Rex was never my dog.  He was old when I was born and never had much patience for me.  Even so, I loved having a dog in the house and liked to rub his silky black ears.  Apparently, I used him as a scapegoat once when I got into mom’s freshly baked cake and blamed the dog! 

When I was seven, I was playing outside and a neighbor friend noticed Rex wasn’t around and asked me where he was.  I went inside and asked mom, but she was busy visiting with her friend and tried to distract me.  But, I persisted.

She finally took me in my room and told me Rex was dead.   Dad had taken him out into the woods and shot him.  I was never even told Rex was sick and didn’t get to say goodbye.  I had no preparation for death or grief.  I remember screaming that I hated my dad when she told me what happened.  I was inconsolable, heartbroken and terrified.  Of course it wasn’t okay to question anything dad did, so I was expected to just accept what happened and deal with it.  This was, to some degree, reminiscent of after he would abuse me and I had to stuff my feelings and pretend nothing happened.

 An unspoken consequence of his shooting Rex was confirmation to me that dad meant business when he threatened me not to tell about the abuse.

 I don’t remember how much time went by before I started begging and pleading to get my own dog.  I was ten when they finally relented.  They asked a co-worker of dad’s who was going to Anchorage to pick out a dog from the pound.  She came home with an 8 month old Cock-a-Poo named Angel.   

My sweet, cuddly Pepper

My own dog!  I bonded to her immediately and renamed her Pepper.  (Although in hindsight, I can see now her original name of Angel was quite accurate.)  Unlike many kids who promise to take care of a dog only to lose interest in a few weeks, I only grew closer to her.  I fed her every day, walked her frequently and even cleaned her teeth!  (The nearest veterinarian was 200 miles away in Anchorage.)  I absolutely adored her and took all responsibility for her.  Although dad liked Pepper, I think I worried she might meet the same fate as Rex if I wasn’t careful.  After all, he liked Rex, too. 

She was a huge part of my life and we became inseparable.  She even learned to ride on my bicycle with me!  We’d swing, bike and cross country ski together. 

My only picture of us together…

When I was sad, she would automatically curl up next to me and snuggle.  She seemed to read my emotions effortlessly.    

She loved the snow!

She was 14 and I was married with two babies when I made one of the most heart-wrenching decisions of my life to have her put down.  I still get teary thinking about her and how much she meant to me.  She was with me during many of my darkest years in the midst of the worst abuse.  She was my constant, my tangible comfort and example of unconditional love.  She will always have a very special place in my heart and I will always miss her.

Have you had a pet help you through difficult times?