Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sad tale of puppy provides another lesson

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Jennifer, a woman who permitted me to use her first name only, began her email with these words.

"I am crying and shaking."

The 39-year-old mother of two youngsters went on to explain she had read Thursday's column.

"Eight times," she would say later when I reached her at her home on the river side of north Main Street.

Each time Jennifer reread the column, she became emotional. The column (A lesson in kindness from story of cruelty) told of how a nine-year-old girl had seen two women, both wearing hoodies over their heads, place a box in the river.

The box contained a puppy.

As it turned out, the puppy had been strangled with a shoelace.

Jennifer said she was one of the hoody-wearing women.

There were those who read the column and at once assumed the two women were responsible for the inhumane killing of the puppy the little girl -- and, soon after, five of her young girlfriends -- came upon two Saturdays ago.

But Jennifer and her friend had nothing to do with the puppy's death; the two women are as innocent as that puppy.

So what made Jennifer so emotional? The same thing that caused a similar reaction from a different passerby that day.

Louise Thiessen wept after she came upon the little girl standing by the river's edge, trying to fetch the box out of the water.

They both wept for the children.

"I am thinking about the little girl that found the puppy," Jennifer wrote as she shook and wept.

It went deeper than that, though.

As did the rest of the story.

Jennifer went on to explain what happened -- what she and her friend did and why they did it. She and her two boys, aged 11 and three, had been out for a walk to St. John's Park with a girlfriend who also had two youngsters.

It was Jennifer who noticed the box by the river and the puppy's head poking out.

"My gut said, 'You know you don't want to see what's in there.' My head said, 'You don't want a kid to find this.' "

Jennifer is a dog lover -- "a huge one" -- and she didn't want to go closer.

"I called my friend over to please look."

Her friend looked.

Then she and Jennifer told their children to stay back. Later, over the phone, Jennifer would explain that, normally, she wants her 11-year-old son to understand the reality of living in their neighbourhood, across north Main Street from gang turf, so that his instincts for who and what is safe in this world are honed for his own protection.

But she couldn't let her older son, or other children, see what someone had done to an eight-week-old dog.

"In our state of shock, we figured the best thing was to put it in the river and the box would soak up water and take the poor soul under. It was not an easy decision but we felt it was best at the time, so no children would find it and we could spare our children from seeing such cruelty."

But after they walked on, six other children would come upon the strangled puppy in the box. And that is what is torturing Jennifer now.

Thiessen had taken the puppy, and the little girls, back to her front yard, placed evergreen bows over the box, and called Animal Services.

Normally, Jennifer would have done something similar. She would have closed the lid on the box and taken it home to bury in her animal cemetery of a backyard, where all manner of creatures, from goldfish to rabbits that have been hit by cars, are buried. That's the cruel irony of it.

How many of us show such compassion to roadkill?

Jennifer had told a neighbour about what happened and how conflicted she felt, and it was the neighbour who originally read the column and alerted her to it.

"Now that I'm home and 'NOT so shocked' anymore," Jennifer wrote five days after the event, "I wish we HAD taken it home to bury it."

With that, Jennifer closed her email by explaining why she had been compelled to write to me.

"I needed to tell you the beginning of the story so that the little girl didn't think that we, also, were bad people. She should know that we are good people and did what we felt best at the time. She should know that we were TRYING to spare her and any other children from seeing that."

It was Thiessen who gave six little girls a lesson in kindness, but it was Jennifer and her friend who provided all of us with another lesson.

About how quickly we tend to judge and convict others.

And how wrong we can be.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 7, 2013 B1

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