A funny thing happened the other day on my way to town. My dog got hit by a car.
It’s not a “ha-ha” funny or even “peculiar” funny as much as just plain unexpected. My life seems to be brimming with that variety. Our evening plans involved a belated Valentine’s Day dinner in town, and I was already running late for a mall run that afternoon. A funny thing had already happened on my way out of my new office that delayed my errand. And prior to that came a string of funny things conspiring to put me in a constant state of tardiness. By the time I heard the doorbell ring Friday afternoon, I was hardly in the mood for funny things.
A woman stood at the door. Like a number of unexpected visitors on our busy street on the outskirts of Bloomington, she had the look of someone about to ask for directions. Instead, she asked if I knew who had the black and white dog in the neighborhood.
Immediately, I put two and two together and came up with three-point-five. When we had contracted some people to build my dream office in the basement, one of them had accidentally left our back gate open. Without thinking to look, we had let our two dogs out to play and poop. They like to romp, however, and when they saw the break in the fence, Snooks and Cleo bolted for the great unknown. We caught them shortly afterward joyously running through the front yards of various neighbors. Snooks had even found time to roll in something disgusting, prompting a corrective bath. Since the cable guy had shown up at midday with a free service upgrade, it immediately clicked that he probably left the gate open and freed our fun-loving animals.
The woman, Jane Collins, followed me around the side of the house as I tried to hide my embarrassment for my pooches being loose. I nabbed Cleo right away after he assumed the “yes, I did it” submissive roll to expose his considerable belly. Jane continued to speak, but I was only half listening as I focused on corralling the pets. It was only a moment or two after seeing Snooks lying down quietly by our back door that it sunk in.
“I hit your dog,” she repeated.
There was no blood gushing forth or grotesquely broken bones. Just a serene Dalmatian-Border Collie mutt laying by the door. Panting. Quiet. Maybe too quiet.
The next several minutes were blurred. I know I told Amy our dog got hit, indicting the cable guy with some disdain. I know I surprised Jane by asking for her phone number and address, which I’m sure might have been misconstrued as the first step toward a lawsuit or forwarding of veterinary bills. Seeing her puzzled look, I asked, “Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?”
It wasn’t like I knew. Three dogs, five cats and several dozen rodents had preceded Snooks to the Isbister household. Though there had been some violent deaths among them — I once watched my favorite gerbil get gobbled up by a visiting Irish Setter — none have ever died on the street. If anything, it was the Vet I had to fear. Between euthanasia and a couple failed attempts to keep our pets breathing, emergency trips to the local veterinarian had ended in disaster. Still, neither Amy or I hesitated in rounding up Carter and a checkbook and heading to the clinic.
Snooks was definitely in shock, with eyes a bit glazed and skin startin to gray. I was in shock, too, not even noticing when she pooped on the way out of the car onto the stretcher. I stayed with Snooks while th vets spent the next hour stabilizing her and Amy scooted around town making arrangements for a possible vigil. Our dinner plans were scuttled. Now, we had only to worry about the inconvenience, the bill and how many pets we would have at the end of the day.
The answer to that last question is three. That’s the way it has been for a while now, and we’ve been given no reason to think that number will decrease in the near future. Snooks survived, even if it took a couple thousand dollars to improve the odds of that happening. At the end of this particular day, I will again be convinced it was money well spent when I rub the ears of my dog before I go to sleep.
The inconvenience also survives. Already tight trying to get our basement remodeling done, we lost an entire bathroom when that car hit Snooks. We lost an entire weekend, even if we managed to make it back to Bloomington with enough confidence to attend the Indiana-Illinois game. I lost a romantic dinner out on the town and a chance to recover between two weeks of grueling programming. At least we have the Noggin channel.
And our beloved Snooks.
Not everyone would do what we did for their pet. Since she was stabilized in Bloomington, maybe someone else might not have spent the time and money to whisk her up to Indianapolis and pay several hundred dollars for her care. Since she didn’t look too bad immediately after getting hit, maybe someone else might not have bothered with the local vet and instead just watched her to see whether she got better. Since she was only a dog, someone else might scheduled a trip to the pound next week for a replacement if things went south.
Everyone, of course, has their own approach when dealing with animals. Ours is to view them as a vital part of our family. Different than Carter in pecking order and potential to develop, but no less deserving of our love and respect. We wouldn’t have taken any chances if it had been Carter at the receiving end of a license plate, and we weren’t about to take chances with the care for Snooks.
Looking back, there were a lot of funny things that had to happen to allow us make our decisions.
Jane Collins could have driven differently — slower, more deliberately, louder — to avoid hitting our wandering beast. Our dogs could have been content to taunt neighborhood pets and roll in things and on this side of the street. We could have stepped outside our back door and confirmed that the gate we always leave latched still was before letting the two dogs free to roam the back yard. The cable guy could have shut the fence gate, leaving it in the same position he found it when he replaced some outside wiring. I could have declined the free cable upgrade. Or better yet, just don’t answer the phone.
We don’t have to look very far into the past to find ways we could have prevented the future. Life, however, isn’t meant to be served that way. It’s about how we respond to tragedy, not the lengths one may go to avoid it.
I’m pleased by the response to this particular tragedy. Amy juggled a distraught husband with a needy baby and a small SUV so skillfully we could have scheduled this in our Palm Pilots. She placed the necessary calls and made the arrangements for vets and hotels and food, all the while torn up inside over the same what-ifs I had. We got transportation, babysitting and pet care from our family when we needed it most. We got honest recommendations from the doctors charged with keeping Snooks in the family. Most of all, we had a neighbor who cared enough about what happened to stop and let us know our dog was hit by her car.
That is the one response that stands out for me. Not everybody stops to investigate after hitting an animal. Fewer still follow the dog to a nearby house and start canvassing for the pet’s owner. It is true had Jane not hit our dog, the downstairs bathroom would be ready by Mid-March. The bigger truth, though, is that had Jane not stopped to tell us about the accident, our Snooks would probably be dead. Jane Collins is why I am able to rub my dog’s ears before I fall asleep tonight. For that I am eternally grateful.
Funny thing, huh.Tags: beagle, caretaking, death, dying, family, hit by car, pets, recovery, Snooks