When I was a little girl, from age 2 to age 5, we had a dog named Rex. He was half border collie, half mystery DNA, and was the sweetest, most loving, most personable dog you could imagine. My mom used to let me play outside with him as my babysitter. He treated me like a little sheep, and if I ventured too close to the road, he would herd me back towards the house. He was completely trustworthy.
I loved that dog, and he was as much a “person” to me as any human was.
We lived on acreage at that time, on a beautiful piece of land with forested trails lined with ferns, wild berries, and trilliums. I named these trails “The Beautiful Ways.”
Unfortunately, my dad lost his job and my parents started to struggle financially. My dad sold the trees for wood and they were cut down. The Beautiful Ways were no more. Eventually my dad put the whole place up for sale. One of my uncles offered to let us move in with him in his apartment in town. The catch was that we couldn’t have pets there.
Since we couldn’t bring Rex, my dad shot him. I heard the gun shot from the house and it startled me, leaving me feeling shaky as sudden loud noises always had and still do. Then my dad came into the house and made me come outside with him and look at Rex’s corpse. I think he thought that was good parenting; that seeing Rex dead would help me to accept his death and move on from it.
My reaction still puzzles me to this day. I just stared at Rex’s body, feeling numb, as if the sight I was seeing didn’t mean anything or wasn’t completely real.
I feel something now when I remember back to that day. I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. I wonder if Rex sensed what was about to happen and felt any fear or betrayal. I cry when I think about this. He was such an incredibly good dog; he didn’t deserve that. His life was valuable, and he should not have been considered expendable.
This is going to sound crazy, but I pray for Rex now. No church ever taught me this (most of my spiritual thoughts and beliefs were not taught to me by any person or institution), but I tend to think that God created the universe, and since time is a property of the universe, God must exist outside time. That must be why the Bible says that to God, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. So I pray retroactively that Rex didn’t feel any pain or fear. It don’t know if that’s a legitimate or effective thing to do but I figure it can’t hurt.
Once my dad was working again we moved out of my uncle’s apartment into a place where we could have pets. One day when I was 7 my dad brought home a new dog. But I never bonded with him. Rex, for some reason, had never aggravated my sensory issues, but this new dog did. He smelled really bad all the time, even after a bath. My parents must not have put much (or any) effort into training him, because he was unruly and uncontrolled, jumping on people and humping their legs. My parents didn’t walk him (and I didn’t realize at that age that dogs are supposed to be walked), they just let him defecate in the yard, which made the yard unsuitable to play in. Years later after my dad left and my mom and I were about to move into an apartment again, she took the dog to an animal shelter. I may not have been close to him like I was to Rex, but it still seemed a bit harsh to just heartlessly leave him at a shelter. But then, with my dad gone, at least murder wasn’t seen as an option.
My husband and I have a completely different attitude towards pets compared to my parents. Our cat is a member of our family and we love her. We would never consider moving into a place that didn’t allow pets. It was tough finding a rental that allowed pets when we moved to this city, but we managed to do it. We’d pretty much rather live under a bridge than not have our cat with us. I tell her sometimes, “We will always take care of you.” And I mean it.