Betty Duffy

Thursday, September 2, 2010

An Almost Tragedy

On Monday I ran over my dog. It’s just the way life works that should I dare to give utterance to the ugly thought that I sort of wish I didn’t have a dang dog, I should very soon have the opportunity to test the sentiment, and when I threw the car in reverse to go pick up a kid, and heard a squashing sound like an aluminum drum crumpling under my tires, I could already feel the blood draining from my limbs and the vomit in the crook of my throat. On sunny days, the dog has been known to climb into the shadow under my rear bumper when the car is parked in the driveway.

I got out of the car, and there he was under there, splay-legged and smelling like fecal matter, not moving, not blinking, just trapped under the axle, and I thought he was too stunned to cry, if not dead already. I would have to jack up the car to get him out of there, because I wasn’t about to run him over again trying to move it, and since my husband was already half-way to Cleveland, the nearest help for something like jacking up the car to salvage the remains of your pet dog was an hour away at my parents’ house.

Added to the tragedy, was the fact that my little boy would be sitting in the hallway at his new preschool with his backpack on and his knees pulled up to his chin waiting for a mommy who wouldn’t arrive because she was taking care of some nasty business at home. I ran inside to call the school.

Last week another mother had offered to share a ride occasionally, and I had turned her down, because I’ve never sent a kid to preschool before, and only put this one in because somehow in the tangle of being the fourth of five kids, he hasn’t learned his ABCs, and I myself am a bit tired of singing it. Dare I say, I’ve felt too guilty about him even being there to let another mother drive him home? But on the phone, she came to mind, and when I told the girls in the pre-school office why-for I needed them to arrange this favor, we all broke out in tears.

When you consider having taken the life of a creature in your care, a creature about whom you’ve occasionally entertained ambivalent feelings, you also consider the horrific potentiality of losing the other lives in your care, lives about whom you feel no ambiguity, but rather a passionate protectiveness, and you want to gather all those people unto you right then and there and account for everyone. Is everyone ok? Who else have I harmed? Little boy in the hallway, I’m talking to you.

I called my parents, and gave them a sobbing report of what I had done, and what I needed from them, which was their presence, and a sturdy jack, as soon as they could possibly make it, and was there any chance at all that by fate, their travel towards my house was already underway? Did they not have errands to run today? But they didn’t. They were quite at home, and I hung up, leaving them feeling pretty terrible for my sake really, because I don’t think anyone would have dreamed I was capable of such emotion for a dog.

Back outside, I knelt down beside the car, to offer my assurance to my dying friend that I really didn’t have ambivalent feelings for him at all, but that indeed I care deeply for his life, and his gnawing teeth, and the holes in the yard, and the black hairs in the corner of my kitchen floor. Friend, I’m here for you. But when I looked under the car, he wasn’t there.

This is where the story gets really annoying, like reading a terrifying work of fiction that sends shock waves of adrenaline through my system only to end with the words, “..but then I woke up.” Why, when presented with the offering of tragedy am I subtly disappointed by a happy ending? Not disappointed for the life of my dog, who was now sitting in the back seat of my car like a newly risen Lazarus, his tongue out and dripping with a relative doggy smile. But what a dumb story—that I have once again sounded the alarm to anyone who would give heed—when what really happened is that the crushing sound was his toenails scrunching against the gravel in order to miss the tires altogether. Sure, he had dropped a little turd in fear, but my concern that his intestines lay open on the driveway was apparently unfounded.

Cheers to the dog.

I ran inside to call everyone back. The girls in the office were relieved. My parents turned their car around and went back home. I made it to the preschool, actually, in plenty of time, and my little boy was no worse for wear. He had cut and pasted a number of Apples bearing the letter A to a paper tree. And my ride sharing friend gave me her cell number, so that I can reach her in a pinch, should I ever run over my dog again.

The End


Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, man! I love this story!

I didn't read the title before I dove into it, and I was taken completely by surprise. "Eucatastrophe," anyone? =P

Elizabeth@GoodnessAdded said...

I am so glad to your dog is okay! I can relate although not quite with such a dramatic story. I generally love animals but our cat (my husband's really) is not a nice cat. Many times I have wished she would disappear - then she did. She accidentally got outside and she was gone all day. I was so worried something happened to her. She did come back eventually grumpier than ever.

mrsdarwin said...

Oh good Gawd, you had me going there... I was horrified for you, and revealed the sorry side of my nature when I was irritated with you because the dog wasn't dead. He ought to have had the decency to die and justify all the drama and emotion you spent on him.

Many's the time I've growled at my cat, but I have a soft spot for him, really.

BettyDuffy said...

E, I had to google Eucatastrophe, and it looks like another little boy's been making up words again.

Young Mom said...

O how horrifying! I would feel sick if I ran soemthing over too. I totally was not expecting that ending though, I was so laughing by the end!

HappyOrganist said...

We ran over a kitten a year or two ago. That was very sad. ;/

Dawn Farias said...

Oh, I just love your blog. Seriously. Love it.

I hadn't read your hole in the heart post before. Love that.

Love. Have I said that, yet?

Anonymous said...

This cracked me up. Just what I needed after a rare night of insomnia. I totally understand and enroll you in my imaginary support group for owners of dogs who have a love/distain relationship for them. We have three and my personal relationship leans more towards the distain. I think if you really had ran over your dog 24-to-48 hours later you might of veiwed it as a blessing from God. I know I would. LOL

Enbrethiliel said...


Betty -- Well, Tolkien has said that he wrote the books he did because they were the sort he wanted to read but nobody else seemed to be writing them. He appears to have had a similar philosophy when it came to words. =)

Kate said...

I'm glad that your dog is O.K.! Sorry for all your stress, though. I was stressed out just reading this!

Anonymous said...

What a terrible thought and I was right there with you in your pitiful attempt to talk to your dying friend....then boom. I truly believe your guardian angel or his too, why not, saved you from this horrible fate. How would you have lived with this and telling the kids.... God protected your doggie and you somehow. My brother actually did run over our family dog when we were kids and it has affected him to this day. I'm sure you will be more mindful of his whereabouts from now on....Angels!

Anne Marie said...

Fortunatly I read the title first, had to go back in mid read to confirm, then came really, really close to peeing my pants in that you're laughing so hard you almost pee your pants way that happens when you read stories this good.

Thanks you,and may God continue to bless you and your ENTIRE household.

Anne Marie said...

That would be thank you not thanks you.

BettyDuffy said...

Mrs. Darwin, I'm annoyed with me too. I was thinking about good stories, where through the primary arc of the plot, the narrator or the circumstances are actually changed somehow. As this story was real life, its outcome, and the outcome of most of my writing, and just about everything I do, is apparently, stasis. It's so aggravating.

mrsdarwin said...

Well, that should have read, "irritated ALONG with you". I wasn't annoyed at you the writer, but at the dumb dog for being the instigator of all the fuss without actually closing the circle. But I laughed anyway.