To whom it may concern:
You don’t know me, but when you moved in the winter of 2013, you abandoned my dog. She was your family dog, and after you had packed everything away, you left her alone in your empty apartment. Your old landlord found her, alone and confused. He tried to contact you, but by that time, you were long gone.
Right now, your little red dog lies curled up beside me. She makes noises in her sleep. Her name is Brenda, and she is the best dog in the whole world.
She got that name at the animal shelter where she lived for almost a year in a kennel. She was passed over so many times she was named a member of the “Lonely Hearts Club.”
Years later, Brenda is still afraid of being left behind.
She is obsessed with making sure nobody is deserted like she was. When we walk up the four flights of stairs leading to our apartment, she stops at every single landing to make sure I’m following.
My husband Tim and I can no longer walk Brenda together because if one of us leaves, goes home, or pops into a store, she panics. She has dragged me an entire half mile down the street to find Tim. In her mind, we are a pack, and we have to be together, all three of us.
Brenda has never gone potty inside the house. Not once. I think she’s afraid of doing anything that might make us angry. She has thrown up twice, and both times, she cowered in the corner as I cleaned it. Her shame took up the entire room.
At night, your former dog curls up into a tiny ball in my arms and stays there until I fall asleep. When she dozes off, her little body spreads out, but she wakes me up repeatedly with a tap of the paw so that she can return to my embrace.
Sometimes Brenda stops on the street to look at people. In rare cases, she follows them, a particularly odd behavior since she is shy and bashful around strangers. Every time, I can’t help but think, “Is that you? Are you the person who forsook my dog?”
The other day, I told Brenda’s volunteer buddy from the shelter that I often imagined meeting you in passing, dreaming up something to say. The volunteer suggested a simple “thank you.” I understand what she’s saying—if not for you, I would not have my dearest, beloved friend—but I cannot bring myself to write those words.
To demonize you would be to take the easy way out. You are a human being to me. You’re probably nice and not evil, and perhaps it genuinely broke your heart to say goodbye. I have come up with a thousand and one reasons— you could no longer afford a dog, your new landlord wouldn’t allow her, you assumed she’d be rescued— but not a single one of them explains what you did. She could have died in that apartment.
This is not a guilt-trip, I promise. You occupy a large, vacant space inside my brain. I’m not sure what exactly I’m seeking in writing to you. Maybe I just want to know what Brenda was like as a baby, and since you neglected to spay her, I want to know if she ever had babies of her own.
I will never know how she lost her bottom righthand tooth and why she has that white, feathery scar on her belly. Those memories don’t belong to me; they’re yours. I mourn the loss of the first five and a half years of Brenda’s life—the ones we missed when she was with you.
I hope you never to do this to another animal again. Above all else, I urge you to truly cherish every minute you spent with Brenda. She is, as I said, the best dog in the whole world.
I should forgive you– Brenda certainly does– but I honestly don’t know if I ever will. For that, I’m sorry.
Again, I don’t know you, but you are a better person for having known my dog. In that way, we’re exactly the same, you and I.
Ellyn Kail, Brenda’s Mom