regrets about animal cruelty in childhood
I grew up in El Salvador in the 1970s. I lived in a working class neighborhood near a wooded area. My friends and I all had slingshots. We often went into the woods unsupervised and sometimes targeted little animals such as reptiles and bats. At the time, most of us were no older than ten. We simply didn't know any better. Nobody taught us to respect animals in those days. Luckily, most of the time, we didn't really go out looking to hurt animals. One episode does haunt me to this day more than any other, however. A friend wanted a puppy. I had heard that a lady in my neighborhood was giving dogs away. My friend and I went to look for her and told her my friend wanted a male puppy. The lady said, "You'll have to take both the male puppy and its sister." I said okay impulsively because I wanted to give my friend his puppy so badly. He took the male puppy while I took the female one. I didn't want to take the puppy home because I thought my parents would be mad, so I went into some grassy bushes and threw the the puppy there. Almost immediately, I wanted to go back and see how the puppy was, but I got scared because the grass was tall and I was afraid I was going to be bitten by a snake or some other animal. I was either ten or eleven at the time, and I quickly forgot about the incident. Over the years, however, that memory has come back to haunt me. I wonder what happened to the puppy. Did it come out of the bushes and find a home? That thought also leads me to think about other acts of animal abuse I participated in, such as when my friends and I threw rocks at a stray dog who accidentally came into my neighborhood (I was twelve). We hurt it really bad. After that incident, I realized how wrong we were. I think that was the beginning of my realization that animals deserve our respect. Soon after the rock-throwing incident, my friends and I adopted a cute kitty that wandered into our neighborhood. We fed it and treated it well. In my early twenties, I became a vegetarian. I have thought about volunteering in an animal-rescue shelter, although I'm sometimes afraid that being around animals will bring back memories of the animal abuse episodes I participated in. There are days when I feel really bad. I sometimes feel like I'm a war criminal. Even when I should be happy (such as when I'm on a good date or get a perfect score on a math test) it's hard to enjoy the moment because I think I don't deserve to be happy because of the bad things I did to animals as a child. It just hurts to know that I can't apologize to those animals or make it up to them. I know I was a child when I committed those acts, but that doesn't really convince me that I'm a new person now, a person who would not hurt animals. It's hard to be happy feeling so guilty. Has anybody found any ways to feel better even though they may have dome something regrettable in childhood?