"His Name is Sam"
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. 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 matter 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 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 only about 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 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 overwhelming. Finally Ron stopped in front of a closed door. "That's it," he said, "except for this."
to be continued ...