The Dog in the Road
The barking didn’t stop. It didn’t sound like the usual barks from neighborhood dogs. It didn’t indicate, “Hey, stop walking past my yard!” or “Let me in! Let me in! Please please pleeeease let me in!” This was more frantic. And incessant.
Irritated, I finally went to the kitchen window. So I saw it all.
I saw the deer dashing at lightning speed, a medium-sized tan dog on her heels. I saw the small navy car driving past them, slowing down as the chase streaked past.
“Well, that was close,” I thought — a millisecond before the other dog jumped out from the neighbor’s bushes, darting right in front of the car.
I saw the car screech to a stop. I heard the impact. I saw the dog flip in front of the bumper. I saw blood.
“DAVID!” I screamed. “Someone just hit a dog!”
We grabbed our cell phones (and a pocket packet of tissues) and ran outside. A crowd of neighbors — some on evening walks, some who saw the commotion from their own windows, some who pulled their cars over to see if they could help — gathered around the tan dog in the street. Among them was the woman who’d hit the dog; she fought tears as witnesses reminded her it truly had been an accident.
A pool of blood sat around the injured dog’s face. Surely it can’t be alive, I thought. Then it made a low, mournful howl. That sound will haunt me for the rest of my life.
We all pulled out our cell phones and stood in the middle of the street, surrounding the injured dog as we called everyone we could think of: emergency vets, 3-1-1, friends. David handed my phone to the driver so she could call people. Someone reported that emergency vet clinics can’t pick up animals.
Two people brought out blankets to keep the injured dog warm. Another neighbor directed traffic around the site, asking everyone who drove by, “Do you know this dog? Do you know who her owners are?” No one did.
The other dog sniffed at its friend, then sprung around, peeing on trees and eluding people trying to catch him. Eventually, he trotted away, despite his friend’s howls. One woman’s teenaged kids followed him, hoping he would lead them to his owners.
The neighbors — including David — tried to get the injured dog onto a large piece of plywood someone brought out, hoping to transport her to the emergency vet’s office. But everyone backed off when she snapped at them. There was a consensus: yes, she needed care; but how could anyone risk moving her without getting attacked?
I felt paralyzed with fear and guilt. The sun was setting, and the temperature was dropping. No one was going to just leave the dog to die in the middle of the road. But even with all the blankets and plywood and even one neighbor’s thick work gloves, with the dog lifting her head and gazing at us as blood dripped from her snout, we couldn’t figure out how to get her to safety.
The neighbor who had been directing traffic was talking to someone else as a truck approached me. I echoed his words, asking the young woman driving the truck if she knew this dog.
“No,” she said, “but I’m an emergency vet. I’m on my way to work. Let me help you.“
I had never heard anything so wonderful and joy-inducing in my life. I yelled to the crowd that this was an emergency vet who wanted to help. She jumped out of her truck, wearing lime green scrubs and pink Crocs. I will never forget that outfit, because for a moment, I honestly thought she was an angel and this was divine intervention.
After quickly examining the dog and talking to the crowd, she and her husband (who seem to have appeared out of nowhere) wrapped twine around the dog’s snout, put a blanket around her, lifted her up, and got her into the truck. She promised to e-mail the neighborhood listserv that night about the dog’s progress, then drove away.
People shook hands and said good-bye. The driver started crying; people comforted her and assured her that it really was an accident. I talked to several neighbors, one of whom attested that the emergency vet’s office had saved his cat’s life; he teared up as he talked about his pet’s injuries and the incredible care she had received. David and I held hands as we walked back home.
So that’s what happened when I looked out my window last Friday night. It was terrifying and painful, but it ultimately had a semi-happy ending. The dog got veterinary care in time. She had injuries to her snout, her cheek, and a leg; but she pulled through just fine. Unfortunately, her owner didn’t step up to claim her; but she did go to the Austin Animal Center, where hopefully she’ll either be reclaimed or adopted. Hopefully. Like I said, a semi-happy ending — one that’s better than having her die slowly in the street.
But that’s not quite where this story ends.
An hour after I got back into the house, I saw something that made me furious at myself. I saw a copy of “Pet First Aid and Disaster Response Guide” on my dining room bookshelf — where I leave it in case of emergencies. I’d been too stunned by the incident to remember the book.
I skimmed through the chapters. Sure enough, there was an image and a paragraph describing how to use a leash to muzzle an injured dog so it didn’t attack you.
So, dear readers, don’t freeze up like I did. While I am not a vet, and while this blog post doesn’t constitute veterinary advice, these tips might help you be the angel if a pet ever gets struck by a car in your neighborhood:
- Buy and read a pet first aid book.
- Take a pet first aid class. Pets America offers them now and then. They also have newsletters and safety checklists on their website. (They published the book I mentioned above.)
- Brush up on your knowledge. I took a pet first aid class a few years ago at my vet’s office, but I’ve forgotten most of what I learned. If you don’t review the materials now and then, you forget the info when you need it — just like I did.
- Take a human first aid class, too. This incident was a reminder that I really need to do that.
- Keep yourself safe first and foremost. I had to pull David away from the injured dog at one point to remind him that he had zero experience 1) caring for a hurt animal, and 2) caring for a dog larger than 12 pounds. His face and his fingers kept getting dangerously close to the dog’s snout, and he didn’t even realize it. And while she was very gracious when no one was moving her, a hurt animal can and will react violently, and could have a contagious illness. Be careful.
- Drive slowly in neighborhoods. Screw that Lexus SUV honking behind you. In neighborhoods, go the speed limit or just under it, especially during hours when people are out walking their pets — and most especially if you have tons of deer, like we do. I’ve stopped for a giant buck in the middle of the road, only to have the idiot behind me swerve around me — and screech to a stop next to me.
- Check your fence. It’s easy to assume the dogs’ owners just didn’t care, but come on. Everyone has accidents now and then. Maybe the dogs snuck out through a fence hole the owner didn’t know about. Maybe they ran out through a momentarily opened door, and the owner couldn’t run after them fast enough. You can’t prevent everything, but you can check your fence and make sure it’s more escape-proof.
- Get to know your neighbors. You don’t have to be super best friends with them, but they should be able to recognize you (and your pets). Bring them cookies now and then. That’s what David and I did on Sunday.
Last Friday was one of the the worst — yet one of the most hope-inspiring — experiences I’ve ever had. I only wish I was able to be a bigger part of the solution. Still, though, I’m glad to be surrounded by neighbors who all came out to help when they were needed. They’re good people, and I’m proud to live among them.
Copyright 2013, Sarah Rodriguez Pratt. All rights reserved.