Red Flags: Hidden Animal Abuse

“He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.”—Immanuel Kant Lectures on Ethics

I’m an animal person. There is no other way to put it. For 11 of our 13 years together, we’ve had at least one dog. Had I known what I know now, I would have run fast and far away so many years ago.

House training our first puppy was a nightmare. The backyard of our rented house was mostly fenced off by other houses and their fences or walls. One side was open about the width of a car and another had a slightly smaller opening. Because of this, we always went outside with our very energetic pup. The problem, she was terrified to poop or pee in front of us.

No matter what I said, my narcissist punished her whenever he discovered she’d had an accident in the house. He didn’t just scold her. He hit her. With his fists. She was a big dog, but he is a bigger than average man with a broad muscular build. (I mention her size not as a defense of him, but so you understand how she didn’t end up dead or with broken bones.)

Eventually, once we got a fully fenced yard, house training was no longer an issue. But sometimes she would get in the trash can or do some other naughty things. It didn’t happen often, but his reactions are things not easily forgotten. Over the years I have too many memories of the narcissist chasing her with plastic hangers or broom handles, cornering her, hitting her. Sometimes beating her.

Once, when she was all grown up, probably seven or eight years old, she growled and snapped at him. He deserved it. He’d deserved it so many times before that. He deserved so much worse than just a warning from her. Unconditional love and loyalty are hallmarks of dogs in general and she was truly a testament to the species.

Sometime after the “beginning of the end,” our dog was diagnosed with terminal cancer. All we could do was make her comfortable and, when we couldn’t do that anymore, arrange for her to pass on with dignity. She didn’t get to do that.

One night while I was asleep but before the narcissist came home, she got in the trash can. He was angry. He kicked her.

The next day she was obviously in a lot of pain. I helped her on to the couch to sit with her head in my daughter’s lap. Then she died.

When we buried her the next day, my ex-husband said she had a big green bruise where he had kicked her. He said he believed this was the reason she died. All of this was conveyed to me through tears, one of the very few times I’ve seen him cry. I comforted him, of course, and reminded him how very sick she was, but secretly I believed he killed her.

He said he’d never hit a dog again, but his actions never matched his words.

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