Help! I Don’t Know How I’m Supposed to Feel

Puppy photos included, but: WARNING sad news too.

Annie Trevaskis
3 min readApr 24, 2023
A black puppy with his head on one of his siblings, eyes closed
Puppy Bravo: photo by author

I am autistic and often have trouble figuring out how I should feel. Can you help me?

I found out today that one of the puppies I bred has been killed in a car accident.

My dog, Shen, had five puppies on April 23rd, 2020. I named them according to their order of birth, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta and Echo.

Photo of 5 black puppies sleeping next to their mother — a brindle lurcher, a cross between a Whippet and Bedlington Terrier
This is what they looked like on the day they were born. Photo by author

Today I learned that Bravo, renamed Pablo, died after being hit by a car earlier this year. I wonder if she delayed the news because she thought I might be upset. She announced the death the day after what would have been Bravo’s third birthday.

screenshot of a WhatsApp post saying: “it’s so lovely to see the boys on their beirthday . . they are beautiful. My sad news is that Pablo, Bravo, was killed on 26th February on a lane by a car. He was running and we were in a very quiet place, no roads at all where we were, but he must’ve been on a scent and crossed a small lane. It’s still hard to believe for me. He was the most wonderful boy but no recall when he was on a scent. He was very much loved 💖”
Screenshot of the message I got today. By author.

I replied immediately to say how sorry I was and thanked her for letting me know. I said how hard it must have been for her to write such sad news.

Then I gathered our two dogs, Shen and Jazz, and set out for our usual walk followed by a coffee. Walking home in the sunshine, feeling quite happy, I realised I should probably be sad.

There is often a disconnect between my thoughts and feelings, and I have often practised responding to difficult news in the way I think I should rather than in the way I really do. Maybe it stems from childhood. When my parents solemnly sat me down to tell me my grandfather had died, I quite cheerfully replied: “OK, can I go and play with Timmy now?” I remember they were quite shocked, and I think I might have gotten into trouble, but I have a habit of forgetting unpleasant things.

So, when I arrived home today after my coffee, I looked at photos of Bravo (always Bravo to me, not Pablo) and watched a couple of videos of him. Like this one:

But I still didn’t feel sad. When a close friend died (she had been like a mother to me), I didn’t cry or feel sad. But I did notice that there was an increase in my stimming. “Stimming” is short for self-stimulating behaviour and can manifest in a myriad number of ways for autistics. My own rather embarrassing version involves repetitive skin-picking.

So, Bravo has died. And I know in my head that it is sad and that it must be heartbreaking for the owners, but I don’t feel sad. It just is.

Photo of a Bravo, a Bedlington-whippet puppy aged approximately 7 weeks.
Bravo. Photo by author.

I know there is no such thing as a wrong emotion. But I wonder if there is such a thing as a wrong “missing” emotion. How would you feel? How do you think I should feel? All comments will be gratefully received. Unless they are harsh, in which case, I shall probably click the “Hide” button and promptly forget them.

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Annie Trevaskis

I came, I wrote, I conquered. That last bit might not be true, but at least I am putting up a good fight.