We at Our Hen House are always ecstatic when one of the Vegan Mos stops by, whether on one of our podcasts, the TV show, or the online magazine. Today, one half of the Mos — Dr. Ethan Ciment — joins us once again to share a profound piece, written as a heartbreaking letter to the canine who never became his companion.
To the Dog I Didn’t Adopt
by Ethan Ciment
You might think it strange that I’m writing to you after all of these years. I mean, we never met and yet I think about you every day. That’s weird, isn’t it? But as time goes by, I find myself wondering more and more about you.
I wonder about who you were and how you came to be in that awful predicament when we didn’t meet. I wonder if you were out and got lost and couldn’t find your way home. Or maybe someone kidnapped you away from your family? How did you become homeless and so desperate?
My mind runs wild imagining all of the quirky, endearing, annoying, and lovely things that made you the unique individual you were. I have so many questions about you, and though you’d think it’s been long enough that I would have put this behind me ages ago, I can’t seem to. All of these unknowns, and they’ll never be answered.
I wonder if you required a ritual of scratching and turning around in circles before plopping yourself down into the perfect spot to take a nap. Did you love apples? What about sweet potatoes? Were you good on a leash or would you have been a puller? Or were you the kind of dog that always stayed close and never needed a leash because your happy space would have been right at my side? Did you like your belly rubbed or your ears scratched? Were you a licker? Would you have cuddled up and napped with me, or were you the type that needed her space and preferred napping off in a corner, still keeping her humans in sight? Did you like the snow? What about the beach? Would you play catch with a Frisbee, or was a ball more your speed?
Most of all, I wonder if someone adopted you. Did you find a forever home and, if so, what was it like? Were you loved and kept safe as a treasured member of a loving family, or did they just keep you chained up all day out in the yard? Did they keep you for the rest or your life, or did they abandon you when you got older and things got difficult? Were you one of the countless unlucky ones who wasn’t rescued in time and was euthanized at far too young an age, leaving this world without ever having known love? Did you leave this world thinking nobody cared about or loved you?
I’ll never know you, the story of who you were or who you could have been. Instead I’m left eternally wondering about the ways we could have changed each other’s lives. Surely we would have had an amazing history by now, you and I. But all of that is gone, never to happen because I didn’t save you. And it haunts me because I knew better. You see, I had rescued others like you, in your predicament before, but for some irrational and incredibly selfish reason, I decided that I wanted to go about it differently this time. I chose someone who I thought I knew based on broad stereotypes and generalizations. I was looking at meaningless, superficial characteristics, and I allowed them to misguide me into buying him instead of rescuing you. I didn’t know him any better than I knew you, but I thought I did. And because I did this, I’ve given him a great life, showering him with love, affection, care, and attention; all the things I would have done for you. Even as I enjoy every one of those precious moments with him, you are lurking in the shadows of my conscience. Watching me. Seeing me love him as I could have loved you, and it haunts me.
I want you to know: it wasn’t you, it was me. I was the stupid, selfish jerk, but you paid the price. I want you to know that I regret what I’ve done; I know better and will do better for the rest of my life. I know that doesn’t help you one bit, just like telling you all of this doesn’t really change anything. Some things can never be undone. I will always feel deep regret and pain for turning my back on you in your time of need. Maybe one day you will find it in your heart to forgive me for all of this. Maybe one day I’ll find it in my heart to forgive myself.
Or maybe, we just won’t.
Dr. Ethan J. Ciment is a board-certified podiatrist in private practice in New York City. He is the founder and director of The Chelsea Foot & Ankle Center where he treats the entire spectrum of foot and ankle medicine and surgery. Ethan serves on the Board of Directors of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, and he is a co-Founder of Vegan Mos, a blog where Ethan and his husband Michael share their original vegan recipes and blog about all things vegan, with a particular interest in the intersection of LGBTQ rights and animal rights. Ethan and Michael live in Brooklyn with their neurotic-but-lovable vegan dogs, Riley and Charlie.