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How I Became a Murderer MAG
I had always thought it would be easy, the slip of the needle into the vein, the taking of a life. Maybe not easy on my mind or my heart, but easy that I'd be able to force myself to do it. I would just pat them on the head, say a soothing word as they left this world for a better place. I didn't know I'd lose sleep, weight, or my sense of self-respect. I didn't know I'd feel like a murderer.
The first time I did it was in class. My Humane Society director had sent me to learn the “art of euthanasia,” something necessary in my job. Something to help the dogs who couldn't be cured of their illnesses or their aggression. Something to make things better.
What a lie.
There I sat, two hours from my home, with a dog I didn't know, who had no name, no worth to anyone. I held a .22 needle in my hand, filled with ketamine to help him drift to sleep. On the table lay another, full of blue liquid to stop his heart. “Fatal Plus” they call it. Glancing at his chart, the bite report, I wiped a tear from my eye. I stopped thinking. After several long minutes, his breathing had stopped and his heart was still. I went back to the hotel, and emptied my stomach of its contents, picturing the needle I'd had to plunge into his heart to verify his death.
“Never again,” I told myself. “Never.”
Two months later I found myself in the Euthanasia Room. I sat on the ground, remembering how many lives I had taken – how I had broken my promise to myself. I had done it, I had killed again and again, but I reasoned with my mind, telling myself that because of the cancer or the uncontrollable aggression, I had done the right thing. I had lied to myself.
My boss led him in, the pit bull I had fallen in love with months and months ago. He was a protective custody case, his owner recently released from prison. His owner had decided he didn't want the dog after we had trained him and made him sociable. He wasn't a vicious attack dog anymore; he was a sweet and loyal friend to me and my fellow kennel hands. Unfortunately, my director didn't see it that way.
My director said this beautiful dog with the brown and black fur didn't deserve a second chance. She saw only ferocity and hate in those soft, broken brown eyes. He would turn. We couldn't find him a new home. He wasn't worth the effort. If we didn't do it, she would. So there I sat, filling my needles with those disgusting, horrible chemicals. Over-doing them in hopes that it would help him pass faster. When that was done, I knelt and looked him in his eyes.
“You're a good dog. What I'm about to do goes against what I stand for. I'm going to betray your trust. I'm going to become just like everyone else. But I promise you, Hannibal, I love you … and it's better that it's me doing this.”
Wiping my tears, I began to stand. He licked my hand sadly, as if he understood. I took the Ketamine needle and gently inserted it in his back leg, releasing the sedative into his muscles. He didn't even wince. In just a few seconds he went from woozy to sleeping peacefully on the floor. Though I struggled to shut down my emotions and be mechanical, I ended up bent over the trash can gagging and vomiting. My tears dropped onto the second needle when I finally managed to pick it up. Gently, I found a vein in his front leg, slipped the needle in and pushed down the syringe.
Taking his head, I placed it in my lap and just cried. I cried for the injustice his breed faced. I cried for what I'd done, what I'd felt. And I cried because he never got to experience the loving home he so desperately deserved. I heard his breathing slow, felt his heart stop beating, and saw the life slowly fade from this once-proud, strong creature.
I had become a murderer of the worst degree. This was my first unjustifiable death, the first that should have been avoided. I placed him in an empty freezer and sent out the order for a $400 cremation. Hannibal would be free and memorialized.
As I cleaned and sanitized the room, I was paged on the phone. I quieted my sobs and took the call.
“I'm calling to adopt a dog. I heard his owner, my friend, surrendered him. I want to bring Hannibal home.”
I dropped the receiver to the floor. After what seemed like hours, I picked it up again and, crying, told the caller the news. She hung up on me, too upset to talk.
I walked out of that room, straight to my boss's office, and handed him my keys. I informed him I'd be back for Hannibal's ashes in two days, and I left.
That was a year ago Wednesday. And on that anniversary I took the remains of my beloved friend and scattered them at the beach. I did it at sunrise, with the stars just fading and brilliant colors painting the horizon.
Hannibal was finally home.
Park City, Utah
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You truly can't judge a book by its cover.
I also remember when I held a dying duck I had raised in my arms as it died from a dog attack. I held her there, trying to urge her to stay awake, but she fell into a never ending sleep. I cannot imagine how much harder it must have been for you, to take the life yourself. And even harder still, to get a call for Hannibal shortly after. It's one of those things that makes you wish you could go back in time, or hit a "reset level" button and wait instead of doing it. your director was a fool who should not have such a job. Hannibal was indeed lucky to have you be the one to do it, someone who cared so much for him. I hope your heart has had the chance to heal, at least a little. My best wishes to you. You've received more than your share of pain.
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"Even if your on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." Will Rogers
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"I have learned that people will forget what you did, people will forget what you said, but people will never forget how you made them feel." ~Maya Angelou
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