Family, memories

Midnight and Queenie – My Introduction to the Dark Side of Humanity, Part Two

My writing exercise last week had us exploring our experience with loss and grief. For me, it all started with two pets. My first pet was a cat. She was mine. She was dark black and full of love. Her dark coat was the reason I named her Midnight. Queenie, on the other hand, was a family dog, a beagle.

Tuesday, I wrote about Midnight. Today I will write the second part – about Queenie.

I will warn you, this could be triggering for some people.


Part Two, Queenie

I grew up in the country as many of my longtime followers know. Life was different there. We did not have quick and ready access to grocery stores nor did we have an abundance of money to purchase from the store. This meant we raised a large garden and the vegetables were put away (canned in Ball canning jars) for the winter months. Potatoes were harvested and stored in a dark cellar and used throughout the winter. Nothing was wasted.

Our streams were full of rainbow and brown trout, and fishing was also a way of life as was hunting. People hunted for food rather than sport and the abundance of the land and what it provided was highly revered.

My Dad hunted and we ate what was gathered. It was a way of life. When we moved into town, there was less open land in which to hunt. I think my father had a vision of raising hunting dogs. I loved my father a great deal, but often his plans were, well, let’s say flawed, often never coming to fruition.

The house we rented was a small three bedroom built in 1932. There was an alleyway that ran behind the street. The back yard had a deep downward slope. There was a coal chute on the side where coal was delivered and dropped directly into a small basement room off the furnace. Alongside the back yard was a small half-wall made from concrete block. We only had neighbors on one side of us and the lots were substantial.

I am not sure when or where Dad got the beagles, but King and Queenie lived in a chainlink pen in the back yard with a cozy dog house. I cannot even recall how long we had them, but eventually, Queenie had a litter of pups. I can still remember how cute they were. Dad did not want us to get too attached to them so we did not get to play with them or handle them much. But we all loved them dearly.

I am fuzzy on the details, but one morning, Dad got up for work and went out back to feed the dogs as was his routine. He found Queenie and all the puppies dead. They had been poisoned. I am also not sure if King was there or even is King was our dog. He may have been borrowed for breeding. I just do not remember.

What I do remember was this was the second time I realized just how cruel people could be. I have often wondered what possessed someone to come into our yard under the cloak of darkness and purposefully poison the dogs. It is possible Queenie was poisoned and the poison passed through her milk to the pups, but that is supposition on my part. All I know for sure, was that it was an intentional act.

Dad would not let us see the dogs. I think he tried to protect us from the heartache he felt when he saw them. We would not have another dog until I was in junior high school and my boyfriend gave me a Cocker Spaniel my mother named Whiskey, because he was the color of a nice aged whiskey.

Thankfully, we had no other horrendous stories associated with our pets. Two was too many. Far too many.

ancestors

Midnight and Queenie – My Introduction to the Dark Side of Humanity

My writing exercise last week had us exploring our experience with loss and grief. For me, it all started with two pets. My first pet was a cat. She was mine. She was dark black and full of love. Her dark coat was the reason I named her Midnight. Queenie, on the other hand, was a family dog, a beagle.

Today I will write the first part – about Midnight.

I will warn you, this could be triggering for some people.


Part One, Midnight

I do not recall the circumstances surrounding how Midnight came into our family or why she was designated as my cat. I thought perhaps those details lived deep in the recesses of my mind, but if they do, they are not yet accessible to me.

Midnight lived with us at my grandmother’s house in the Valley. She was a sweet and lovable cat and I loved her. When my parents decided to move to a nearby town, Midnight stayed behind and continued to live with my grandparents rather than move to a more urban landscape. At my grandmother’s, she could remain an inside/outside cat free to safely roam within the confines of their yard. She never strayed away from home, always staying close to the house.

My grandparent’s house stood on a rise in the property with the yard sloping downward and leveling out. At the lowest level in the yard was a narrow stream which we referred to as a ditch because of the low water levels. There was a small footbridge to cross the ditch. There stood a grand plum tree and the walkway to our clothes line where my grandmother hung the laundry to dry and the pathway that led to the barn.

The property line was just beyond the plum tree. Next door was a similar house with another large lot and a barn, where my parents’ good friends lived. They had two sons, and a sweet Collie named Lassie. Their youngest son was the same age as my oldest sister, and their oldest son who was about 20 at the time.

One afternoon when I returned from school, my grandmother called. It was unusual for children to talk on the phone, but my grandmother had called to speak directly to me which was unusual.

Once on the phone, I heard my grandmother crying. She spoke slowly and told me she had to have Midnight ‘put to sleep’. I did not understand the phrase, but I slowly understood as she explained what happened.

Midnight had taken a stroll around the yard as was her normal routine. She loved to climb up the plum tree and observe her surroundings. On this particular day. Larry, the oldest son, had sicced Lassie on Midnight. This seemingly gentle dog, worked up into a fervor and taunted to attack my cat. My grandmother intervened to stop the attack, but it was too late. Midnight had been severely maimed beyond the ability to recover. My grandmother had her put to sleep.

I cried and she cried. She apologized to me and told me over and over and over how sorry she was. I knew she as was heartbroken as I was. I could not for the life of me understand how anyone could be so cruel. I was so angry and at an age when no child should feel those emotions.

Larry was always a little ‘off’.  We always thought there was something different about him, but no one ever imagined him capable of such a mean and cruel thing. From that moment on I despised him. Sadly, this would not be my last unpleasant interaction with him in my life, but that is a story for another day.

Unfortunately, this also colored my opinion of Collies. It was a breed I would always steer clear of and have slight distrust in. I know that might not be fair, but childhood trauma changes you.

I learned a lot about life that day. I learned humanity had an evil and cruel side. I learned animals could be killed by a doctor and that it could be a humane act. I learned about mistrust. And I learned about how sorrow can connect people in profound ways. I learned my ‘gut feeling’ about people was a valuable instinct I should not ignore. I learned a lot. Maybe too much for a little girl.

I was only seven years old.