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 Speech.
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
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
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 speech.
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 Society.
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 are 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
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 throw-away
attitude did to the living, breathing animal. It was overwhelming
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.
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.
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 the 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.
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 bodies. 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.
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 would be able
to without breaking down into tears.
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.
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.
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."
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 the table.
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.
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 to give my speech. I walked up to
the front the class with 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
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.