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After I was discharged from the Navy, Jim and I moved
back to Detroit to use our GI bill benefits to get
some schooling. Jim was going for a degree in
Electronics and I, after much debating, decided to get
mine in Computer
Science. One of the classes that was a requirement was
Like many people, I had no fondness for getting up in
front of people for any reason, let alone to be the
center of attention as I stuttered my way through some
unfamiliar subject. But I couldn't get out of the
requirement, and so I found myself in my last semester
before graduation with Speech as one of my classes.
On the first day of class our professor explained to
us that he was going to leave the subject manner of
our talks up to us, but he was going to provide the
motivation of the speech. We would be responsible for
six speeches, each with a different motivation. For
instance our first speech's purpose was to inform. He
advised us to pick subjects that we were interested in
and knowledgeable about. I decided to center my six
speeches around animals, especially dogs.
For my first speech to inform, I talked about the
equestrian art of dressage. For my speech to
demonstrate, I brought my German Shepherd, Bodger, to
class and demonstrated obedience commands. Finally the
semester was almost over and I had but one more speech
to give. This speech was to take the place of a
written final exam and was to count for fifty per cent
of our grade. The speeches motivation was to persuade.
After agonizing over a subject matter, and keeping
with my animal theme, I decided on the topic of
spaying and neutering pets. My goal was to try to
persuade my classmates to neuter their pets. So I
started researching the topic. There was plenty of
material, articles that told of the millions of dogs
and cats that were euthanized every year, of
supposedly beloved pets that were turned in to various
animal control facilities for the lamest of reasons,
or worse, dropped off far from home, bewildered and
scared. Death was usually a blessing.
The final speech was looming closer, but I felt well
prepared. My notes were full of facts and statistics
that I felt sure would motivate even the most naive of
pet owners to succumb to my plea.
A couple of days before our speeches were due, I had
the bright idea of going to the local branch of the
Humane Society and borrowing a puppy to use as a sort
of a visual aid. I called the Humane Society and
explained what I
wanted. They were very happy to accommodate me. I made
arrangements to pick up a puppy the day before my
The day before my speech, I went to pick up the puppy.
I was feeling very confident. I could quote all the
statistics and numbers without ever looking at my
notes. The puppy, I felt, would add the final
emotional touch. When I arrived at the Humane Society
I was met by a young guy named Ron. He explained that
he was the public relations person for the Humane
He was very excited about my speech and asked if I
would like a tour of the facilities before I picked up
the puppy. I enthusiastically agreed. We started out
in the reception area, which was the general public's
initial encounter with the Humane Society. The lobby
was full, mostly with people
dropping off various animals that they no longer
wanted Ron explained to me that this branch of the
Humane Society took in about fifty animals a day and
adopted out twenty.
As we stood there I heard snatches of conversation: "I
can't keep him, he digs holes in my garden." "They
such cute puppies, I know you will have no trouble
finding homes for them." "She is wild, I can't control
her." I heard
one of Humane Society's volunteer explain to the lady
with the litter of puppies that the Society was filled
with puppies and that these puppies, being black,
would immediately be put to sleep. Black puppies, she
explained, had little chance of being adopted. The
woman who brought the puppies in just shrugged, "I
can't help it," she whined. "They are getting too big.
I don't have room for them."
We left the reception area. Ron led me into the
staging area where all the incoming animals were
evaluated for adoptability. Over half never even made
it to the adoption center. There were just too many.
Not only were people bringing in their own animals,
but strays were also dropped off. By law the Humane
Society had to hold a stray for three days. If the
animal was not claimed by then, it was euthanized,
since there was no background information
on the animal.
There were already too many animals that had a known
history eagerly provided by their soon to be
ex-owners. As we went through the different areas, I
felt more and more depressed. No amount of statistics,
could take the place of
seeing the reality of what this throwaway attitude did
to the living, breathing animal. It was over
Finally Ron stopped in front of a closed door. "That's
it," he said, "except for this." I read the sign on
the door. "Euthanization Area." "Do you want to see
one?" he asked.
Before I could decline, he interjected, "You really
should. You can't tell the whole story unless you
experience the end." I reluctantly agreed. "Good." He
said "I already cleared it and Peggy is expecting
you." He knocked firmly
on the door. It was opened immediately by a middle
aged woman in a white lab coat. "Here's the girl I was
telling you about," Ron explained. Peggy looked me
over. "Well, I'll leave you here with Peggy and meet
you in the reception area in about fifteen minutes.
I'll have the puppy ready." With that Ron departed,
leaving me standing in front of the stern-looking
Peggy motioned me in. As I walked into the room, I
gave an audible gasp. The room was small and spartan.
There were a couple of cages on the wall and a cabinet
with syringes and vials of a clear liquid. In the
middle of the room
was an examining table with a rubber mat on top. There
were two doors other than the one I had entered.
Both were closed. One said to incinerator room, and
the other had no sign, but I could hear various
animals noises coming from behind the closed door. In
the back of the room, near the door that was marked
incinerator were the objects that caused my distress:
two wheelbarrows, filled with the bodies of dead
kittens and puppies. I stared in horror. Nothing had
prepared me for this. I felt my legs grow weak and my
breathing become rapid and shallow. I
wanted to run from that room, screaming.
Peggy seemed not to notice my state of shock. She
started talking about the euthanization process, but I
wasn't hearing her. I could not tear my gaze away from
the wheelbarrows and those dozens of pathetic little
Finally, Peggy seemed to notice that I was not paying
attention to her. "Are you listening?" she asked
irritably. "I'm only going to go through this once." I
tore my gaze from the back of the room and looked at
her. I opened
my mouth to say something, but nothing would come out,
so I nodded.
She told me that behind the unmarked door were the
animals that were scheduled for euthanasia that day.
She picked up a chart that was hanging from the wall.
"One fifty-three is next," she said as she looked at
the chart. "I'll go get him." She laid down the chart
on the examining table and
started for the unmarked door. Before she got to the
door she stopped and turned around. "You aren't going
to get hysterical, are you?" she asked, "Because that
will only upset the animals." I shook my head. I had
not said a
word since I walked into that room. I still felt
unsure if I would be able to without breaking down
As Peggy opened the unmarked door I peered into the
room beyond. It was a small room, but the walls were
lined and stacked with cages. It looked like they were
all occupied. Peggy opened the door of one of the
lower cages and removed the occupant. From what I
could see it looked like a medium-sized dog. She
attached a leash and ushered the dog into the room in
which I stood.
As Peggy brought the dog into the room I could see
that the dog was no more than a puppy, maybe five or
six months old. The pup looked to be a cross between a
Lab and a German shepherd. He was mostly black, with a
small amount of tan above his eyes and on his feet. He
was very excited and bouncing up and down, trying to
sniff everything in this new environment.
Peggy lifted the pup onto the table. She had a card in
her hand, which she laid on the table next to me. I
read the card. It said that number one fifty-three was
a mixed Shepherd, six months old. He was surrendered
two days ago by a family. Reason of surrender was
given as "jumps on children." At the bottom was a note
that said "Name: Sam."
Peggy was quick and efficient, from lots of practice,
I guessed. She laid one fifty-three down on his side
and tied a rubber tourniquet around his front leg. She
turned to fill the syringe from the vial of clear
liquid. All this
time I was standing at the head of the table. I could
see the moment that one fifty-three went from a
curious puppy to a terrified puppy. He did not like
being held down and he started to struggle.
It was then that I finally found my voice. I bent over
the struggling puppy and whispered, "Sam. Your name is
Sam." At the sound of his name Sam quit struggling. He
wagged his tail tentatively and his soft pink tongue
darted out and licked my hand. And that is how he
spent his last moment. I watched his eyes fade from
hopefulness to nothingness It was over very quickly. I
had never even seen Peggy give the lethal shot. The
tears could not be contained any longer. I kept my
head down so as not to embarrass myself in front of
the stoic Peggy. My tears fell onto the still body on
"Now you know," Peggy said softly. Then she turned
away. "Ron will be waiting for you."
I left the room. Although it seemed like it had been
hours, only fifteen minutes had gone by since Ron had
left me at the door. I made my way back to the
reception area. True to his word, Ron had the puppy
all ready to go.
After giving me some instructions about what to feed
the puppy, he handed the carrying cage over to me and
wished me good luck on my speech. That night I went
home and spent many hours playing with the orphan
puppy. I went to bed that night but I could not sleep.
After a while I got up and looked at my speech notes
with their numbers and statistics. Without a second
thought, I tore them up and threw them away. I went
back to bed. Sometime during the
night I finally fell asleep.
The next morning I arrived at my Speech class with
Puppy Doe. When my turn came, I held the puppy in my
arms, I took a deep breath, and I told the class about
the life and death of Sam. When I finished my speech I
became aware that I was crying.
I apologized to the class and took my seat. After
class the teacher handed out a critique with our
grades. I got an "A." His comments said "Very moving
and persuasive." Two days later, on the last day of
class, one of my classmates came up to me. She was an
older lady that I had never spoken to in class.
She stopped me on our way out of the class room. "I
want you to know that I adopted the puppy you brought
to class," she said.
"His name is Sam."
What a story! It kills me (no pun intended) whenever I
hear about dogs being put down just for being a dog
(especially if it's because it's the "wrong color").
The part that tears me up the most is that all these
animals that are euthanized were blameless. It's the
not the animals. The people can't hack it and the
I read something the other day that said puppies are
the largest "impulse bought" item on the market today.
Impulse!? That's a people problem!! Just because we
have no self control, an animal dies. That doesn't
Why do we feel the need to play Ggod on a constant
I have to stick up for the shelters that DO euthanize
though. I will not blame the people that "take care of
the dog overpopulation problem". Imagine how many
animals would be homeless or left to die if we didn't
euthanize?? It would be a severe problem created by
is, in it's own way, humane.
I blame the pet stores, puppy mills, irresponsible and
ignorant breeders that will hand a pet over to just
anyone. The "just anyone's" are the biggest problem.
People should consider the LIFE part of purchasing
They see it as a bought "object" when in all actuality
it's a little life that has been thrown into society
to fall where it may, with no way to voice or make
decisions on it's own. This is why responsible people
buying a pet. This is why responsible breeders MAKE
SURE the pet they are selling is going to a
There's reasoning for everything. Give me a good
reason (this is different than excuse mind) to
purchase a little life on "impulse" and then decide
it's not right for you and kill it. Where is the
reasoning? I want a reason, and I'm secure in the
knowledge that I am not the only one!
"Always remember that this whole thing started with a mouse."
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