Visit your local Humane Society and embark on a wonderful journey

To the editor:

Only one time before today did I ever have anything to do with taking another’s life.

I was 11 years old in my back yard with a new BB gun I had received for Christmas. I was getting pretty good — and bored — at shooting bottle caps wedged into small branches of our tree. All of a sudden, I spotted a bird in flight. I don’t think I really expected to hit it, but I took aim and shot as if I would — and unfortunately I did.

There could have only been one thing more shocked than I when the BB found its target — the bird. The untimely traveler fell about 30 feet to the ground and I knew that I had robbed it of the boundless life that it had known until then.

I continued to learn how to shoot, even earning my expert pistol decoration at the U.S. Naval Academy, but to this day I have never shot at anything other than a target, even though many of my friends love to hunt.

Now I have found myself, a second time, with primary control of another’s longevity. Today we had to put our dog of 14 years to sleep. Anyone who has ever had to do this will immediately understand my terrible guilt. I had just sold out the dog that had watched my every move, continually placed himself within petting range and had trusted me implicitly. He had looked up to me as the only God he knew and I had led him to his end.

I have justified it in my head over and over again. He was wasting away to skeleton form. He was so thin that the winter weather, mild as it was, made him shiver in the wind. He could barely lie down and then get up after he had lain down. He would last no more than a few more days at best. Yet, I could not help from feeling as if I had betrayed him the moment he was administered a lethal shot and his eyes gradually slipped away until he lay inert on the table.

So why, might I ask you, do we set ourselves up for inevitable sadness when that brief 10- to 14-year period is certain to come about?

Why are we eager to invite this devout loyalist and bundle of unconditional love into our homes in the first place? Is that one ominous day of concentrated sorrow worth the summation of all the other days of happiness and protection that he had brought into our lives? Why do we, as Kipling says, ‘Give our heart to a dog to tear’ when we know it is just a matter of time? Do those days of endless play with your children and uncontrollable excitement when we come home truly measure up to the unavoidable heavy heart that he leaves behind? Ironically, the answer is, absolutely yes.

Everyone in their lifetime should have a trusted friend that opens a whole new dimension of happiness into their world. When I’ve had a chance to reflect on all of the wonderful times that our dog has delivered to our family, I know we had received an immense bargain. The trade is tough at the end, namely because they leave such a favorable mark throughout. I am convinced that one’s soul is more complete with the accent of a dog’s presence in their lives. Surely, there is good reason they call them “Man’s Best Friend.”

There are many good dogs waiting for a good home at our local Humane Society. Please visit your nearest location today. You are about to embark — no pun intended — on a wonderful journey.

Ken Leach

Oakville

Editor’s note: Mr. Leach serves as president of the Mehlville Board of Education.