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Sunday, 5 June 2011

Animal Cruelty

Right, a short one this week, because frankly the subject matter makes me sick when I think of it. No, no, come back, it's nothing like that.

Depending on who you are, and what kind of person you are, the story I'm about to tell might possibly not seem all that bad but to me, it's a moment in my life that I feel utter shame for. I can't remember ever feeling worse than in the moments right afterward and even now, literally decades later, I sometimes dream about it and wake up feeling like, well, like shit.

It was shortly after we'd moved into the new house. We had pretty quickly gotten to know all the neighbours, because this was, after all, the worlds friendliest street, and the man up from us (technically the first house in the next street but he was an honorary member) had the cutest little puppy you've ever seen in your life. I don't remember the breed - I'm hopeless with this stuff, if it's a dog it's a dog, I can never remember the different types - but it was quite small and very excitable. All of us kids loved that dog with a passion, mainly because none of us were allowed one and it was the only one in the street.

So, the geography; we were the last house at the top of our street. His was the first house in the street that went up at a right angle from ours. On the corner where the two met was a quite large - to a childs eye - patch of grass. This grass had a couple of trees at one end that were perfectly spaced for goalposts and would one day save my best friends life, but that's another story.

We would play on this grass often, and if the weather was nice my Mam would bring out a chair and sit at the front door watching us. Our neighbour would also often sit outside his door, and allow his puppy to run around with us. (Not to mention crap all over the place. I can't remember if their were laws about dog waste back then but if there were they weren't as stringently enforced.) On this one particular day, a crowd of us were kicking a ball around on the grass, with this little dog running between our feet and chasing the ball. All good fun. At one point, because it really was a warm day and I didn't handle heat any better then than I do now - slightest hike above sub-arctic temps and I'm sweating like a missionary in a crock pot - I headed inside for a drink. AND INTO HELL!

Sidenote - We had a Pop-Man. Did anyone else have one of those? Do they still exist today? He came around once a week on a milk float type thing filled with crateloads of cheap pop. Big chunky glass bottles they were, and you got a discount if you returned the bottles. (I know shops gave pennies for empties but this man came to your door) We'd never had a pop-man at our previous homes, and never had another one after we moved. I miss having a pop-man.

Ahem, well. So I was on my way back out with my glass of generic cheapy lemonade when I heard my Mam moaning from her little stool at the front door. As was her wont - she was always a miserable cow, even before she hit the deepest depths of her drinking - she was moaning about something; but what? Yes, it was the dog. She was getting all worked up - under her breath, never one for confrontation when sober - about how the dog wouldn't leave us alone and 'the little bastard better not fucking bite any of them' and, well, you get the idea. The fact that the dog was having the time of it's life, so were us kids, and the thing had never shown the slightest inclination towards violence never entered into the equation; she wasn't happy.

Shall I tell you what I did? I put down my glass, pushed past my Mam, ran onto the grass and... kicked the dog as hard as I could in the belly while screaming at it to "get back you little bastard." The squeal it made broke my heart, I swear to God. It's owner went ballistic - and can you blame him? -, my Mam went apeshit, screaming at me to get inside and all my friends were just shouting at me, "what'd you do that for?", "pack it in dickhead" and "behave, you fucking nutter".

I just looked at the dog, curled up at his owners feet, giving out little yelps. I couldn't take my eyes off it. I felt, in all honesty, like scum. Because let's face it, that's exactly what I was.

That's the end of the story. I could make a bunch of excuses about how I was young and impressionable and was just following my Mams lead but, well, that's no excuse is it? I've done a lot of pretty reprehensible things in my life, but none, when I look back, make me feel as bad as this one does. The dog was soon frolicking at my feet again having, as dogs do, forgiven me. I'm not sure the owner ever did.

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