This morning started out normal. Pretty much the same as every morning has started this week. Eyes open to a semi-kind of-daylight leaking through the window. Coffee downstairs followed by the pattering of little feet and impish giggling in the hallway. Cartoons on the television, cereal pouring into plastic bowls, the house suddenly coming awake.
But as the morning began to unpack itself, things took a sharp turn.
Our dogs were out front doing what they normally do (sniffing each other, barking at invisible things in the woods and peeing on anything they possibly can pee on). They’ve been “trained” to stay away from the road, so we’ve become less of the “helicopter” dog owners and let them do their thing outside for short periods of time. They have plenty of acreage to run on and for the most part the road lacks interest to them anymore. That hasn’t always been the case. Canela, our chocolate lab, was a tire chaser when we first moved to the country. Every tractor, motorcycle, bicycle, unicycle and skateboard that went by would send her into a feverish charge. Sometimes she’d go into the road, sometimes she’d come to an abrupt stop at the edge of the property and bark her face off. She’s still essentially a puppy and the first couple months here she just couldn’t help herself. We knew we needed to do something about it, and so we considered our options (electric fencing was highly recommended) but after some time she just stopped chasing tires, and pretty much avoided the road entirely. Or at least became more wary of it.
Until this morning.
It must have been a rabbit or a squirrel. Could have been a purple elephant. It was something. Both dogs suddenly darted into the road, one on the heels of the other, like they were chasing a bat out of hell. They could have done that same thing a hundred times any other day with a different result, but this morning the planets were aligned (or maybe they were misaligned) and timing wasn’t on their side. Canela was hit.
We don’t get a lot of traffic by our house, mostly tractors and trucks hauling hogs. But it is a paved country road so when people use it they don’t normally drive very slow. I’d guess the car that hit our dog was easly doing 55. And they didn’t slow down, didn’t slam on their brakes, didn’t stop. Ever. But I’ll get back to that.
I want to stress here that this was an accident. We live on the crest of a small hill, which makes it difficult to see if you’re coming from the north. And you know what? We probably should have put in the underground electric fence (I’ve been told dogs will still cross these if provoked or stubborn, but we should have tried it). This wasn’t a malicious thing, and I don’t hold the person who hit our dog responsible. Dog darts out in front of you, what do you do?
You stop. That’s what you do. You stop, you make sure the dog is alive. I don’t expect you to drive off the road or do something that will injure yourself. But you should at least make sure someone is home to get the dog help. Show some minutiae of kindness, that you’re at least partially human. Something. But whatever you do, you don’t just keep driving like nothing happened.
Canela was T-boned on her left side. Direct hit. It all happened so quickly (like all accidents do), but we watched as she went up over the hood and came down on the road. Luckily she didn’t go under the car, didn’t go under a tire, and for that grace alone she is still alive. Amazingly enough, after getting hit, she got up and ran to the back of the house as I charged out the front door, our Aussie Oscar hot on her heels. It was a surreal moment, like a reel from a black and white movie.
And the car kept chugging along. I never saw the brake lights flash once.
When Canela came inside, she took a hoarse gulp of air and kind of folded in on herself on the kitchen floor. It was a slow motion collapse, like her last bit of will to move just evaporated, flowed right out of her. She had road rash, bleeding gashes on her head and her legs, and was going into shock very quickly. I picked her up and put her in the back of the car and we drove her to the vet, who put her on IV fluids and took x-rays and kept amazingly calm throughout it all. Again, lucky dog because there were no sign of broken bones. But there was internal bleeding from a ruptured spleen and possibly a ruptured bladder. Back in the car and then down to the ISU Veterinary Hospital. More x-rays. Long waiting time in an empty room that smelled strangely of new paint and astringent. Frantic flashbacks to four years ago when we had to put our yellow lab Charlie to sleep on New Year’s Eve (what is it about this time of year?). Lots of pacing, empty phone checks, deep breathing and cursing 2016 until FINALLY the doc came in. Prognosis? She’s alive. And she’ll probably stay that way. She’s still at the hospital, will be there tonight and maybe longer. But she’ll make it through this ordeal. Internal bleeding is still a concern, and she’ll likely get a blood transfusion. But… she’s alive.
I’ve had a lot of time to think about things throughout this whole process. You get to do that while sitting in a waiting room. Think. The experience in a waiting room is really no different if it’s a dog or a child. At least not for us. I’ve done both. And our dogs are part of the family. That’s why we spent an ungodly amount of money trying to save our lab Charlie, and it’s why we’re going to make sure Canela will get whatever she needs to heal. But that’s my point. There’s a sense of violation that comes when you spend most of the day anxiously standing on the edge of a needle wondering if your dog is going to survive, and you keep thinking about the car that didn’t even stop. It’s a contradiction of values, really. While rushing our dog to emergency care, we were painfully aware of what her loss would mean for our family. And the person who hit her didn’t care enough about her, or how their actions might affect us, to pull over.
I can’t wrap my head around it. I’m tired of trying. I’m not angry, not anymore. I was this morning. Livid, really. Perhaps even hostile. But now I’m mostly sad. My dog is going to continue to fight to survive tonight in a foreign room without her people, and the person who hit her will never know the amount of anxiety, fear, frustration and sadness they have caused. I said before that this was an accident. Our dog getting hit wasn’t a malicious act. Not caring enough to pull over and make sure things are okay was.
I don’t ever want to be that kind of person. Maybe it was inconvenient to stop. Maybe the person was frightened over the ordeal, or embarrassed. Maybe they were late for a meeting. Maybe they had just robbed a bank. Whatever. I’m talking about character here. We live in a world where too many people just don’t have empathy anymore. For anything or anyone. We are too busy, too callused, too important. Should have kept that dog locked up and out of the road. Not my problem! We rationalize everything without thinking about how the things we do, or don’t do, affect others. The love of many has grown cold. This to me is our biggest threat. Not climate change. Not Russia. Empathy for one another that has grown cold.
If a person wouldn’t stop after hitting a dog, would they stop if they hit a child? Think about that for a little bit.
Because I have been all day.