The worst thing I ever did.

I’ve mentioned this before I’m wanting to go into it in more depth and detail. I used to be a part of a small-town Mississippi humane society that got the county’s permission to run the local dog pound. The original dogcatcher had killed dogs with carbon monoxide, but he took the box that he hooked his truck exhaust up to, so we had no way to deal with overpopulation but to shoot dogs. I was the only man in the group, and the women all said they were too “kind-hearted” to kill an animal (although I never knew any of them to be vegetarians). Because I was the kind of man who wanted to be strong--but didn't always feel that way--and take responsibility for a task that had to be done, I shot at least two truckloads of dogs before I quit the group and the dogcatcher returned. f I had done enough of that kind of thing, I would have come to thoroughly hate my own species, and the fact that the most religious part of this country treats its abandoned animals that way worst didn’t help my feelings about religion either.

The dog pound was an open-air affair without a shade tree for 100 feet. It consisted of a row of wire enclosures which were probably no more than 60-feet square. They each had a concrete floors and an attached house. Each kennel stayed fairly full of dogs that had no protection from the 94 to 106 humid degree days of summer and the 25 to 35 degree nights (rarely into the teens and single digits) of winter. I saw it as simply another example of Christian hypocrisy given that every politician in the county was an active churchgoer, nearly all of them Southern Baptist.

One at a time, I would lead the dogs that I was going to shoot a short distance from the kennel, and hold a nine-shot, Harrington and Richardson .22 revolver to the base of its skull and pull the trigger. The dog would instantly fall straight-down with smoke pouring from the hole in its head. It would convulse for a few seconds and then go limber, blood running from the back of its head and sometimes its mouth. Most dogs realized what awaited them and they would cry, tremble, and force me to either carry them or pull them to their deaths. It was the stuff of nightmares, but at least it ended quickly, for the dogs anyway. Before I gave in and started the killing, we had dogs that were either dying during the night and being cannibalized, or else killing one another during the night, and then cannibalizing the fallen. Since they were getting enough food, I suspect the latter. They had simply become so crowded that they were deranged. When I hear people talk about the horrors of watching a massacre, I think I understand it a little because I was the killer at such an event, and the creatures I killed were innocent of all wrong other than the original sin that their ancestors committed by building an alliance with such a treacherous species as my own.

I don’t anticipate that writing about this will help me feel any better about it, probably the opposite. I share it because I know it’s interesting in a sad and grisly kind of way, and I want to be interesting. I also think it’s important to share this story because every last one of us needs to accept our specie’s responsibility for being so abominably fucked-up in so many different ways. There’s really no excuse for us, and it won’t do to say that any of us are innocent of any of it because our moral and ethical failures are species’ wide. In the movie Unforgiven, a young man kills someone and tries to console himself by saying, “He deserved it.” Clint Eastwood’s character tells him, “We all do, kid,” and I see it the same way.

I don't want to come back and edit this, so you can count it as one of the more spontaneous things you will ever see here..


Mim said...

good lord snow...that's all I can say right now.

lotta joy said...

For every harm I ever caused an animal (three) I still feel the heat of shame that rises at the least expected times. All I know is that I, (and every bastard on the planet who devalues animals)had absolutely NO idea that they were compassionate, with only the ability to love, and as many emotions as any other creature.

Although your situation was compounded because of the number involved, I know the feeling of self-hatred. But neither of us did it to BE cruel.

It's just one more proof that there is no god - other than what we set ourselves up to be.

And the most abusive humans set themselves up as being god over all things innocent.

kj said...

This makes me sick. I'm glad you despair over it too.

I follow a site called occupy for animals and the cruelty throughout the world is too often unknown or overlooked and it is always barbaric. Dogs in china stuffed on top of oneanother in an 18 inch wire crate, taken to be skinned alive.

Does anyone know how baby elephants are trained to succumb to human commands? Or what it must feel like for an eagle to be caged with barely a wind span?

I wish I could rescue a hundred dogs. I wish the gentle dolphins will forgive us

I wish you and I and all who visit here will give money or time or prayer to stop the abuse and mistreatment of animals

Strayer said...

That stuff still goes on, en mass. The Coos County shelter has what they call a "feral barrel", literally a barrel, and they dump cats they consider undadoptable into it, mothers with kittens, along with big toms, all together in a very small space until they have what they consider a full load, then they gas them to death.

There were exposes about a southern Oregon shelter last summer, about the county tax payer paid director having sex at the shelter with her boyfriend while scads of animals were killed. One community service guy told the news a pregnant dog was brought in and he helped as she gave birth. He went out for a cigarette break, came back in, and they'd killed her and all the puppies. It goes on every single day still in this country, the holocausts of the unwanteds. One video out has two euth techs describing the process of bringing in dogs and cats, killing them, until surrounded, every space taken up by dead cats and dogs. then they would incinerate them. they'd filter the teeth and bones from the ashes.

Stephen Hayes said...

I admire the honesty with which you've confronted this disturbing part of your past. Most typical farmers are compelled to do worse to protect and maintain the health of their livestock. I hope you can let this incident go....

Jill said...

Phew! OK.

Elephant's Child said...

Oh Snow. I am so sorry. And it would have been a 'worst thing' if you had done it easily or with pleasure. You are right. We are all too often a shameful species. And I am frequently ashamed and often despair.

All Consuming said...

Painfully honest post, as TEC says, there was no malice nor pleasure taken when you killed them, which is a very small but important thing to bear in mind. I'm sure you know this, but don't dwell upon what you did, you have balanced that episode out to some extent with the compassion and understanding you have shown since and still do towards animals.xx

Marion said...

I think, considering the situation, you put those poor animals out of their misery. (I had to chuckle about your vegetarian comment. Tee-hee)...Oops!

You're only human, Snow, and not ONE among us can say we are without fault.

I grew up on a farm. I had many pets die, get run over or 'put down'. We couldn't afford even a dollar for a vet bill, so if an animal was seriously injured or ill, it was shot. That was a part of our life. My Uncle who raised us was the best man I ever knew. His parents were Mississippi sharecroppers. He'd cry when he had to 'put down' our pets. One was a dog named Falstaff, after the beer, who was run over by a car (he loved that dog as much as we did). We'd help dig the 'graves' and had 'funerals' for the pets. But we learned true compassion from our Uncle. They raised and slaughtered our food. As kids, we chased & caught the chickens and brought them to our Aunt Mace who wrung their necks, chopped the head off, plucked 'em then fried it up for supper. It was just a way of life to us. We'd name the baby calves (to the adults' dismay), then go on strike when they killed them and not eat beef for a few days...until we got hungry, that is. :-)

I don't know why that memory came to my mind, but it did. Thanks for sharing this dark period of your life. Trust me, we all have them. Love to you, my friend. xo

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

As soon as I read the part about killing dogs... I skipped to the comment form. I just can't have those images in my head. Sorry Snow.

Snowbrush said...

"As soon as I read the part about killing dogs... I skipped to the comment form. I just can't have those images in my head. Sorry Snow."

I'm sure other readers will either do the same or wish they had. I thought about putting a warning at the top, but that struck me as patronizing, so I let it go with the thought that people would figure out pretty on whether they wanted to read it or not. I myself haven't reread it, and I usually re-read (and re-edit) my posts almost obsessively.

"We couldn't afford even a dollar for a vet bill, so if an animal was seriously injured or ill, it was shot. That was a part of our life."

Mine too. On the one hand, my father was forever bringing home abandoned litters of dogs for my mother to bottle-feed and eventually find homes for, but on the other, I watched him lure a starving dog to a bowl of food, and then club it to death with a piece of 1/2" galvanized pipe. As for slaughtering, we had a smokehouse, but my mother wasn't raised in the country, and she never got used to eating animals that she had given names to.

" you have balanced that episode out to some extent with the compassion and understanding you have shown since and still do towards animals.xx"

If I were in that situation today, I don't know I would do. At the time, I tried to get a vet to help me, but all he did was to handle me a single dose of pentobarbital. As for balancing the episode, it's funny, I guess, but I see it as the worse wrong I ever did, yet because I did it out of what I considered to be obligation and necessity, I don't feel guilty.

More later.

Charles Gramlich said...

When I was growing up, no one in the country euthanized dogs because there was no money for it. Farmers had little enough as it is and we got dogs dropped off to us by city folks all the time. My father killed dogs with a gun at times and I did as well when it had to be done, though I never wanted it or liked it. My main irritation was with the city folks who got a puppy for Christmas then threw it out in the country when it was grown to let it catch rabbits. of course it didn't and either ended up begging food from us that we didn't have, or running our cows wild or killing our chickens.

Snowbrush said...

The puppies my father brought home were country puppies. The country people didn't take anything to the dump, they either dumped on their land or beside the road. These beside the road dumps would build up and people would start dumping their dogs there. Out in the woods, I found a dog's skeleton once that was chained to a tree. I never knew if it was shot or starved.

"And it would have been a 'worst thing' if you had done it easily or with pleasure."

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that a lot of dogcatchers are sadists. I think you would have to be either callous, sadistic, or a bit of saint to do that kind of work.

Snowbrush said...

"I admire the honesty with which you've confronted this disturbing part of your past."

I take no credit for it; it's just how I am, and not everyone appreciates it either. I'm surprised everyday of the week that I somehow manage to keep my readers, many of whom consider many of my beliefs abhorrent. I think to myself, that well, I guess I'm giving them enough things of value that they're somehow able to put up with what they would consider my downsides.

Rob-bear said...

I'm sorry you went through that, Snow. No human should ever have to do that to one of our sisters or brothers of other species.

Sadly, there are just too many puppies and kittens around, for which I blame the animal owners. The dogs we had (all females, strangely) went to the vet early, so no babies for them. The only responsible thing we could do, as far as I can see.

Take care out there, Snow.

Helen said...

I'm one of the folks who 'almost' skipped through to the end, but didn't. I believe it was cathartic for you to share this with us. Dark, yes. There is no person among us without darkness of some kind.

Phoenix said...

Yeah...this post was...difficult to read.

You're the second blogger today who's posted about dealing with dogs at shelters, and this is AFTER I've spent the last two days trying desperately to find a home for a sweet 7 month old pit bull mix that bit someone's hand that was shoved into his cage at the shelter because he was freaked out, and that was all the shelter needed to put him in quarantine and not allow the public to adopt him, only a registered non-profit rescue organization. I emailed several organizations and people and no luck. His time is running out and it's not his fault, it's ours.

Sometimes I'm afraid that the only thing humans are really truly talented at is killing other living creatures, be it other humans or animals.


Deb said...

I never understood it when many of my friends would say, "I love pets more than humans." I'm like, "Are you kidding me?" Ever since I rescued my little Lola from a "no kill" shelter, (to which she would have been transferred to a kill shelter IF I didn't pick her up), my heart for animals and distaste for humans sort of grew with time and understanding. I don't understand why people need to hurt or kill animals with deep dark intent - but I do understand overpopulation and that's just a hard fact. Take for instance, my rescue dog. She's from Puerto Rico. In PR, they have a ton of wild dogs just walking aimlessly in the streets. So, Rob Thomas (the musician/artist) and his wife set out to create these shelters called, "Pets Alive". They have one in PR and one in NY. The population is so huge, that they needed to even expand more. But even then, they still have to shift the dogs over to a no kill shelter when more dogs start packing in. Anyway - this is my "understanding" of why these dogs are put down. Not everyone can go out there and save a few dogs. Not everyone can own a dog. And so, the cycle goes on.

I'm sorry you went through that. You seem to still be living with these awful images. I think this post was important. If you don't mind, I'd like to share it with a few people in hopes that someone will maybe get their butts to the shelter and adopt a dog or cat, which is another overpopulated species. A shame.

ellen abbott said...

I totally share your opinion of our species, cold and cruel and although individuals are capable of great caring and compassion, what other species tortures it's own and delights in the suffering of the victims. Think of all the heinous ways humans have used to kill other humans over the course of our existence.

Snowbrush said...

"If you don't mind, I'd like to share it with a few people"

Would it be possible to forward the link?

"adopt a dog or cat, which is another overpopulated species."

And people could end the overpopulation almost overnight. It's as bad a thing as I can say about our species as any that we care so little about other species when it is so obvious that they are both innocent of any wrong and capable of intense suffering.

Lisa said...

I hate the way animals are treated.
In many ways the situation has improved over the years but also in many ways it has not.
Here in Australia we export LIVE sheep/cattle to other countries to be killed and used for meat. The evidence of cruelty to those poor sleep, water and food deprived animals can be seen in news bulletins, papers and even i dare say on YOU TUBE.
This can be a cruel world.
Domestic animals should all be spayed and puppy mill owners should be hung out to dry.
I could go on for days but i wont. Your stories evoke feelings and make people aware, maybe even empathic or sympathetic.
I hope so. A tough subject well written Snow. Lisa xx

The Blog Fodder said...

You did what you had to do, Snowbrush. You told your story well.
As a farm boy, I have had to do my share. Excess or injured. Big and small. Also pigs or cattle for meat. Didn't like it and don't like to think about it but when it has to be done, I can do it. Was there a scene in Gone With the Wind where a doctor went around with a pistol and put the badly injured out of their misery. I could do that too if needed. I hate killing but hate suffering worse if I can do something about it.