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Maggie Meets The Car
By William MacBride

If you’ve never had a dog get hit by a car, you may not fully understand what it’s like. This can be as devastating an experience as if it were to happen to a child. This is a story about the time I learned for real how this feels, by experiencing it. My girlfriend’s dog, Maggie, learned how it felt even more directly.

Maggie

First, let me paint a portrait of the phenomenon that is Maggie. I say, without exaggeration, that she is one of the most beautiful and most spirited dogs I’ve ever had the good fortune to know. She’s a little Cockapoo, which is a mix of a poodle and Cocker spaniel. These dogs are known for being athletic, tenacious, and enthusiastic. The word I’ve always used to describe Maggie is “feisty.”

I don’t know how much faith you put in astrology, but Maggie was born in early April, which makes her sun sign Aries. Maggie is an Aries all right, at least if you buy into pop culture ideas about Zodiac astrology. Maggie is some kind of princess of the warrior class of the canine dimension of things.

This little warrior princess barks, yaps, and runs like a veritable speed demon, sometimes doing “360s.” She always makes me think of a sports car in a vacant lot. Her eyes are clear and aware, and she seems better proportioned, and more photogenic than many other small dogs her size. She is an exceptionally regal and sharp creature.

At the time of the incident, my girlfriend Sheila and I lived in a little rented house in East Amherst, New York, situated directly next to a busy two-lane road.  This road is a major artery and expands into a wider route a short distance from the house. Down that way it has shopping malls and supermarkets next to it, and always plenty of traffic going to and fro.

Behind the house are large sprawling lawns. I, in fact, met Sheila when she hired me to put in a large garden plot on one of them. These lawns eventually become fields and wooded areas that ramble extensively. Wide, trodden trails meander through woods, many of the trails wide enough for cars and ATVs. I would often take Maggie for walks in this intersuburban country wilderness. I remember wandering through its expanses for hours and getting lost for stretches of time, before eventually finding my way back to the house. Maggie and I would stumble in, sometimes covered with snow or mud, and greet Sheila like exhausted 18th or 19th century explorers.

I loved the time I spent with Maggie. Our friendship went deep. As I gradually took her for more and more rambling and extensive morning walks, I could feel the shared experience building with the dawning day. It also had a night side – a sense that Maggie was with me in the darkness that this life can be. Our night walks were haunted rambles under the moon, or in the nightcloudy springtime obscurity of an early dew. She lit both day and night with her spunky canine focus and her conscious presence. She was aware and involved with me in a way more direct and immediate than everything that is not love. Anyone who’s ever gotten close to a dog knows how profound the connection can be.

Maggie would often sleep with Sheila and me in our bed, or I would snuggle up with her on the couch. Her warm form of tussled black fur was sometimes hard to detect among dark blankets or cushions, if the lights were out. In the morning, she would usually wake up when I did. I might hold her aloft with one arm or toss her in the air with both, catch her, and then let her down onto my stomach or chest or legs. She would walk over me as part of the environment. I loved Maggie then, as I do now.

The Occurrence

The day in question was, to the best of my memory, in late February. There wasn’t too much snow on the ground, perhaps a dirty patch here and there, the last dregs of a winter soon to be released to the world of memory. Sheila and I decided to take Maggie out for a short while. On this occasion, since we weren’t taking her for a long outing, we thought we’d let her walk around in the garage. The latter also served as my woodshop so it had a big work bench, table saw, and lots of tools crowding the space.

We walked into this garage/shop. Feisty Maggie clearly found the closed garage oppressive, an effect I’d noticed before. She would pace around aimlessly for a short time, then soon begin to bark and scratch at the door. Sheila and I tolerated this for a little while. I suggested we could open the door and either put her on the rope we had attached to a ground anchor, or I would take her for a walk in the back.

I opted for the latter. Opening the side garage door, I ran onto the lawns and toward the fields and woods, clapping so she would follow me, rather than go the other way toward the driveway and the traffic of the bustling world.

She pranced after me and began to zoom around and play as I’d expected. We carried on like this for some few minutes. Soon, Sheila appeared, and she began to head back toward the garage with Maggie. I assumed they would go into the garage again, and that Sheila would then put Maggie back on the leash and head inside with her.

Thinking all was well, I wandered off onto the back lawn again on my own. The last I saw of them before the accident, they were going into the garage, though the large garage door was now open. Soon, I could hear that they were heading toward the house.

A couple of minutes later, I heard the sound of some screeching brakes and Sheila’s voice shouting out: “Oh Maggie! Oh No!” Alarm crept over me as I heard this, a number of things quickly being recognized by my consciousness and nervous system before I wanted to acknowledge them: Sheila … Maggie…road… car…damnit no!

I ran past the garage, the van in the driveway and the house, to the roadside. There I saw Sheila standing on the other side of the road, and Maggie scrabbling on her back in spasmodic jerks in the middle of the far lane. One car was stopped and pulled over, and others had stopped in the road.

Dashing out, I stood over her. She twisted and writhed in high frequency rhythmic spasms on her back, her eyes closed and blood coming out of her nose. The feelings I had were horror, guilt, shock, alarm, and anger all as sides of the same event. But these were getting overtaken by an adrenaline kick. I reached down, picked her up, and held her in my arms. I stood in the halted road, cars purring in front and behind. Then I shouted, “F@#%! F@#%! F@#%! F@#%!” at the top of my lungs.

Next I was heading toward the side of the road with her, followed by Sheila. Things seemed to be happening both quickly and slowly. We angled toward the van. I shouted: “We gotta get her to the vet!”  I think Sheila took her from my arms because the door was open on the driver’s side where she was.

As Sheila was putting Maggie into the van, a clean-cut looking man in a suit, who I’d been only vaguely aware of in the recent moments, came walking fast from across the road onto our driveway. Next to him was a more heavyset fellow. The man had a broad smile, which I could see was a defense against what he expected or feared from us as a reaction.  He went over and said something to Sheila, while the larger man stood back a ways. I was incredulous of anybody’s chit-chat, and shouted “Let’s Go! We gotta go, damnit!”

At this the man in the suit, seemingly responding to who he supposed was “in charge,” crossed over to my side of the van and walked up to me. He maintained that same incongruous and exaggerated smile, which a knitted brow and worried eyes gave away. “Hi,” he said. “My name is Reverend So-and-So [I have no memory of his actual name], I’m the one that hit your dog.”  The smile and tremulous acceptance looked at me. I yanked open the van door which Sheila had unlocked.

I was not interested in spending any goddamned time on the debut of Reverend So-and-So. It was as though he barely existed. In a sense, I wish I’d said something a little more admonishing in response, but I said: “Well, that’s alright…” distractedly. Only enough to represent that I understood it was an accident and he wasn’t in some sort of trouble. That was all the attention I was going to spare for any interchange with him. I pitied him a bit in a momentary blur though. Then to Sheila I shouted again, “Let’s Go!” and we drove off. The two men stood awkwardly in the driveway as we left.

Sheila had handed Maggie to me as I got in, and she lay stretched out on my lap, breathing labouredly in a sort of partial slumber of injured shock. Blood continued to issue from her nose, pooling in the fur of her snout and jaw. Maggie twitched now and then as I stroked her. When I spoke up my voice quavered: “Why the hell did we have her off the leash…?” Sheila may have murmured something in response. “What the hell did you do, just try to walk her back to the house without the leash?” Silence deeper and more dangerous, something like the way tears are, quickly made this talk irrelevant.  I mainly just continued to cradle and quietly pat her. At one point liquid dog crap rolled out of her bowels onto my leg. I was thinking of how physicalities just let everything flow out nearing death. I’m here Maggie…

Fortunately, the veterinarian was on this same road and close by. Arriving, I took her into the waiting room. Without waiting in the line, I handed Maggie to the women at the desk and told them what had happened. They got right to work. A fat cat sat on the counter, heedless and unperturbed. I felt something similar to anger at him. Turning, I walked to sit on the waiting seats. An old man tried to make conversation. I responded in only a few short sentences. Sheila came in after parking.

We had a consultation with the veterinarian, not long after in a little office, who assured us he would do everything he could, and said it would cost around $400. Fine, whatever. But something vaguely hopeful came into my tortured state through the consulting – he was saying he wasn’t sure Maggie had anything broken, and he’d be able to let us know for sure as soon as he took some X-rays. Something about this statement and his demeanor didn’t seem to quite fit with tragedy.

I had assumed more or less automatically, on seeing her twitching on the raod, that she’d been literally run over and had suffered crushed internal organs, fractured limbs, God knows what else. Could it be that somehow I was just wrong? Oh light of relief, like sun through rain soaked tree limbs. I didn’t know whether to believe it could be true or not. My eyes showed the veterinarian my regret and fear, and I knew he understood. He wanted to help me and would try and make it true.

Flash forward to the next day. I was standing out in the yard in the early afternoon, perhaps straightening things up or bringing something to the garage/wood shop. Sheila came out with the cordless phone, smiling.“The vet wants to talk to you.” I got on the phone and the vet explained where things were at: “This little girl’s doing just fine. The X-rays are back and there aren’t any broken bones or any real damage at all. She just got a pretty good wallop on the snout, but that’s about it. She should be fine to come home in a day or two; I’ll keep you posted but I wanted to let you know that.” “Oh great great!” was all I could say. I felt the free, warmly scintillating future. I stumbled toward it, bewildered, grateful, and off the hook. I thanked him.

Yes indeed, Maggie was 100% fine except for a scraped upper snout. The wheel had apparently struck her nose and lip and sent her careening . This stunned her and caused a kind of temporary shock seizure, but resulted in no permanent harm. Incredible, but true. We brought her home shortly after, and as she recuperated for about a week, she slept often.  I was convinced this was at least partially due to the pain killer drugs they’d given her, which we discontinued. Her mouth hurt too much to bark for a while though, and I was almost beginning to get used to her being not so feisty. Before long though, she was feistier than ever, was in fact feisty Maggie. She was barking, tearing around like a sports car, giving us all hell, and ricocheting with us in heaven again.

Epilogue:

While walking her on the leash some weeks later, Maggie pulled me toward the road. Doubling up the cord in my fist once, I walked with her to the edge. She stood there watching the traffic with a steely, intense, but somehow ruminating gaze. It seemed as if she’d like to take on those cars, to do it right this time, to win even more completely, or just to see what it had all been about. That’s a warrior for you.

In subsequent nightmarish dreams the incident was explored, sometimes with much gorier outcomes. But those were illusions of the night.  I’d wake up with her breathing quietly in the dark near me.

Author’s Note: In spite of the incident above, let me make my position on something clear: It is my opinion that people keep dogs on leashes and chains far too much of the time, and that ownership of a dog should mean finding a way to let him/her run and play freely as often as possible. On our long walks and even sometimes on the back lawns, I would often take Maggie off the leash so she could experience the real freedom and joy of her energetic, athletic canine physicality.

Dogs in their natural environments are more active and ambulatory even than humans, and we don’t keep people on chains and leashes. To really be allowed to run and move actively is important for the health and well-being of a dog, probably far more important than people say. This story is not an object lesson in why people should keep dogs better restrained more of the time. Besides being a description of events as they happened, it is intended to show where and when to use caution, and how caution properly used means greater, not lesser, freedom.

William MacBride Bio:

William MacBride is a freelance writer, carpenter/handyman/woodworker, musician, and sometimes a graphic artist. He currently lives in St. Paul in a collective house of artists and musicians. His writing takes form in a number of different genres such as poetry, essays, experimental writing, and informational web writing.

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COMMENTS (3) | animal companion, relationships
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Comments

3 Responses to “Maggie Meets The Car”

  1. Anonymous
    April 4th, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

    Hi William,
    Thank you for sharing your deep love of Maggie and your pain and fear at the possibility of loosing her. You write well. I felt like I was experiencing this first hand.

    Diane
    British Columbia
    Canada

  2. William MacBride
    April 5th, 2011 @ 4:56 am

    Thanks a lot Diane. My writing is actually usually somewhat more experimental and “far out” than this, but in keeping with the style of this magazine I wrote it as straight narrative.

  3. heidi
    December 14th, 2012 @ 3:23 pm

    Wonderful read. I have three very big dogs. They are my furkids. I have to agree with the leash thing but as an example of “leash love” I have a Golden Retriever senior that would never run off but feels safe from other dogs. For some reason small dogs love him. Over the years three have outright attacked his face. He hates off leash cus we can’t protect him when hes not at our side and whille he’s never had to bite a strange dog, he seems to be preventing the worst. The other two are hounds and HAVE to have free run time now and again. One can run abt 30mph. I know thhe feeling of the dog bond. Nothing compares..thanks for sharing.

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