First things first: the dog didn't die.
But yes, this morning, on my way to the freeway to head down to my parents' house for the day, I hit a dog. A tiny shaggy little thing. From the corner of my left eye I saw it dart into the street. I thought: I'm going to hit that dog. And then I did.
I have often wondered what I will do when I (inevitably) hit and kill someone's pet. It has to happen sometime, right? There are a lot of cats around my street (and in my yard, always in my yard) and I often think about what I would do if I hit one. How would I find its owner? What would I do with IT? What would I do at ALL?
But I never hit a pet until today, on a busy street made smaller by road work cones and barriers. I might have swerved or slammed my brakes - if I had I would undoubtedly have hit another car, or caused a string of fender benders. Would that have been better? Instead I hit a dog before I thought of another option. And then, because I didn't know what else to do, I kept driving until I found a safe place to pull over.
It wasn't that safe - it was basically a little used side road and I barely pulled over to the shoulder before I jabbered some explanation to the three kids in the car, leaped out, and looked for the dog in the road.
I saw the dog lying there. But the driver behind me, a man in a white truck, was already out of his truck and picking up what I thought was a very dead dog. He held it like a baby, gingerly placed it in the bed of his truck, and slowly drove into the blocked off area of road. And I just stood there like an idiot because ohmyGod I've just hit a dog and it's dead and someone has picked it up and what do I do I don't know what to do what should I do what is happening?
I just stood there - this is the part I feel ashamed of - while this sainted guardian angel of a man tried to help the dog I hit. I finally moved towards him when he got out of the truck again. I was sobbing by that point and I think the first thing he said was, "It's okay, I saw him run out, you couldn't have done anything" which made me cry harder. And he carried the dog across the street to the house where it appeared he'd come from. I stood there because ohmyGod I killed that dog and now this strange kind man is going to do my dirty work for me.
But that house didn't own the dog. The white truck man came back, laid the dog down on the bed of the truck, and started calling the number on his collar. That's when I realized the dog wasn't dead. I wasn't sure what he was. I mean, he'd just been hit by my minivan, but he wasn't bleeding, he wasn't making any noise, his body seemed to be in one piece, so I just cried and rubbed his head and said, "I'm so sorry, doggie" over and over because GOD AM I USELESS OR WHAT? What would I have done without that driver behind me?
(Things the driver said to me: It's not your fault. I saw it happen. It's not your fault. Little dogs like this, they're like children. People need to watch them. They shouldn't have let him get out. You couldn't have helped it. It's okay. It's not your fault. It's okay. It's okay.)
No one answered the number on the dog's collar. It was clear he was well-loved - in addition to a nice collar he was wearing one of those harnesses that you clip to a leash. And he was so cute and tiny and OHMYGOD WHAT DO I DO? The truck guy told me what to do. "You stay here with him, I'll try and see if he belongs to any of these houses over here."
The truck guy took off on the other side of the street and I stood there behind his truck, with the poor injured doggie, crying and wondering what was going to happen. I kept thinking: why are we not rushing this dog to a vet?! So I think that's what I would have done if I was alone. I would have wanted to find the owners, but I felt like we had seconds to save the dog's life. I don't know. The truck guy was in charge. And he was gentle and nice to me, he carried the dog like a baby, he seemed to know what to do.
I don't know how long it was before I heard voices. People were coming out of the house right next to where the truck was parked - frantic upset voices. I think I heard one of the voices say something like, "Why did you leave it open?!" Along those lines. I realized these were probably the dog's owners, and they were. An older woman was on the phone, a younger man (her son? brother?) was racing toward the dog in the truck. Neither of them paid any attention to me or the situation - they were both so focused on the dog. And distressed. The distress was totally unnerving to me, and now, hours and hours later I feel their distress and wonder how much worse it would have been if I was standing over a dead dog instead of a hurt one.
The dog, who I'd been petting and praying over this whole time, had his eyes closed and had sort of relaxed. Somehow. He seemed calmer, not so stunned and stiff (the way that made me think he was dead.) I kept track of his pulse, terrified he was going to die on me. Then as his owners rushed towards him his whole body lurched, his eyes popped open- almost like he leaped up at the sound of their voices. And I think that is why I am not a quivering mess of tears right now. That one movement made me think he was going to be okay. Hurt, but okay. They scooped him up into their arms without a single glance or question. They didn't appear to hear a single thing I said about how hit happened, how I was the culprit. They were gone before the white truck man returned, who I thanked, over and over and over again. Really, if he hadn't been there? If he hadn't helped? I am so grateful for his affirmation that it was an accident. I know it was an accident, but it helps so much that an eye witness validated that for me.
I got back in my car, took a deep breath, and drove to my parents' house. Whereupon Jack threw up in the car, two minutes before we reached their house. I think I have a prone-to-carsickness kid on my hands. It was a great way to cap off the morning.
I very much feel like the dog is okay. I mean, WILL be okay. I'm almost positive he's still with us, home from his ER visit even. I won't really know, I suppose, but while I am shaken, upset, sorrowful, and yes, guilty, I don't feel overcome with horrible sickening responsibility, I'm not berating and blaming myself. Things I'm very good at. At first I thought I should bring flowers to that house and check on the dog. I don't know, some gesture. My mom thinks this is a bad idea. You just don't know what people will do. And I'm not sure what it would do. Too many things could happen, I can see that. I'm okay right now. Pretty sure the dog is too. Why open up okayness to disruption?
I've come out of this sort of wishing for a dog of my own. That's weird, right?
Thank God for that driver behind me. I swear he was PUT there.
And I really do think the dog is going to be okay.
All right, thanks for letting me spill this story. I can go to sleep now.