September 25, 2011

If you find an animal dying slowly and painfully, would you do what I did? ~ Ben Ralston

I killed the puppy with my bare hands.

The single toughest thing I’ve ever done – physically and emotionally. I don’t think that I regret it, but at the same time, I’m not sure I did the right thing (is there ever a right thing to do?). Nor am I sure quite what I learnt from the experience.

The truth is: I’m still learning from it…

When I was 9 or 10 years old we went on holiday. I don’t remember how old I was exactly, but I can’t have been more than 10, because my brother wasn’t born yet.

While we were out walking one day our dog, Rocky, caught a rabbit. He held it in his jaws, shook it from side to side, and then dropped it. It fell like a rag doll, and Rocky went on his way again: job done.

My parents also started off again, but I couldn’t leave the rabbit like that: its neck was broken, but it was alive. It was still breathing (very fast) and was clearly conscious.

So I took a large rock, and killed it, as fast as I could.

I remember my parents being very impressed. But the truth is, I just couldn’t leave it like that. I didn’t feel I had a choice.

Fastforward almost 20 years…


I’m on a very quiet beach in Goa. It’s 0ne month after my yoga teachers training course (when I learnt to live), and I’ve been practicing intensely as well as teaching a private student in the local resort.

Today though I don’t feel well. The illness that plagued me the previous month is recurring slightly – I’m weak and feverish.

As I pass a shop I hear a faint but terrible sound. A mewling / squeeling / high-pitched wailing sound.

It’s not the kind of sound you can ignore, so I investigate. Round the side of the shop, at the edge of a pile of garbage, is a tiny black puppy.

His fur is crawling with insects. His eyes are full of puss and parasites.

He’s barely alive. But he is alive.

What would you do?

I went into the shop and asked the people in there about it: does the dog belong to them? It was a stupid question really. Stray dogs in India are a dime a dozen, and people there have more important things to worry about – like feeding their children. The shop owner barely even acknowledged me. She didn’t want to know…

So I went and bought some milk. I tried to feed the little dog some milk, and then I tried to kill it.

First, I tried to strangle it. But it didn’t work. I just caused that little dog plenty more suffering for a while. His squealing became almost unbearable. I was shaking and sweating.

Then I found a tile, and I broke it’s neck. It wasn’t easy – I had no idea how hard it can be to extinguish a life. It took time. But eventually I did it.

That’s what I did.

I’ll never forget that little dog.

The next day I came across a small, weather-stained poster pinned to a tree. A tree I’d walked past every day for a month.

It was an advertisement for an animal rescue center.

What would you have done? Did I do the right thing? Is there ever a right thing to do, or are there just many experiences from which we learn and evolve? Please leave a comment, and spread the love by sharing this with your friends / social media.

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