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HAUNTED

There are many experiences from my childhood that still haunt me today but probably none more so than when our next door neighbor shot our dogs.

Prior to this happening I have a vivid memory of the wife (who I think always despised having so many children living next door to her) taking a large bucket filled with soapy water and washing the trunk of a tree in her front yard, all the while berating us children for having allowed one of our two dogs to get loose and piss on it.

Maybe it was our collective hysterical laughter at what a fool she was making out of herself that spurred her husband into action; I guess I’ll never know. But some time later, (may have been several days later I can’t recall) while my sisters and I were out playing in our backyard with our beloved dogs, her Nazi of a husband aimed his rifle over the fence and shot our dog, Shalimar, between the eyes killing her instantly. He then took aim at our other dog, Keech, whom he hit in his side.

I don’t remember how many of my other siblings were there to witness this first hand, but I did, and the memory of my beautiful German Shepard lying dead with a bullet wound between her eyes and a pool of blood slowly spreading out into the pine needles cradling her head, still haunts me to this day.

I was quite young, I’m guessing maybe seven or eight at the time, and my two dogs were my world. Shalimar, our German Shepard had a heart made of pure gold. She was the most gentle sweet reminder of all that is good in the world. And Keech, our Golden Retriever, was pure bottled energy, pure joy, pure exuberance, pure love radiating from every pore of his golden body. They were my best friends, and since my parents forbid us ever getting another dog after what had happened, they were the last canine friends I had until I was on my own and able to get another one.

To be fair, this story requires more of a backstory.

I am also still haunted by the way I used to treat this same neighbor’s daughter while waiting for the school bus every morning.

We cease to be haunted when we cease to be afraid of making what has been untouchable, real: especially our understandings of the past; and especially those we wronged, those we were wronged by, or those we did not help.” – David Whyte Consolations

She was the same age as me and was a large girl for her age. This was something that somewhere along the line she had learned to use to her advantage. She didn’t take any shit; the teasing and taunting was a two-way street. But some of the kids at the bus stop showed her no mercy whenever pointing out how overweight she was. Unfortunately for me, the one time I decided to chime in, she seized the opportunity to grab my scrawny ass and pin me to the ground by sitting on me long enough for me to almost miss my bus.

By doing so, she successfully turned the tables on me that day making me the victim of not only her considerable weight nearly crushing me but by the other kid’s taunts about what a weakling I was.

So I devised a way to get even with her. Over the next week, I collected as many slugs as I could find into a jar, and the next time we all met at the bus stop, I reached in and grabbed a huge handful and began hurling my slimy secret weapons at her.

I am still ashamed that I did this to her. Ashamed that I would ever do this to anyone. To this day, whenever I see a slug in my garden (which is pretty much every day), I am reminded of how awful I behaved that day.

But for her father to then turn around and point his weapon at us, not just our dogs but at a yard of kids as they played, is still not a thing that I can comprehend.

As my sister began screaming and running in his direction with fists flying, I remember two things. First, the look on his face. He was smirking, seemingly delighted in his handiwork. Second, my inability to comprehend what I was seeing.

I remember looking into Shalimar’s dead eyes and wondering what on earth had just happened. I immediately started crying and ran into the house to get my mother.

I don’t remember a lot of what happened after that. I know the police were called, but I also know that nothing ever came of it. He was not arrested, and to the best of my knowledge, he was never punished for what he did. I know that he was a small business owner in our community so maybe that had something to do with, I don’t know.

I do however remember what happened to our other dog after that. My beloved Keech was taken away from us. At first, we were told he was in some sort of animal hospital because he needed emergency surgery to save his life. Thankfully, he survived, but I never saw him again.

My siblings and I were told that because of what had happened, it was too risky to bring him back home and so he was given away to an older cousin.

We were never allowed to have another dog again, and that decision haunted me for a very long time.

I would have to wait almost fifteen years before I was on my own and could have another dog in my life. When I finally got my first puppy (a Doberman/Lab mix), I would name her Keech in his honor.

As I grew older, my hatred of guns only grew stronger, and that was long before we had mass shootings to worry about.

I had been exposed to hunters before, a couple in my own family, and so I had heard all sorts of justifications made in defense of someone taking an animals life. I learned early on to keep my opinions to myself, or I’d be putting myself in their crosshairs.

But while in Africa, I was exposed to something much darker and more evil that still haunts me to this day.

Late one night as we were all sitting around the fire having just fished eating our dinner beneath the backdrop of the Milkyway, the conversation took a turn that I would have never expected since before that night I had never even heard of such a thing.

It’s called canned or captive hunting, and when I heard one of our guides, a women born and raised in South Africa who with her husband was in charge of our volunteer organization, begin to describe to us all what it meant, I felt something inside me break and felt hot tears streaming down my cheeks as I listened in horror to what she was saying.

Canned or captive hunting is essentially when magnificent wild creatures (primarily lions) but other exotic species as well, are bred and held captive in camps so that they can be slaughtered solely to satisfy someone’s ego and line the pockets of the disgustingly greedy. Unconscionable sums of money are made from what some have the nerve to call a “sport.”

Uber rich people pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of being able to travel primarily to South Africa, or some of their neighboring countries, in order to shoot and kill a lion that would have been taken from its mother as a young cub, hand raised and hand fed by humans, confined in enclosed spaces on private hunting reserves thus guaranteeing “hunters” easy trophy heads in exchange for fees of up to $50,000. They have thousands of “ranch” lions to draw on, and South Africa’s hunt operators are making a fortune.

This does nothing to help conservation efforts as some have tried to argue. All this does is give a person with more money than they know what to do with, the opportunity to easily kill an animal for the sole purpose of acquiring another sick trophy. These innocent defenseless amazing creatures are being bred by the thousands for a bullet.

And they are not the only ones.

Nearby to where I live (in America) prisoners are put in charge of hand raising pheasants that are kept in captivity until they are released into a wildlife “management” area to be hunted. These birds have been known to walk right up to you before being shot. How is that a sport? I will never be persuaded that this practice can somehow be considered ethical.

And I know someone personally who a few years ago began baiting a bear nearby to where he lived. Every day he would leave out a pile of birdseed to lure it in until the bear became as predictable as the sun rising every morning.

Of course, the bear being a bear took the bait, and the bear died. It was shot and made into a trophy as if the person who killed it had accomplished something to forever be proud of.

This is illegal not to mention immoral, but no one was there to stop him. He got away with it and is proud of what he did which makes my stomach turn because I know this person and I was forced to keep my mouth shut about it.

But as the late great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

And he’s right. And I will not remain silent about this any longer.

I now proudly support http://www.bloodlions.org/born-to-live-wild/

It’s an organization that strives to bring awareness to what is happening before it’s too late. I urge you to check it out if you feel so inclined.

And I urge you to reflect on anything that still haunts you, because when you shine the light into the darkness to confront what haunts you, what haunts you cannot survive. And when we all begin to speak up about things that matter to us, I believe anything is possible.

“We wake into our lives again, as if for the first time, laying to rest what previously had no home through beginning to speak, beginning to make real and beginning to live, those elements constellating inside us that long to move from invisible to the visible.” – David Whyte Consolations

I have begun speaking up by way of this blog by making the painful stories from my past real again. I am making the invisible visible, and in doing so, I am beginning to live in a whole new way.

 

NEXT WEEK: HEARTBREAK

 

About Amy

I am many things to many people. Daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, friend. I am a worshiper of nature on a journey inward, rewriting my story one word at a time.

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