, first and foremost, along with small, frequent feedings. It needs to have its diaper changed frequently, and the bowel movements look and smell odd - in comparison with yours, that is. You can’t take the baby around to all the relatives and let them play with it and “wool it around,” as my mother-in-law told me when I had my two babies. (She had five of her own, and had already helped raise umpteen grandchildren and foster children, so she should have known how to do it right.) Babies are delicate little critters and can’t take a lot of excitement, adult-type food, and going without sleep, or they get sick, even to the point of death. Well, guess what! Your brand-new puppy is exactly the same way!
We’ve done everything we can to raise healthy, happy, well-adjusted puppies so we can put them in the hands of eager new owners to enjoy for many, many years. We keep the pregnant mamas in our nursery, up in the heart of the house, away from visitors, so they can be nice and quiet both before and after they give birth. We try to keep conditions as sanitary as possible so the infant puppies aren’t exposed to bacteria and viruses and parasites. At first they sleep for most of their days and nights, and as they grow they stay awake for longer periods - but they still sleep a LOT. We don’t devote hours to playing with them, much as we’d love to, because we know their tender little nervous systems just can’t take it.
Puppies grow and develop much faster than human babies do, but they are still babies, and when you are allowed to take yours home, it’s only 8 weeks old - a minimum of 56 days. That’s not even two full months! Mama dog is only pregnant for 9 weeks - one week for every month a human mother is pregnant - and we wean her from her pups at 6 weeks, taking her back to the kennel and leaving the babies in the nursery to grow and mature without her for two more weeks before they go to their new homes. They learn to play with their siblings and other puppies, and we let them out to scamper around on the floor together while we’re cleaning and sanitizing their stainless-steel crates, putting down clean newspaper and shredded paper for them to live on.
We have people complain that their puppy doesn’t know anything about being on grass or carpet. The nursery is not carpeted, nor is the rest of the main floor of either the house or the kennel. The first thing dogs do in a new place is sniff to see who has been there before them, and they urinate or defecate to mark it as their place! Can you imagine the cleaning nightmare that would be in a kennel situation if there was carpet everywhere?! We also don’t have grass in the outdoor dog runs - they eat it and throw up. Anyone who has had a dog or cat has watched that animal eat grass and go vomit somewhere - usually in the middle of the carpet or up on a bed. YUCK! So, we don’t have grass where the dogs can get to it very easily, and we don’t even take the puppies outdoors into pens on the front deck until after they are about 3 months old and can better handle our daytime temperatures - on warm days only. Even then they don’t stay out all day, and none of our dogs stay out all night - too many things would love to have a wiener-dog snack in the dark! In certain areas, daytime predators can be a problem with small dogs, too. We've been told about little dogs being snatched by hawks, eagles, coyotes, bobcats, cougars, etc. - so keep a close watch on your dachshund puppy at ALL times, and preferably keep him in a harness, on a leash, unless he's in your adequately-fenced yard.
Going back to the topic of grass, I might as well add this - we don’t even HAVE grass for much of the year! From whenever the ground becomes covered with snow, until at least mid to late May, there isn’t any grass growing at our elevation! We’re at least 8,200 feet above sea level, in a whole different world from most of our buyers. You’re already enjoying leaves on your trees, have flowers blooming, and have mowed your grass at least once, by the time our first blades even peek out of the ground, and it's so dry up here that what sparse grass there is can't be called lawn!
I’ve received two email newsletters from two different veterinarians addressing the issue of diarrhea and vomiting in dogs (and cats), the primary reasons people take pets to the vet, so it’s a very important topic of discussion. Both newsletters give the same simple at-home remedies for these problems, and they start with not stressing a new puppy! Just as you don’t bring your new baby home from the hospital and take it out in the sun and rain, or to a ball-game, or to all your friends’ homes, don’t do those things with your puppy. He’s not ready for all-day play, eating off your plate, and being exposed to all the dogs at the park - or “Petco, where the pets go!” (And boy, do they ever GO! Follow a few dogs in the store for a while, and eventually you’ll see a male dog hike his leg on something - even some females do it, too! Don’t ever buy the toys on the bottom shelves unless you wash and sanitize them thoroughly before giving them to your dog!)
Even giving your puppy milk is not a good idea. We mix powdered goat milk replacer with the puppies’ ground-up Purina Puppy Chow to make gruel, adding some water at first, to soften and make it easier for them to eat. Usually, by the time they leave the only home they’ve ever known, they are off the goat milk and able to eat dry whole Puppy Chow kibble. So, adding milk to their food at your house is NOT a good idea. Once a puppy or kitten is weaned, it does not get milk from its mother, and in the wild a young wolf or wild cat would not ever get milk again. Its stomach changes to accept a diet of meat and whatever vegetation it would eat, washed down with water. Your puppy would love to drink milk all day every day, but he would also have diarrhea from it! (By the way, we feed ONLY Purina Puppy Chow until the pups are old enough to graduate to adult food, then they are gradually switched over to Purina Dog Chow. We've tried all the higher-priced brands, but they contain too much rich protein - or something - and they just don't do as well on those. We keep coming back to Purina Dog Chow, and the dogs thrive on it! Our vet also approves of it as one of the best and more-affordable brands.)
The New York Times had an article on July 24, 2018 about an apparent mysterious connection between dogs eating "grain-free, gluten-free" dog food containing combinations of exotic meats (such as bison, wild boar, even kangaroo!) and various legumes, and a common heart disease called "dilated cardiomyopathy," or DCM. Please read this article and follow the suggestion to consult your veterinarian BEFORE you feed your dog(s) this type of food. Janet has tried a number of various brands of dog food through the years, but has found that all of her dogs have thrived best on Purina Dog Chow and Puppy Chow. Purina has been making Dog Chow for 90 years now, and it has never been recalled. They have a trustworthy history, unlike some of these expensive "Johnny come lately" brands that HAVE been recalled, despite their claims to be so good for your dog. Honestly, the article paints an accurate picture of the poten-tial danger of using these weird-combo dog foods - and how do you KNOW it contains such meat as alligator and kangaroo, or wild boar instead of plain old cheap factory-farmed pork? Here's a new list of the actual brands linked to the problem, as well as an update on research to find the cause, published June 27, 2019, by the FDA, and here's a surprise - it even affects cats, as well. PLEASE read it!
One thing vets recommend is the use of prebiotics and probiotics. These are helpful digestive bacteria - we’ve all seen those “Activia” commercials that talk about aiding the digestion with “Bifidus regularis” - their concocted name for the assortment of bifido-bacteria that digest your food so you can be more regular in your bowel movements, and without either diarrhea or constipation. You can buy these bacteria in powder form, as tablets and capsules, and probably in liquid as well, from Walmart, drugstores, health-food stores, and pet stores - either for people or animals. Bacteria are bacteria - we all have them! They aren’t harmful at all, and it’s doubtful that you could ever overdose your puppy on them. Another way to introduce these bacteria to your puppy is via a spoonful of plain yogurt - just make sure it has “active cultures” in it. Pup doesn’t need all the sweetened fruity-flavored stuff that will give him MORE diarrhea or make him fat - he should eat plain yogurt just fine. Using the bacteria powder on his food may work if Pup decides he doesn’t like yogurt after all - you can moisten the food just a little bit with water so the powder sticks to it, or blend it with some canned dog food.
Another helpful substance we’ve found is food-grade diatomaceous earth, or DE. This is finely ground “fossil shell flour,” made from fossilized diatoms, single-celled critters, which create tiny shells for themselves out of silica and other minerals they extract from water. There are diatoms in both fresh and sea-water, and when they die and drift to the bottom of the body of water, they build up in deposits which can be mined when found on dry ground - there are many such mines around the world, but the best product is obtained right here in the American West. DE is a mechanical pesticide (not toxic), among other things, which kills all sorts of intestinal parasites and other insects by slicing their insides and drying them out (rather like eating microscopic razor-blades), then absorbing all their inner juices. It only affects creatures with exoskeletons this way - it won’t harm birds, fish, reptiles or mammals. (Because earthworms are structurally different from other worms, grubs and insects, they are not harmed by DE, and indeed it is used by earthworm farmers to rid their worm beds of such pests while leaving the earthworms unharmed!) We dust up to a teaspoonful per day on each of our adult dogs’ food, and mix it into the puppies’ gruel, too. We’ve noticed a real decline in the incidence of diarrhea and worms, as well as the fly population each summer since we started using DE in November 2009. Any eggs laid on feces hatch out into maggots, which eat the DE in the feces, and then die instead of becoming flies!
DE is also a great deodorizer, immediately neutralizing the smells of feces and urine. We sprinkle it in the dog runs, and when we have to keep the dogs inside during storms, we add it to the shredded paper in their exercise pens. It also helps soak up the urine - it is very “hydrophilic” (meaning ‘loves water’), so it sucks up any moisture it contacts, but never becomes a soupy mess - it forms a fast-drying and easily removed cake instead. [Update on 9-12-19: We are still using DE in the kennel and on our own dogs. I am now living in upstate New York and using DE to keep my dachshunds and cat healthy where we have a lot more insect pests than we had in the Colorado mountains. By the way, it was our veterinarian in Silver Cliff, CO who first recommended DE to us, as she had found terrific improvements in her own animals, both pets and livestock, after introducing DE into their diets and their dusting areas. They had fewer internal and external pests and parasites, and production of eggs, milk and meat was vastly improved.]
Food-grade DE is sold in health-food stores (rather expensively, in small containers) or farm-supply stores (Big R, Tractor Supply, etc. for bulk quantities), or you can order it online. We have the national distributor of Perma-Guard DE right up here in Silver Cliff, who has several retailers in the local area . You can find them and more about DE than I’ve been able to cover here, by clicking on http://www.perma-guard.com/ and checking out the Perma-guard (DE) products. There are retailers all over the U.S., and if your local stores don’t carry it, have them contact the folks at Perma-Guard. We buy it in 50 lb. sacks for the quantity we use, which lasts for months - including the little sample bags we send home with our puppies, and the 50-lb bags are only about $25.00, including the tax.
Only use pure food-grade DE, as pool-grade is something completely different and inedible, and the stuff that’s sold in feed-stores is often mixed with bentonite clay, to be an anti-caking agent in animal feeds. For more information, check out the backyardchickens.com website, and please read the growing list of testimonials - you’ll be amazed at what this stuff does! We use it on ourselves, too - I have added 2 tablespoons of it to my quart of hot tea every morning as a dietary supplement. DE contains 14 assorted trace minerals and silica, which are all needed by the body, and is beneficial to all animals, birds and fish - it’s even put in aquarium filtration systems to kill fish parasites. (It can be harmful if inhaled in sufficient quantity, but not under typical conditions. Just don't stir up a lot of dust, and you'll be fine.) DE has many uses besides what I've listed here - it truly is GREAT STUFF!
I'm also putting the equivalent of at least one or two tablets of brewer's yeast per dog on my dogs' collective feed pan every day, as well as my cat's food, and am finding that ticks and fleas don't like that! I haven't seen them scratch, and haven't found a single flea or tick on any of them, in MONTHS. I buy the tablets in the nutritional supplements section at Walmart, then grind the contents of one bottle at a time in my old-fashioned hand-cranked meat-grinder that clamps to my kitchen table.
Returning to the subject of diarrhea in dogs, please check out the full article (and others) at http://www.petplace.com/dogs/acute-diarrhea-in-dogs/page1.aspx. Petplace.com has a wealth of online information written by veterinarians and other specialists, and makes a great immediate source of assistance to help you determine whether you should take your pet to a vet or if you can try to handle a situation at home first. Another vet newsletter I get comes from Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM of Nelson, BC, Canada - he offers many natural alternatives to conventional veterinary treatments for dogs and cats in an at-home wellness program available through his website, http://www.veterinarysecretsrevealed.com. You can sign up for daily newsletters from these and other websites and find a lot of interesting and very helpful information to assist you in properly caring for your new pup as well as any other adult dogs in your home. Another great source of information is www.About.com - we just found out about another sudden-onset cause for bloody diarrhea and vomiting called HGE, Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, and there’s an easily understood article on it at http://vetmedicine.about.com/cs/dogdiseasesh/a/HGEindogs.htm. This one can be deadly if not attended to immediately, and can recur, depending on what caused it in the first place. Please read about it so you can be forewarned!
We are frequently asked about the difference between collars and harnesses for dachshunds. Doxies are small dogs, and one of our vets informed us that the vast majority of small breeds have issues with collars that put pressure on the trachea (wind-pipe) of the dog when it pulls against the collar while walking on a leash. This can collapse the trachea and cause the dog to cough violently. Injury to the trachea will cause chronic coughing - and frequently a diagnosis of “kennel cough,” a blanket term for any upper-respiratory irritation or infection that causes coughing. The scoop on true “kennel cough” is that it is caused by a variety of viruses, bacteria and other irritants - so the vaccine for Bordetella septicemia (one form of kennel cough) won’t prevent a cough caused by something else! However, the cough caused by pressure of a collar on the trachea is easily prevented by using a harness instead. There are numerous styles of dog harnesses available, and if you have a dog that insists on pulling against it instead of walking nicely “at heel,” I suggest you try the “no-pull” harness available at Walmart and all pet stores. It works differently by applying pressure behind the front legs when the dog pulls against it - he doesn’t like that, so he stops pulling. My Samson used to pull me around like a big draft horse pulling a heavy wagon, but the no-pull harness put an immediate halt to that and then he was a joy to walk with. I have them for all of my doxies, and if you push the little snugger-button down as far as it will go on the dog, you can tighten it so the dog is nearly incapable of pulling out of the harness when you don’t want it to (such as near a busy street). It works on skinny dogs and fat ones, just as well.
Another question we often deal with is that of house-training. We are not set up for house-training any of our dogs except the few that inhabit the house with us. The kennel dogs use doggy doors between their indoor pens and their outdoor exercise runs most of the day, except if it’s bad weather. Then we let the dogs go in and out for a little while at a time, mostly staying in where it’s warm and dry. So, you will NOT be getting a house-trained puppy or adult dog from Flickennel. After graduating to the kennel from the nursery and intermediate stages, we do crate-train all the dogs we keep, so they’re accustomed to sleeping by themselves, and they all get fed in their crates at night to eliminate any food-aggression fights between them (“It’s mine - I got to it first!”). Crate time is down-time, when the dogs get to be left alone, something they really appreciate even though dogs are pack animals - most would rather just be alone for a while. At the end of a busy day of running around, playing and barking in the fresh air, it’s nice to eat one’s supper, be quiet and curl up on a clean blanket for a night’s rest. So, when you adopt one of our adult dogs, you’ll get a dog that doesn’t necessarily have to sleep with you to feel safe and part of your “pack.” He or she will be just as happy in a crate in a quiet room. This is a blessing when you have guests, or on noisy holidays, or just for transport to the vet or on a trip - the dog is accustomed to the crate, which it views as its den and safe place. Have a crate for your puppy (a medium or large-size crate works better than a small one for the overall lifetime of the dog), and he or she will learn that it’s a good place to be - if you don’t use it for a place of punishment and isolation! Reward the pup for going into it willingly, give it toys to play with, or a chewy-treat, and make it inviting with a soft non-woven blanket that gets changed-out and washed frequently. (See our “101 Things” page for info on unsafe things for dogs.) Dust it with DE to prevent fleas, ticks, bedbugs and other bloodsucking vermin from sharing quarters with your best little buddy!
Dachshunds love to bark at anything larger or smaller than they are, so basically everything.
However, they can be trained NOT to do this, with a little patience and what we call a “toss-can.” This is a professional dog-training aid you can make yourself with two empty tin-cans, about 15 pennies and some duct-tape. Cut the tops off both cans, wash and dry them; put the pennies in one and tape both together at the joint - it's ready for immediate use. You shake it loudly at the noisy pup and tell it “NO BARK” or the equivalent, and if it will not stop, you toss the can near
the pup and again say “NO BARK.” The noise of the can hitting the floor is usually enough to startle the pup into obeying, and if you then praise him for stopping his racket, he begins to connect the two concepts - I must not bark, or I’ll get The Can! “NO BARK” means I’d better shut up - or else! ... I tell the kennel dogs “NO BARK” and they quiet down, then I tell them “GOOD dogs are QUIET dogs - GOOD DOGS!” and it’s surprising how long they’ll stay quiet with that little bit of positive reinforcement. I talk to them and to my own doxies incessantly, so they get used to certain words and ideas. They develop quite an understanding of human vocabulary if they’re treated properly, with much repetition and positive reinforcement when they do well.
Do NOT allow the toss can to lie where your dog(s) can get to it, chew it open, and swallow the pennies. As mentioned elsewhere on this website, pennies minted after 1982 are about 95% zinc, which is toxic to dogs, small children, and anything else that ingests it. Don't leave coins within reach, on the floor or elsewhere - besides the zinc, there's always a choking hazard.
There’s a lot more to properly educating your dachshund and caring for it, but most is simple common sense. Raise your pup similarly to raising a child, with praise, consistent discipline and lots of love, and you may be astonished at how quickly and easily he or she learns to do a
multitude of things. Dachshunds make great agility dogs, and “earth-dog trials” are popular events where they can show off what they were originally bred to do - go underground, find and retrieve their prey. Nearly everyone has heard of, or seen, wiener-dog races - they're a lot of fun both to watch and to participate in! Doxies are natural show-offs, so the show ring is also a great place to let them strut their stuff. Where they really shine, though, is when they “sit pretty and beg” to be allowed to join you in your easy-chair for some special loving-time. Your Flickennel dachshund has only known love from the time it was born, so he or she will shine brightly for a lifetime of affection and loyalty.
Keep reading - there's more!
By Dr. Debra Becker, of www.healthypets.mercola.com, posted March 2, 2015
Bringing a new pet into the family is an exciting time, but it can also be stressful. There’s so much to remember and do to make your new animal companion’s homecoming a joyful and positive experience, it can be easy to overlook something – even something potentially hazardous.
If you’re planning to add a new dog to your household, preparation for the blessed event should include insuring your home is a safe environment for the new four-legged family member. With a new puppy this is a must, but it’s also crucial for helping an adult dog make a safe, smooth
transition to his new forever home.
10 Pet-Proofing Steps for New Dog Parents
1. Securely seal all containers of household cleaning products such as bleach, detergent, dryer sheets, soap, bathroom cleaners, oven cleaners, etc. All these products contain potentially toxic agents that can harm or even kill your dog if consumed. Store all containers out of reach of
your pet (which might require cabinet latches if you have an especially curious or determined dog). Also consider getting rid of toxic cleaning chemicals in favor of safe household cleaners. You’ll also want to secure all garage and garden chemicals, including antifreeze,
pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers, weed killers, etc. These items should be safely stowed in cabinets or storage areas inaccessible to your dog.
2. When it comes to using chemicals in your garden or yard, less is more -- and none at all is what I recommend. Lawn pesticides have been linked to malignant lymphoma in dogs, and
herbicides are associated with canine bladder cancer.
3. Food wraps like aluminum foil and plastic wrap may not seem dangerous, but if they contain even tiny bits of food or yummy smells, they’ll be calling your dog’s name. These products can be quickly shredded and swallowed, causing a serious problem in your dog’s GI tract, so make sure to throw all food wraps away in a trash container your dog can’t reach or knock over.
4. All pest control chemicals should be stored out of your dog’s reach, and if you must use them, make sure your pet is kept a safe distance away. This also includes rodenticides, especially products containing bromethalin, which has no antidote at this time. Other rodent poisons with no known antidote include Vitamin D analogs, strychnine, and zinc phosphide.
5. Keep all drugs in the household, including pet medications, medicinal marijuana, and tobacco products (nicotine in ANY form, including Nicorette gum & patches, and e-cigarette/vaping supplies) in sealed containers out of your dog’s reach. Common over-the-counter and prescription drugs are the culprits in thousands of pet poisonings each year. Also be careful to quickly retrieve any pills that drop on the floor.
6. There are certain human foods that are toxic to dogs, for example, chocolate, grapes, raisins, and anything containing xylitol, which should be kept out of your pet’s reach. This also goes
for fatty foods that can cause GI upset, or even acute pancreatitis. Also make sure your dog doesn’t have access to the trash or compost pile.
7. There are several household plants that are toxic to dogs, so before you bring your new addition through the door, make sure you have only pet-friendly greenery in your home. You can find a list (with pictures) of toxic and non-toxic plants at ASPCA.org.
8. Puppies and even some adult dogs will chew on electrical wires and cords within their reach, which creates a danger of electrocution as well as a swallowing hazard. Keep cords as short as possible and if necessary, fasten them to walls and/or baseboards to prevent chewing. [And with a dachshund, remember he can go UNDER most furniture to get what's there!]
9. There are lots of sharp objects around most homes, such as scissors, knives, forks, paper clips, nails, thumbtacks, etc. Any of these items can cause harm to your dog if she ingests them, steps on them, or comes in contact with a sharp object as she’s playing or running through the house. Just as you would with a toddler, make sure anything sharp or pointed is well out of your dog’s reach.
10. Home repair and renovation products, insulation for example, can cause serious internal problems if swallowed, so if you’re in the middle of a project around the house, make sure not to leave materials lying around that could harm your pet.
NOTE: Janet was told by a puppy buyer that the lady was sure she had inadvertently killed her dog - with peppermint oil! Seems she had soaked cotton balls in peppermint oil and left them around the house to repel mice with the strong mint odor. Well, one day soon after that, her dachshund had a very bad "grand mal" seizure. She took it to her vet, but nothing could be done to stop the seizing and the dog died. The vet asked about possible causes, including strong odors, and the woman then remembered the pungent peppermint-soaked balls. It's entirely possible that they were the source of the irritant that induced the seizures. Please be careful if you use any kind of strongly scented air fresheners, cleaning products, moth balls, essential oils, fabric softeners, even personal hygiene products, perfume or after-shave - your dog's odor receptors are hundreds or thousands of times stronger than yours, and what is acceptable to you may be intense torture to the dog. It might even kill your furry friend!
Read our "101 Things That Can Harm Your Pet" page for lots more on this topic!
8 Steps to Take Before Flying With Your Dog
If you've never flown with your dog, but you're thinking about doing so, you really need to do some research about it first. I found a great website called Rover.com, and they have a terrific page on how to go about flying with your dog, from preparing the dog beforehand, to making sure you meet all the requirements of the specific airline. As service dogs become more visible in our society, more people are taking them on board airplanes, but some people abuse this, claiming their non-service-certified pets (of all manner of species!) are "emotional support" animals. Well, the airlines are cracking down on such abuse, and it is becoming more difficult to have your pet "fly the friendly skies" with you. Rover.com does a great job of explaining all the particulars, so I shall let them do it!
And just because WE LOVE OUR BABIES, AND HOPE YOU ALWAYS WILL, TOO:
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 house-training 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.
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 and neuter campaigns in order to prevent unwanted animals. - Jim Willis
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