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For my tenth birthday, I wanted only one thing. I'd never liked Barbies, had too many stuffed animals, and didn't have anyone to play board games with me. I wanted a puppy. My parents wanted to get me a beagle because they said it'd be the easiest to raise."A beagle is loyal and obedient, just like every child or pet should be."
But a beagle puppy was expensive. Instead, they found an Australian shepherd. I went to see the group of puppies and picked the one that growled at my father menacingly when he approached it. She let me walk right up to her, pick her up, and walk off with her. Her name was Sadie, and she was a ferocious little orange ball when I got her. A few years later, we still hadn't gotten her girldoggie parts taken care of, so we had to be extra careful and not let her out of the house without a leash on when she was in heat. Not too much of a problem.
One morning I woke up and couldn't find her anywhere. I searched the house frantically, stepping indifferently over my father who was passed out on the kitchen floor. I found her outside. I immediately took her back inside and closed the door tightly behind me. How can you tell if a dog is pregnant? I didn't know whether to be worried or excited. I didn't know why we were trying to keep her from having puppies anyway. Puppies are cute.
"Because we don't need any damn mutts to feed."
That's how it was all explained to me once Sadie's inflating tummy and sagging nipples tipped us off to the outcome of her little stay outside. I heard regularly about how hard it would be to keep them fed and take care of them until we could get rid of them, and how it'd be near impossible to get people to take them. I didn't care. My puppy was going to have puppies. Rock.
If you didn't bother doing the math, I would've been 13 when Sadie was 3. At that time, months after it became apparent that there'd soon be little furries running around, I was in a choir group based in a nearby town. We did auditions for a solo part in some Christmas song, and I totally got it. It was pretty exciting. I bounced out of the car happily when my mom and I returned home, and I stopped short when I saw Sadie running out of the house with a puppy hanging out of her... womb. She barely slowed down to let it fall out, then turned back to lick the sack off of it.
I didn't know what to do or think. It was finally happening, but she was just leaving it lay there. It didn't make any sense. I went to my dad, who was always my first resource when I didn't understand an animal's actions. He just nodded slowly, closed his gin-soaked eyes, and said he'd take care of it.
Meanwhile, Sadie had come back inside and gone into a closet. I went to her, leaving my dad to take care of the poor soul outside. Maybe there was something wrong with it that made her leave it. My concern for that one puppy was overwritten by the others that were making their way out as Sadie hid in the closet. My older brother joined me to watch wordlessly. 3 puppies later, my dad comes in. "How's the one outside?" I asked him. "I took care of it, like I said" he replied, then picked up two of the three puppies Sadie had just released, and carried them outside. I asked my older brother what was going on, but he wouldn't answer me. He wouldn't even look at me. Sadie whimpered. "Where are you taking them?" I demanded of my father. He said he was going to take care of them. That phrase started to give me chills. "You thought we'd keep 'em?" he asked, sounding genuinely surprised.
I shoved past him and ran outside to where the puppy had been left on the ground. It was gone. A few feet away, there was a 5-gallon bucket mostly full of water, and a hole in the ground beside it. I didn't look closer. I just screamed.
My father is a fur trapper. Seeing the skins of coyotes laying around stopped bothering me when I was young. But I always thought that his killing was reserved for wild animals. A domesticated animal, and a baby? I didn't think even he would do it.
But there he was, walking past me, towards the bucket of water, with a puppy in each hand. I screamed at him to stop, asked why he was doing it. He just said "Do you want to do it!?" And angrily waved a whimpering, sightless furball at me. After a failed attempt to grab his arms, I knew I couldn't do anything. I went inside to Sadie, to try and protect the others. My brother looked at me then. "He didn't tell you. He was supposed to fucking warn you..." he said sadly. I screamed at him. I'm sure I don't know what I said, or if there were even words in the rage. It wasn't just my father? My brother dragged me away, convincing me that I couldn't do anything. Neither of us could. He took me to the nearby woods and made me walk down the trail with him. He offered me some alcohol, but I couldn't accept it. We just walked and he tried to help me pretend it didn't happen.
After hours of walking, we returned to our house. My father was asleep and Sadie was curled up in a beanbag on our enclosed porch. My mother was awake, but I didn't ask any questions. It didn't matter at that point. I went to the porch to lay down with Sadie. When I woke up sometime between one and 3 hours later, there were two more puppies. She had apparently held or hidden them for hours. When I woke up and moved around, Sadie wagged her tale and ducked her head like she does when she knows she's doing something she isn't supposed to. I consoled her and vowed to protect these two. What could he possibly have against just two puppies? I decided to just not let him know about them. When I told my mother that I refused to let those go, she reminded me that she refused to let me miss school and that I had an hour to be ready.
So I went to school. I didn't tell anyone there, of course. I didn't do any work either. I didn't talk to people. I didn't care. When I went home, Sadie was still on her beanbag on the porch, but there were no puppies. I found my father sitting in the kitchen and approached him. I just stood looking at him, and he didn't look up from the gardening catalog he was reading. When I accidentally let out an audible sniffle, he looked up impatiently and said "You thought we'd keep them?"