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Childhood Memories & Pet Loss

A dreaded memory I carry with me

By Elise Published 12 months ago 4 min read
Childhood Memories & Pet Loss
Photo by Louis Galvez on Unsplash

Today I was reflecting a lot on my childhood, and a very unpleasant memory popped up that I have thought about from time to time through the years, but it's not something I would linger on for too long on it because it made me uncomfortable. But today I thought perhaps it could be therapeutic if I were to write about it.


As a child, I experienced the loss of pets through the years over and over, and no matter how many times I experienced it, it never got any easier. I hadn't learned to cope with such intense emotions, and I never really had anyone to comfort me, from what I remember. So those emotions would weigh my heart down and eventually, it all turned into anger that bubbled to the surface throughout the years.

When I was younger, I often wondered if other children felt deep sadness the way I had felt it, but no one would show it, so I felt as though I couldn't relate to them. So of course, I masked my sadness with anger because that was easier to deal with.

But there is one pet of mine whose death still haunts me. His name was Pepper, he was my pet rabbit with white fluffy fur and black spots - hence the name Pepper. A family friend had given him to me. I was around 11 years old at this time and for less than a year he was in my life, so obviously, I had grown attached. I remember putting in a lot of effort to give him the best area where he could dig holes and feel safe. It was a garden shed inside a fenced-off area, so plenty of room to run around. Every morning I would go and see him before school. He grew to be a big rabbit with a lot of energy, and at times he was grumpy and didn't want anyone in his space.

But one weekend, we had to go to a family gathering, so that day I didn't go and say goodbye or check on him until the next morning. At 7 AM on a Saturday morning, I went in to feed him his breakfast, and that is when I saw his body, stretched out like he was sleeping. I called to him, but he didn't move. I got a little closer and saw that his eyes were open but he wasn't breathing.

It was that usual feeling of shock, my heart sinking, and intense emotions overwhelming me. I ran inside, crying loudly. At the time, my stepbrother was sleeping in the lounge, and I woke him up to tell him what had happened. He was the only one who comforted me, but because he was younger he obviously didn't know how to handle a devastated 11-year-old girl.

I repeated very loudly "Pepper's dead. He's dead!". And deep down I was hoping my mum would wake up to come and console me. She didn't, even though her bedroom was right there and she would have heard. And you might be wondering why a mother would do that. Keep reading. It gets worse.

From that point, I don't remember the rest of the day. I don't know what my mum said to me, or if she had even said anything, or what happened to Pepper's body. I honestly don't remember anything for some reason.

It was the next day that really stood out.

The next morning I could see one of our dogs trying to get into the big shed in our backyard (not Pepper's shed). She looked desperate to get whatever was in there. So I went and had a look inside the shed. And in a bucket, I could see a carcass. Now, automatically you would think it's Pepper's body. But I couldn't tell if it was him or not because the carcass had been skinned and gutted like someone was getting it ready for a stew.

Often, my stepdad would go hunting for wild rabbits and cook up rabbit stew. So surely that is what had happened… surely. Even though he hadn't gone hunting that weekend.

I remember slamming the shed door shut and running to my room to cry because I was once again shocked. I remember fighting with myself over the fact that my mum and stepdad wouldn't do that to my pet rabbit. They wouldn't skin him and make him into a stew for me to eat. No one would be that cruel and mean when they knew how much I loved that rabbit.

An hour or so later, the dog managed to get into the shed and drag the body out onto the lawn and eat it. I remember feeling too sick to go and look or try to stop her. And because it was the morning my mum and stepdad hadn't gotten out of bed yet, and I sure as hell wasn't going to go out there to stop the dog. So I went back into my room to cry.

I tried many times over the years to persuade myself it wasn't Pepper. And I never confronted my mum or stepdad about it, so of course, to this day it's all speculation even though the signs are all pointing to the answer. I'm not even sure I want to have them admit something like that.

So that is my traumatic pet loss experience. Does anyone have a similar story? It really is therapeutic to write it out after all these years.


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    Elise Written by Elise

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