I watched a dog die yesterday. Very rough experience and it is still haunting me.
We were coming back from a beer with friends, when I noticed a group of people gathered on the northeastern corner of our block. I went over there and saw a medium-sized dog lying sideways on the ground, panting and clearly in great distress though with no obvious wounds. One young girl was leaning over it, stroking its head while another was on the phone. Several other people were crowding around.
It was very hard to piece together exactly what happened. The two girls were driving their car and they saw the dog get hit. It went under the car and rolled twice, dragged a ways and then got out and ran to the corner, where it collapsed. The girls followed it. There was some talk about a man in a hat who ran away. What was weird was that there was no owner. Several people were running around looking for this man in the hat. I suggested that they check the collar. Nobody knew who to call or really what to do. Is there an ambulance for dogs?
There was a number on the collar and the girl petting the dog phoned it. She was young, maybe not even 20, a Montreal anglo, probably second-generation. She had already expressed anger about the absence of the owner and was in a very emotional state. I love animals and can sympathize with the emotion pain to an animal can cause humans, but there are some people who start to lose rationality in such a situation and allow themselves to be overcome by emotion. This girl looked to be heading in that direction and my fears were confirmed when she started yelling at the person who answered the phone: "Your dog is here! Your dog is dying! Where were you! Who is taking care of your dog!" this sort of thing. I tried to gently persuade her to not make things worse and she half-swung at me with the phone, but it broke the spell and she hung up.
The owner showed up quite quickly, a young hipster anglo woman in barefeet and some kind of nightgown. She was already visibly distraught and burst into tears immediately upon seeing her dog. "Bougs! Bougs!" she cried and fell to her knees. At this time there was a lot of miscellaneous efforts going on, people trying to call the ambulance, the friend of the angry girl brought their car around to potentially take the dog to the hospital.
I had taken my cat to a cat hospital last year and I still had their card, so I sprinted home and got it. I gave it to the girl on the phone. She called the number and said "They're closed!" and hung up. I called and heard the message, which when continued gave an emergency number. We called that and someone did answer. The phone was passed to the owner, who was on her knees, sobbing, barely coherent. She got on the phone "I don't know if he's breathing!" The dog's breathing was becoming less and less visible. "I am here and my dog is dying and nobody's doing anything!" she screamed out. I think everybody was a little taken aback. There were still a lot of questions floating around, like why was the dog out and why was the owner at home in her bare feet? She had said something about "her roommate Neil" and the dog running out the stairs, but it wasn't very clear. Everybody really was trying to help, but people didn't really know what to do and there wasn't much to do anyways.
I'm not telling it all in the exact order and there were a lot of little interactions that went on, making the situation very dynamic. At some point, I realized that the dog had died. That'll be the fourth animal I've seen die (not counting cows when I worked on a ranch) and you can just tell. I was the one who told her that he was gone and I put the blanket over his head. A larger crowd had gathered and she was clearly distraught by their presence, so I asked everyone to leave, which they did. I went back up there a half-an-hour later and she was still there with a circle of friends, sitting around the body. There was a guy, probably her boyfriend, draped across the dog, hugging it. Brutal to see.
I'm guessing the dog died about 20 minutes after it was hit. I just finished getting my basic first aid certificate (for humans) but I really know very little about these sorts of things. My suspicion is that the dog had serious internal injuries and probably was done for from the beginning. I wonder if there is something about having fur and skin that makes them less susceptible to external injuries, thus him looking so intact and unwounded after being rolled under a fast-moving vehicle several times? But I do wonder if an ambulance had come if his life would have been saved. It's weird to me how bad the services are for animal emergencies in our area. The few times I've had a really sick animal always seem to happen on the weekend when every veterinarian is closed. Should there not be a 24-hour animal hospital in or around the Plateau? The only one I know of is way the hell out by the airport.
I am going to give myself the mission of finding out the closest animal hospitals that are open during off-hours in case a similar situation arrives. Perhaps getting the dog into a car (which the two girls who were comforting him had offered) and rushing it to the hospital may have saved his life. There is, also, the factor of cost and reviving the dog may have easily run into thousands of dollars.
The episode left me quite upset and put a bit of a damper on the rest of the evening, which was supposed to have been homemade leek and potato soup and then a trip to see Red Heroine at Ex-Centris. I had no appetite, but the movie was entertaining and interesting, though it was hard not to reflect on what had just happened.
I had a few vague thoughts while processing this whole thing.
First, love and responsibility are two different things. I think sometimes we assume that the former comes automatically with the latter. Love comes easily and is its own perpetual motion machine. Responsibility requires constand work and input.
I think people should be more exposed to death at a young age. Exposure to it can cause such powerful reactions, especially if the first time you see it, it's someone you dearly love. I think for this poor young woman it was unfathomable what was happening. She kept screaming "Nobody's doing anything!" in a very accusatory way. You got the sense that she was very used to things happening in a way that she expected and that there have always been people around her who were "doing something". I would bet a fair amount of money she wasn't brought up on a farm.
Animals always seem to die with such grace. That poor dog, I can only imagine how much pain it was going through, but when it went, it's breath just sort of faded out. When you see that, it makes you feel that life is just so ephemeral, like a silent whisper that just slipped out of the dog's mouth and was gone forever. The dog looked dignified in death.
I just went over the anti-H1N1 policies in our office with the staff and a lot of people brought up the incredible amount of hype this flu is receiving. Someone pointed out how many more people die because of cars and someone else said, "if they put this much effort into dealing with the problems cars caused, I'd welcome it." Amen to that.
Rest in peace, Bougs.