PTSD Flashbacks Of Animals


PTSD Flashbacks Of Animals

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For many, this may be a rough blog post to read. It is an account of the PTSD flashbacks of animals being tortured and killed while I was growing up. I still struggle with it today but needed to write this as part of my own healing. Hopefully, it will help someone else that has witnessed the same things. I have no tolerance for any animal that is tortured or abused.

Once upon a time, I had a dog and cats and other animals around the farm we grew up on in Iowa. We grew up all over the place, but Iowa is somewhat the home I consider of my childhood.

These are some instances that I recall which were so traumatizing as a kid. They connect with a major trigger and PTSD flashbacks which left me struggling to survive recently.

Kittens Being Killed – PTSD Flashbacks

Let’s start with the kittens first and then I’ll move on to the dogs. It is easier for me to share the story this way. The cats are very important to me.

When I was little, I remember having kittens. It always seemed like the cats we had were constantly having baby kittens. Of course, I was young and so I knew nothing about surgeries to slow this down. All of our cats were outdoor cats.

I believe this happened more than once, but my dad would put the kittens in a gunny sack and tie it shut. He would then take it down to the river and drown them until they were all gone. I’ve heard stories about it but I can’t quite remember it. Whether I’ve just blocked it out in my mind or not, I don’t know.

Washing Dishes And Heard Their Screams

One time, though, I remember washing dishes while all of the kittens were hanging around the cellar door. In the midwest, we had storm cellars where we would store some food. It was a safe place during tornadoes.

As I was washing dishes, I heard the little kittens scream and cry. My parents were outside. It was all over so quickly that by the time I went running to the door, I was told to get back inside and finish the dishes. I don’t know how old I was, but probably not more than 8 years old.

When my parents came inside, they had that look on their face. I knew something bad had happened. Finally, I was told that my kittens had gotten caught in the door and they all died. There was one that I really loved, a grey kitty I named “Smokey.”

This makes up one of the major PTSD flashbacks that I deal with in life.

I started to cry but was quickly told to stop unless I wanted to be known as a cry baby. It was making my dad feel uncomfortable and so he threatened that if I didn’t stop crying, he would give me something good to cry about. This meant he would kick me or spank me or whatever else he felt like doing.

That night I washed the dishes longing for my little kittens and feeling this big lump in my stomach. I hated my father for what he did. I so badly wished and prayed that the kittens would rise up, take over the world, and scratch him to death.

The Tortured Cats

There were so many instances when I saw my cats being tortured. If I managed to get them inside for a short time and they messed up on the rug, my parents (both my mom and dad) would hurl them up in the air as they went flying out the door. Usually, that was after they had rubbed the cat’s nose in what they had done wrong, screamed and yelled at it, and spanked it.

I would tell my cats to run to the barn if they saw any humans but me. It was the safest place for them.

Then there were the dogs, more of what fuels the PTSD flashbacks that I struggle with in life.

Dog Abuse And Torture

I always wanted a dog. We had one at times but they would have to be chained up in the yard, usually in a muddy dirt pen. They were treated as second class, less than humans. My dad would tire of them and it was almost like we were chastised if we wanted to go out and play or be with the dog.

Even though I begged my parents for a dog, especially one that looked like Snoopy, the request fell on deaf ears. When we lived in town for a short time, I delivered newspapers. Somehow I managed to get dogs to follow me all the way home. Of course, my parents would get upset and make me take the dog back to their owner. I wasn’t trying to steal a dog. I just wanted a dog for myself.

When I was in junior high, my dad was driving a truck and we were once again living out in the country. I kept begging for a dog and most of the time I would be dismissed.

My dad got scared of my mom being all alone in the country. The place he worked for had some purebred Doberman puppies, and he brought one home one day. I doubt it was as much for me as it was to protect my mom, but I didn’t really care. It was a dog.

Little did I know, she would become another one of my PTSD flashbacks.

Her Name Was Princess

We named her Princess and she loved me so much. We’d play tackle football where I was the football. She’d run and play with me all the time. In the middle of the night when I had to check on my sheep during lambing, she’d wait at the fence for me. It didn’t matter if it was very cold out or it was a blizzard. She’d wait until I was finished and walk me back to the house. I was scared of the dark, especially out in the country, but she helped me feel safe.

Like most dogs, she would get bored and get into mischief. She loved to take our boots and shoes up on the front porch and play with them. My dad got so angry at her, so she sulked away from him. Sitting by the kitchen window, he picked up one of the shoes and hurled it at her. It missed her and went right through the kitchen window.

I was like, YEAH – you m-Fkr! That serves you right! Of course, I said this to myself because if he heard me, I would have been beaten too. He was embarrassed and felt ashamed but at least now he had to fix the window.

Another time, she had gotten into something. I don’t remember what it was. So he went in and picked up his shotgun and started screaming at her to get away. She wasn’t welcomed here. As he did that, he picked up his gun, aimed it at her and fired. Supposedly he was just trying to scare her. Yeah right – you m-Fkr!

The Buckshot In Her Leg – PTSD Flashbacks

I heard her yelp when the buckshot went into her legs. He tried to explain that he was only trying to scare her and get her attention, but I had no use for what he said. He made me so angry that if I could have picked up the gun that day, I would have shot him right there.

We weren’t allowed to go after her and help her. That would have meant we would have gotten beaten to a pulp. I hated him for what he did.

When I was in college, Princess got sick and we found out she had cancer. In her final days, she was at the vet’s office and he was looking after her. I remember talking to him on the phone from the dormitory I lived in at college.

As we talked, he discovered the buckshot in her legs and I told him the story of what had happened to her. We both cried on the phone that day and I think he hated my father at that point as much as I did.

My Dad Loved Hunting Squirrels

As a kid, my dad loved to go hunting. I had absolutely no desire to kill animals or shoot a gun. However, I had no choice because my dad was going to teach me how to be a man. No matter how much he tried to persuade me to hold or shoot a gun, I would refuse. For me, just hanging out in the woods was all I wanted to do. I loved being out in nature, but I hated the hunting part.

I’m the odd one in my family. I didn’t enjoy hunting and wanted no part of it. It was just too difficult for me to kill animals. I had already collected enough PTSD flashbacks and didn’t need anything more.

My Younger Brother Forced To Kill His Dog

For a time before I went to college, my younger brother wanted a dog. One of his school teachers had a litter of puppies and so my brother got one of those. They were a mixed breed and the puppy was high spirited.

When I was in college, I found out the dog had died. There were no details and explanations, other than he died. Years later I would find out from my younger brother that the whole story had not been revealed to me.

From what I understand, my dad got tired of the dog and found it annoying. So he forced my younger brother to take the dog out (his dog) and shoot it and bury it. I was furious when I found out and it is a good thing I didn’t know because I probably would have lost my sense of normalcy with my dad at that moment.

The Bunny Rabbit

Another one of my PTSD flashbacks came in a subtle way, but I will never forget it. I still remember the white fluffy bunny rabbit.

In grade school, we had vacation bible school at the church one summer. There was a contest where you could win a free bunny rabbit a magician would use in his little shows at the church. If you learned so many bible verses, brought so many new friends and other criteria, whoever had the most got the bunny rabbit.

I so badly wanted that bunny rabbit because when I was a young kid around 5 years old, I almost got to have one. A neighbor had caught one and given it to me, but when I got home, my family made me show it to them before they let me in the house. It got away. Anyone could have seen that coming but in my family, it was of no use arguing with them. They wouldn’t listen. Now, I realize that to keep a wild bunny rabbit inside was not the best thing, but when you are five years old and live in chaos, something like this means the world to you.

Vacation Bible School

So back to vacation bible school. I worked hard that week convincing all my friends to go, and learning as many bible verses as I could. It was a success because on the last day I got to take him home, complete with a cage and what to feed him. I was so happy that night taking my new bunny rabbit home.

Going to bed, I thought of the next day where I could care for him and play with him. That next morning I jumped up out of bed in a hurry to see my new rabbit. He was lifeless and not moving. There had been nothing wrong with him the night or week before. My heart sunk.

Of course, everyone including my parents made so many excuses for why it happened. To this day, I’m still suspicious that my father did something to it. I have no way to prove it, but if the track record is any proof, then once again my dad killed something I cared about so much.

My Dad Beat My Sheep – PTSD Flashbacks

When I had sheep in high school, I loved them like they were my best friends. In fact, they were the only friends I had. We went to this strict fundamentalist Baptist church. Outside of a few people there, we had little contact with anyone else, except for classmates while in school.

Those sheep meant everything to me. After I went to college, my family agreed to take care of them. One day when I came home, I noticed something was different with one of the male sheep I had (the ram). Normally when you walked into the sheep lot, if he saw you, he’d come and butt you hard.

I don’t think he meant anything by it but he was protective and territorial of the sheep (the females). I knew how to work around him, and most of the time he was okay. But others in my family weren’t quite so smart or fortunate, I guess.

My younger brother told me that the ram had gotten caught in a fence and my dad decided to teach it a lesson. From what I remember being told, my dad took a 2×4 and beat the poor ram senseless. It made me furious but by then I knew there was nothing I could do, let alone prove it. Even if I could prove it, who would listen to me?

My Dad Protected By The Town Sheriff

You see, my dad always had the town sheriff and police in his pocket. He spent time getting to know them so they would think he was a great guy. I think he did this to keep us from going to them and reporting what he did not only to the animals but to each of us as kids.

PTSD Flashbacks and Triggers

All of these things added to the horror I grew up, with and when the hog farm fire hit, all of these PTSD flashbacks and triggers were there creating the physical conditions at the moment. It was hell then and still is. I cry for what I witnessed. I cry for the animals that I couldn’t save or protect.

In this last major trigger, all of these things came front and center. Of course, Dr. Canali used them to help me move through some of the trauma and lessen the charge it still holds over me.

It still haunts me to this day and I don’t know if I will ever be able to get the images, sights, and sounds out of my head. They are stuck there in my memory for what seems like forever.

Where I Am At Now In Healing

I have no more contact with my dad, and from what I understand he is in a V.A. hospital with dementia. I have no love for him. The thing I still struggle with is my anger for all he did to me, and how to let that go. It isn’t as easy as just thinking away because the cells in my body have been imprinted so hard, they are part of my past.

I can tell you one thing. though. If I see anyone mistreating an animal, I get upset very quickly. I don’t tolerate any of it.

Another thing I’ve come to learn is those that have been abused or abuse others, often do this to animals too.

I prayed for a long time to God that the cats would rise up and destroy the humans. Seeing these horrible events made it difficult for me to even like humans.

Yes, I’ve worked hard to let so much of this go and for the most part, I have healed a lot of it. Sometimes though, I still get triggered by the PTSD flashbacks and that’s when I have to seek help to walk me through the fire of those memories.

The new kitten we got just a few months ago reminds me of Smokey – the one that was killed. This kitten is named Onyx and we have such a strong connection. Of course, Onyx adopted us but lets us believe that we adopted him.


  • Valerie Poore 5 years ago

    Oh my word, Don. I don’t know what to say. I couldn’t read much of what you’ve written here. I couldn’t bear it. No wonder you go through such pain. I so hope you find peace again and thank you for coming to visit my blog. Animals are hugely important to me. I don’t have a pet right now, but I’ve had dogs and cats all my life until four years ago. My beloved dog died at the age of 13 and a half four years ago but because of my roving lifestyle, I haven’t risked getting another yet. I’m glad you have a kitten. She will give you so much love.

  • Thanks Valerie for sharing what you did. I know these stories that I share aren’t easy and I try to hold back a little so they are a little easier to read. Yet, I know that these things are horrible.

    For a long time though this all seemed normal to me. It took me a lot of therapy to finally realize that what I lived through was not normal. That’s the sad part of what trauma does. It distorts reality.

    We’ve got three rescue cats and now 7 tropical fish. If I didn’t live in town, I’d have a lot more. We love them all.