They call me “the dog lady.” That’s not my name, of course, but that’s what my contacts at the Department of Transportation call me. I contact them so frequently that I really don’t even have to use my name.
I was driving home from work in October of 2006 when I experienced a life-changing and very unexpected event. I was cruising along, decompressing from my work day, when I saw the dead dog in the middle of my lane. I had a vehicle to my left, a vehicle riding too close on my tail and I just did not process the information fast enough to get over into the right side shoulder. I drove over the body of the dog, thinking I would clear it. I did not. I’m not really sure how I managed to get home after that. I remember screaming and crying as my heart raced and I yelled at people who could not hear me in my anguish. To say I was hysterical is probably an understatement. I cried for days about that dog. It took years before I could drive home each day and not relive the event. I know that probably sounds theatrical, but it’s true. I just could not get it out of my head and when I think about it today, I get choked up.
I will never know how long the dog had been there or if he was loved or if he was missed. All I know is that he should not have been there and that it is entirely possible that his family never knew what happened to him. I do.
I now have the phone numbers for five DOT offices on my phone’s speed dial settings. When I see a dead dog in the roadway, right-of-way or median, I call for help and ask that the dog be removed. The DOT folks tolerate my frequent calling because removal of the bodies is a public safety issue, but they know that I call because it is an emotional issue for me. Seeing them upsets me and seeing them deteriorate upsets me even more. I cry for dogs I have never known simply because the loss is so tragic and so preventable.
I know I live in a state that has a bit of wild west in the culture. People let their dogs run loose even though it is both illegal and incredibly dangerous. When you let your dog out to roam, do not presume that he doesn’t go very far. Do not presume that each person who encounters your dog has experience in dealing with dogs. My mom was deathly afraid of most dogs due to an event in her childhood and no amount of logic or immersion with dogs ever really changed that during her lifetime. Do not presume that your dog is smart enough or fast enough to win in a battle of car v. dog or truck v. dog or 18-wheeler v. dog. He will not.
If you love your dog or even if you just value your dog, please. Keep him or her safe. Do not let your dog roam like this is 1870 and your dog can just trot to town on a dirt road traveled by horses and wagons with no risk. If your dog has a tendency to get loose, take steps to keep him safe by keeping him inside your home or inside your fenced yard.
I saw a little dog on my way to work today. He probably weighed all of 20 lbs. and was wearing a little light blue harness. As he stood on the side of the road, confused as to where to go. It was in a 65 mile per hour zone during peak travel times. I took the next possible U-turn and went back to look for him, but did not see him. I hope he made it home. And I hope that I won’t see him this afternoon or tomorrow or the next day. Or that I am forced to call and tell Danny that I need help with a dog near mile marker 304.
They call me the dog lady. Please keep your dog safe.
I am an animal welfare advocate. My goal is to help people understand some basic issues related to companion animals in America. Awareness leads to education leads to action leads to change.
image courtesy of Terrah Johnson