We are fast approaching a time of the year that many Central Oregon's look forward to. Hunting season. Now being born and raised here, I have witnessed many a hunting season but have only hunted myself once.
I had one of my brothers rifles with me. One with a scope as I remember. I was walking down a road and coming up on a rise in front of me when I saw it. The buck was magnificent standing at the top of the rise. I put the gun up and sighted. It's head was proudly held up with quite a rack of horns on top. But try as I want, I could not pull the trigger. I put the gun down and watched as the deer seemed to not have a clue of me being there. I sighted it up again and readied for the shot. Sweat rolled off of me as I was defeated from doing that one small thing....just one small squeeze and I would have my first deer. I put the gun back down again and looked at the beauty of the creature. "Go on, get out of here!", I yelled at him. His head turned in a start and he ran off down the other side of the rise.
I walked back to my rig, stowed my gun away, and drove back to my house never to point a gun at an animal again. For years, I told people that I didn't hunt but could if I needed to. I always said that if I need the meat, it is in the store. But, there is a reason for the inability. One that I have not really told anyone before.
You see, I have shot an animal before. My one and only to my recollection. And with an impact so big that I lost any desire to do so.
The animal was our family dog. To this day, it has always been my favorite pet even with all of the dogs and cats that I have owned since. We got it as a pup. It's constant scratching with it's back paw that thumped the floor led to her name, Thumper.
Short legged and floppy eared, this black and white mix of a dog was a part of our family. I remember once when she somehow got sores on her, we purchased bag balm to treat her wounds.
Thumper loved everyone and her love was unconditional. When you didn't want her around, she just stayed off to the side and waited for your affection to return and would slop you with forgiving kisses.
I don't know how old Thumper was but I was around 16. I say that because I was able to drive. Thumper was old and my mother said that she needed to be put down and put out of her misery. I was the big man with my 22 rifle and I volunteered to do the deed. After all, I was tough and it had to be done.
Thumper gladly allowed me to place her in the car and I drove her up into the forest. Getting out, I tied her to the bumper of the car. I loaded my rifle and walked around the car to do the deed. Now Thumper seemed to think that I had brought her out for some fun and smiled as dogs do when she saw one of her masters.
I raised the gun and she looked at me with questioning eyes. After all, I had never done anything in the past to defy her trust. She just sat there looking up at me with those soft black eyes that never once showed any fear, only love. But I was a man. After all, I could drive now and I would soon be on my own. It was time for the man to show through. Tears welled in my eyes and I fought them back. This was my responsibility and I did my deed.
Overwhelmed, I slunk down the side of the car, my gun cradled in my lap as tears freely rolled down my cheeks. I knew that she was old and sick but she had trusted me and I had just defiled that trust. I don't know how long I stayed there lost in the agony of the moment. Eventually, I managed to get myself to my feet and place my gun back in the trunk where I retrieved the shovel. I dug the hole deep and placed large rocks on the body so that it would be protected from wild animals.
I then drove back to my house. I did not talk much about what I had done, only to acknowledge that it was finished. I attempted to cover my thoughts by keeping myself busy. But, I was never to shoot another animal again.
I am closing in on Fifty Six so that means that this was done around forty years ago but the memory when I bring it up is still quite vivid. Like I said before, I never talk about it so I felt that writing this might be a sort of release.
And if there are dogs in heaven, I know that she will be there. And in typical "Thumper" form, she will forgive me with sloppy kisses.