For all who argue that bringing dogs into the classroom is unsafe or sillier yet, a distraction, see what you are missing.
MY NAME IS SAM
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 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 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
throw-away attitude did to the living, breathing animal. It was
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.
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 the incinerator room, and the other had no
sign, but I could hear various animals noises coming from behind the
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,
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 would be able to without
breaking down into tears.
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
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.
"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.
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 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 and persuasive."
"His name is Sam."