Day 1

Day 1

A Story by Margaret186

About a dog's accident.


By Margaret Schneider


Since 2002 it’s been just Fred and me.  I’m on the John Deere mower cutting my three acre yard.  It’s a beautiful, windless evening. The sun is making its way slowly towards the horizon and the sky has that perfect tangerine glow that seems almost painted on.  I’m making my final pass around the yard.  It’s impossible to hear anything except the mower motor roaring when you’re sitting on it. And I’d been sitting on it for the last two hours mindlessly cutting swath after swath down to size.  It feels good to do something physical after a week of working inside. I pull off to the side of the yard to empty the bags. That’s when I hear Fred barking. 

He’s really barking hard and continuously. Kind of a flat bark, not like his usual tail wagging like a flag, excited barking.  This sounds almost monotonous.  Definitely different.  I get that uneasy feeling, the same one you get when the phone rings at 2 am. He doesn’t usually bark without a reason.  Sometimes that reason is a bicyclist or a car. Other times it’s a rodent he’s hunting.  I’ve tried everything to keep him from going to the road, really a two lane highway with lots of traffic, but nothing has worked so far.  People’ve told me that when I’m not home he lays out by the mailbox waiting for me.  I know he’s out by the road,…again.  I drop the mower bag still full of grass clippings and sprint to the house for his choke leash to bring him home with.  He can be very stubborn when he wants to be and the choke leash gives me the advantage I need over his sixty plus pounds.  He knows I mean business when I use it.

Gravel crunches under my tennis shoes as I walk quickly down my eighth of a mile driveway, releasing the aroma of wild chamomile with each footfall, choke leash in hand, anger mounting.  I still need to get that grass mowed before the sun goes down and the grass dews up.  The slight breeze flaps my shirt tails and lifts my hair as I clear the tree line windbreak. My arms are swinging for momentum and the leash is thwapping against my jeans with every pass. 

As I reach the halfway point two black pickup trucks appear out of the east.  One stops on the road in the middle of the westbound lane.  The other parks in my driveway near the mailbox, blocking it.

"Here she comes now," I hear the younger of the two men say as he walks across to join to the older man, their backs turned to me, arms crossed.  Dust flies up from my footfalls as I pick up speed, arms and legs pumping, I’m running now.  Just great, Fred will harass them because they’re on his part of the road.  Why on earth did they choose to stop at my driveway?  What are they doing here anyway?  There are just days when everything goes wrong.  Ohhh, a lawsuit is the last thing I need right now.  I can clearly hear Fred barking his fool head off but I don’t see him moving.   He should be prancing around, snapping at pant legs.  That’s what he does.   

As I get closer the men turn to look at me.  I come around the pick-up and I see him lying on the road. Blood everywhere.  Fred springing up from it like a pop-up in a book, tail wagging.  The older man, probably in his early fifties, goes up to Fred but Fred doesn’t get up, he just keeps barking. His head lolls from side to side like he’s trying to see something that he can’t quite focus on.   I didn't expect that.  I don’t know what I expected but I didn’t expect Fred to be splayed out on the road like that.  For nine years he’s been tempting fate, coming out to this road and worrying drivers.  This is the first time anything has happened to him.  Why now? Why today?  My heart is pounding furiously, sweat springing from every pore.

"He looks pretty broken up to me," the younger man said, arms crossed, legs spread wide, keeping his distance from Fred and the blood, looking at the ground and avoiding looking at me. 

"Yeah, but he might just have a broken leg too," said the older man leaning in, trying to get a better look without actually getting too close to Fred. 

"Well, what do you want to do?"  The younger man shrugged, almost inpatient. 

"It's her call," the older man said, nodding at me. 

"Oh Fred, Oh Fred, Oh Fred,” I cry helplessly.  Tears pour down, drenching my face.  Pushing my hands across my face, grabbing and pulling my hair, a distraction.  I can't think. What do I do? I need to have answers. And I don’t have any.  “I don’t need this, you better not die.” I say through my tears.  

Is this what shock feels like? I can’t make myself move from the spot. I can’t take my eyes away from Fred, lying in the road, surrounded by his own spreading blood.  Clarity from another region of my brain. I can't afford this. “Oh Fred, why now?” I don’t need this.  

One of the men is talking to me, to my back. 

"Well, what do you want to do?" 

"I don't know,” I sniffle.  “I don’t know what to do.” Tears are streaming down my face, hitting the pavement in hot splats. Snot pouring from my nose.  I can't stop looking at Fred but I don't want to get down on the road with him. So…much…blood. His leg looks like it’s mashed flat.  Boneless. He definitely can’t put any weight on it.   When he tries to get up it just flops limply.  And my stomach turns. Its almost like he has no pain. And there’s all that blood.  Fred’s head lolls from side to side in a dreamy slow motion movement.  Trying to see us. Or focus, maybe. Looking generally from one of us to the other.

 "Well, let’s get him off the road," the older man said. "We can decide what to do afterwards." 

"Ok,…We need to tie his jaw shut in case he decides to bite. Sometimes they’ll bite when they’re in pain. I'll help you lift him and put him on your tailgate, ok?" said the younger man.  To me he said, “You can wrap that leash around his jaw so he can’t bite. And you'll have to ride with him, in case he tries to jump down."

I put the slipknot end of the leash around Fred’s snout, wrap the leash around it twice and hold on tight while the guys carefully lift Fred up and onto the tailgate.   Fred whimpers when they pick him up but he doesn’t thrash or snap.

Once Fred and I are on the tailgate the younger guy leaves.  Moaning now, Fred's head still panning back and forth, I put my hand on his shoulder, he flinches. "Oh Fred, you’re going to be ok. You’ve got to be ok," I say trying to sound calm. 

Back at the house the older man gets out, comes around to the back of the truck. "Well, what do you want to do?" 

"I don't know what to do," I said still crying. My mind is still blank.  

"Well, he might not be hurt too bad, you could have your vet look at him," he said. 

"Yes," I said.  “I'll get my phone book.”  He stayed with Fred and I jogged the few feet to the house. I ransacked the kitchen drawer for the phone book.  Halfway out the door I go back for the only paper I can find, an empty envelope, and a broken pencil stub. 

It is full dusk now and we sit in his truck cab because the mosquitoes are so thick we can’t focus on anything but swatting them, and I make the call. The answering service woman said ‘my vet is out and can't be reached.’ She gives me the number of an emergency hospital in Fargo, two hours away. 

I hand the phone to the man who gets the directions from the answering service woman for me.  I look hopelessly at him. “I’ll never find it. I’ve only been in Fargo a handful of times and have never gone far into the city.  I don't know anything about Fargo.  If it's not on the freeway I'll never find it.  And the darker it gets the harder it’ll be," I said a little whiny and scared. 

"What if I called my vet," he said.  "He's in Cooperstown." 

"Where’s that?" I asked. 

"It's about 45 miles south of here.  You just stay on highway 200.  When you get around the curve at Cooperstown you'll see the vets place,” He said.

“It sounds easier than navigating through Fargo in the middle of the night,” I said.  

He made the call.  He drew a map for me going over the route a couple of times.  “It’s easy to find, just stay on the highway.  Somebody will be there in an hour to meet you, but you have to leave now.  I'll put your dog in your car but you don't have much time. Where do you want him?" 

"On the passenger side, we can put that tarp on the seat for the blood," I said pointing to the blue plastic tarp that was Fred’s bed, lying under the kitchen window.  "I have to get my purse, and put the lawnmower away," I said already starting for the mower.  I hop on, floor it, race it into the garage, pull out the key, lock the garage, run to the house and grab my purse. 

He had the seat reclined as far as it would go, the tarp on the seat, and Fred laying on the tarp, by the time I got back.  "Thank you so very much,” I said shakily, tears still streaming down my face. 

"Just stay on Highway 200 till you get to the vets place," He said pointing at his map.  “Good luck.”

"Ok" I nodded slipping into the car, starting it and taking off slowly down the rutted driveway.  He followed me to the mailbox and turned right as I turned left.  Two right turns later I’m on Highway 200 challenging the speed limit, charging along winding, blacktop ribbons of road toward Fred's saviors. 

I’d only seen about eight miles of this road up till now.  There had never been a reason to take this road west so I don’t know what’s over the next rise.  In other circumstances it would have been a pleasant adventure. Night is already coming on though. Deep dusk is the worst time to be on the road because deer and other animals gravitate towards it for the heat. 

As the sky darkens the black ribbon of road becomes as indistinguishable as the sky above it.  The only color is the yellow center line on the road. With no streetlights and few stars my world is only as large as my headlight beams can reach. Even my brights are inadequate in this inky blackness.  There are very few cars on the road which I am appreciative of. I take it as a good sign.  I’m traveling slower than I should be.  I don’t know the road and am using my right hand to pet Fred and keep him calm.  He loves car rides and keeps trying to get up to see out.  “No Fred, just stay down.  There’s nothing to see anyway, its dark out.” He’s struggling to sit up and see out but every time we hit a bump he whines or cries.  “It’s ok, just relax, my boy.”

Focusing all my attention into searching the darkness and white knuckling the steering wheel, my mantra is “watch for deer, please no animals on the road tonight.”  I keep talking so Fred will hear my voice.  When I stop talking he whimpers, so I talk. 

Ring!  I dig my phone out of my purse and try turning it on one handed.  I’m still learning how to use this damn Android.  The new lock feature defeats me.  The phone, at least an inch wider than my old flip phone, is too big for me to use one handed. I try anyway.  Phone in the curve of my palm I try to get my thumb to unlock it.  After the third maddening try the phone stops ringing. Glaring balefully and muttering about the idiocy of technology I put it back in my purse.  Ding! The caller has left a message.  At least maybe I can find out who’s calling me.  Could be the vet telling me not to bother coming or maybe the guy who helped me. I take the phone out again and try in vain to unlock it.  No luck.  Ring!  Still working the pad with my thumb it goes to voicemail, again. Now I want to throw the phone out the window.  Just roll down the window and toss it out into a passing field.  Shaking it impotently I thrust it back into the pocket of my purse.  Ring!  Defeated, I ignore it.  I can’t stop to answer it and I can’t answer it one handed, so what’s the point?

The center line disappears from the road.  Hills appear as if by magic and a curve.  It’s so dark I feel the elevation more than I see the hill.  At the top of the highest hill I’ve seen in years I watch the tiny headlights of a lone vehicle curve and climb the hill toward me.  At least I know what I’m in for, having seen the other traveler’s progress. Deep breath, hand on Fred’s shoulder in case he starts to slide on his plastic sheet, I continue down the hill. Watching for deer, trying to follow the curves, finally at the bottom, swinging around a huge arc. Centrifugal force pulls Fred outward, away from me, and then we’re moving up another hill. Fred slides back into place.  A pick-up truck passes us.  His taillights are my breadcrumbs which makes climbing this hill so much easier.  Sighing, I realize I’ve been holding my breath this whole time.

A few cleansing breaths later, at the top of this hill, the road stretches out and sways gently as it descends toward small town lights in the distance.  A green sign confirms this is Finley, the first turn on my pencil map.  A left turn, south, and four blocks later I’m leaving it behind for another eight miles of pitch black world.  I set the trip meter. Eyes stretched wide, searching for anything that would mark the road and trying not to blink and miss my turn. 

Ahead of me a semi pulls up to a stop sign.  The road sign, covered in dirt, pitted, and chipped, directs me right. Surprised at the suddenness of the sign and then the turn, I take the turn a little faster than I should have and Fred shifts and slides on his tarp. “Oh, no Fred,” I lock my arm and tighten my grip on his shoulder to keep him from moving more.  “Just a few more miles, my boy.  Just hang on,” I say as Fred struggles to move startled by the slide.

The Cooperstown sign shines back at me lighted by my headlight beams.  We pass it and round an endless curve.  We’re skirting the town, passing it.  Where is this vet?  It’s a red building.  How am I going to see a red building in the middle of the night when everything is pitch black?  I’m on the way out of town now, no buildings left, no street signs.  Then a turn lane appears almost as I pass it.  I’m going too fast.  I swing into it anyway, maybe I can go back to town, find a bar and ask directions.   As I pull into the turn lane I see the sign.  Cooperstown Veterinary Clinic.   I’m here!  “We’re here Fred, we made it,” said with relief.  I can feel the stress and tension dropping from me, leaving me weak.

Over an hour after I’d left home I’m pulling into the vet’s pock marked driveway.  The parking lot looks a lot more like a cratered moon than a driving surface. I weave the car slowly around the worst of the craters, doing my best for Fred’s sake.  As I’m creeping up to the door I’m thinking if I have to carry Fred I need to be as close as I possibly can be.  I can’t carry fifty pounds.  The last time I tried I dropped his dog food twice trying to get it into the house.

The vet, Dr. Melissa, is waiting for me. Five feet tall, ninety-five pounds, she rushes out the door as I turn off the engine.  "I can't carry my dog, he's 65 pounds," are my first shaky words to her as I open the passenger side door.  Fred is fishtailing a little, trying to get up.

"Ok,” she says, leaning into the car and scooping Fred up into her arms.  Down the sidewalk, through the open doorway, past the waiting room and straight to the four foot high examination counter she goes.  Placing him gently on the cold, stainless countertop, she arranges his legs so he’s as comfortable as he can be. Each adjustment elicits a wince and a whine from Fred as she gives him a brief physical exam feeling for broken bones and bloated organs mostly.  She lifts his broken leg and it just hangs there limply, like an empty sock.  My stomach lurches. I’m suddenly light headed; a cold sweat springs out instantly and I’m sliding down the side of the table to my knees, but keeping one hand on Fred’s side, trying not to pass out.  ‘Don’t pass out,’ I tell myself. 

“Are you going to be ok?” Dr Melissa says. 

“Yes,” I slur.  “I just need to throw up.” 

“Here,” she says, and I feel cold plastic on my arm.  I take the water bottle, anchor it between my knees and with painful slowness unscrew the cap and take a tiny sip.  My head clears a little and I slide myself back up the table on shaky legs, to my feet.

“Are you sure you’re alright?  You’re white as a ghost.” She says. 

I nod.

"He’s really not too badly injured, mostly scrapes except for his broken leg.  “You’re going to be just fine, Fred,” she says looking him in the eyes and gently rubbing his head.  "I'll have to take x-rays to make sure there aren't any internal injuries though,” she says looking across the table at me.  I nod numbly.  She lifts Fred from the counter and carries him around the corner to the x-ray station in the next room, gently laying him on the cold x-ray table, positioning him on the wide red crosshairs on the table.  X marks the spot. 

“I’m sorry, Fred, I know this hurts,” she says as she moves him this way and that, trying to get the best poses for the x-rays.  Its my job to hold him still while she takes the pictures. Blood smears the table as she moves him and I feel woozy again.  Fred is being so patient, whimpering when she moves his leg but otherwise very calm. I slide down on my haunches and press my forehead against the cold steel leg of the table, trying to keep from throwing up. I keep one hand on Fred, talking to him to keep him calm and maybe to keep me calm too. 

Another few sips of water and a few slow, deep breaths and we have to move Fred again. To the casting table this time.  Dr. Melissa staples Fred's inside thigh in three places where she says he must have been dragged, “just to hold the skin together,” she says. “He’s pretty scraped up.” 

The x-rays are developing and I’m relaxing a little. Fred is calmer too but doesn’t seem to be focusing on either of us.  He’s moving his head back and forth in slow motion like he can’t focus.   Dr Melissa notices Fred's pupils are unequal, “He has a concussion and a bruise is rising under his left eye,” she says, after taking a closer look and probing his bruise.  “We’ll just wait and see how he is before you leave.  It might be short term and go away on its own.”

Using the x-rays to show me what happened to Fred, Dr. Melissa explains that even though his hips are broken there’s no way to set them, they’ll just have to heal on their own. “As fractures go they’re not that bad,” she says. “He’ll be very tender for a while and won’t be able to put weight on them.”

Time to set Fred’s leg.  She pulls and stretches his skin, feeling for the bones.  His leg is so swollen she can’t feel them so getting them to line up is not easy. I hold Fred’s head against my shoulder and whisper “You’re a good boy, Fred, You are SUCH a good boy,” while she works. My eyes are closed to keep the nausea at bay. “They’re as close as I can get them,” she says, finally, and starts wrapping miles of gauze around his leg, partly to stabilize it and partly to keep the cast plaster from sticking to his fur, she explains. The plaster strips are next and once they dry she puts a red cover over the entire thing “to cheer him up” she says. “He’ll be in a lot of pain for a while.  Probably five days of very bad pain.”  

I trade my credit card information for three bottles of pills and complete dosing directions.  Appointments made, she puts Fred back in the car for me. 

The return trip goes a little slower.  Driving those unfamiliar roads back isn’t any easier than the first time around, especially since by now I’ve been up almost eighteen adrenaline filled hours.  Everything looks different coming on it from the opposite direction.  Fred’s on heavy medications, so he doesn't mind.  The meds make him drowsy and relaxed, which is good.  I begin to relax too.  About the time we get back to Finley he struggles to get up.  “Those pain meds must be very good, Fred.  Dr Melissa said you wouldn’t be able to get up for days,” I say, marveling at the fact that he’s moving at all.  Except for figuring out how to maneuver his newly stick straight leg he seems like his old, eager, curious self.  Before I can stop him he’s raised himself up as high as he can using the cast as a prop, favoring his right hip, nose on the car door window sill, looking out like he’s trying to get his bearings.  “Dr Melissa said you wouldn’t be able to stand for at least three days because of the pain. She definitely underestimated you, didn’t she? I don’t want you trying to stand up with your new cast on, especially in the car, especially while I’m navigating the two highest hills in western North Dakota in the middle of the night.”  I say testily. He just looks over his shoulder at me and then back out the window like I don’t understand. Finally the pain meds must relax him or he’s just worn out. He lays down, head resting on his cast, eyes shifting from me, away from me, and back again.

I have no plan to get Fred into the house when I get home.  I haven’t even thought about it.   I can’t leave him in the car, obviously.   I can’t leave him outside either, the coyotes will get him.  I’ve got to think of something and pretty fast. I need a plan.

Its 2:00 am when we finally pull into the yard.  Parking as close to the door as I can, I leave Fred in the car and go inside. A quick search leaves me with few options.  This is something I never planned for.  I see my laundry basket in the corner and dismiss it.  A second search for other options comes up empty.  My mind goes back to the laundry basket. Maybe if I can get an extra plastic tarp in the basket it will be soft enough and I can slide Fred into it from the car.  This is my only idea. My adrenaline is wearing off. I am so tired I’m shaking. Laundry basket in hand I go out to the car and open Fred’s door.  He lifts his head to look at me but he lays still. 

“Ok, Fred, we’re going to give this a try.  It’s probably going to hurt but I don’t know what else to do so you’ll just have to be strong for me, ok?” Not waiting for an answer I pile the extra tarp into the basket, grab Fred’s tarp by the edge and gently pull it and him down the side of the seat, over the door-sill, and into the basket.  On the way down his weight shifts to his shoulder and he rolls onto his back, sinking deep and compressing the tarps, causing his head to be in the lowest spot of the basket.  Eyes wide and frantic, he struggles unsuccessfully to right himself from this unnatural position.

His cast pokes straight up while the rest of him sinks helplessly deeper into the tarp. “Ok, Fred, hold on,” I say as I pull the basket across the smooth grass to the steps and the door, braced open with a grey cinder block, above them.   A coyote’s howl pierces the night followed by an answering call from at least six more.  And they’re close.  Coyote’s don’t usually attack people I tell myself as my heart kicks it up a notch.  Still, I don’t want to be out here on my knees with a sick animal luring them in.

My biggest obstacle turns out to be the two cement steps from the sidewalk to the door.  On my knees, I try lifting the basket from the back, using the step as a brace, to lift it to the first step.  But it’s not wide enough, and the basket, with a wriggling Fred, rolls back into me.  I have no way to keep it there to get it to the next step.  Fred searches my face, eyes wild, trying to shift his weight.  I feel his panic. “Stay calm or this will never work,” I tell him.   A deep breath gives me time to reassess. Approaching the problem from a new angle, I crouch, feet spread wide apart, on the step above. I grab the basket handle and pull straight up using the side of the step to slide it up and over, slowly.  I can’t let go now or he falls back again.  Leaning hard away, arching my back, every muscle tense, face, a teeth barring grimace, fingers locked on the basket handle, legs locked and shaking, threatening to cramp, I pull again.  I look up across the field to the garden. Pairs of yellow eyes stare back. Yards away. Oh my god! They’re at the garden! No time! My momentum propels us across the stoop and I fall backwards through the doorway, into the house, dragging the basket with me. I kick the cinder block out of the way and slam the door shut, turn the lock on the encroaching coyotes and brace myself against the door eyes closed listening to their baleful howls.

© 2018 Margaret186

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Added on May 28, 2018
Last Updated on May 28, 2018
Tags: dog, coon hound



San Diego, CA

A liver of life, a lifelong student, lover of fun and always looking for new experiences to enlarge my experiences. That gives me more to write about. Being an active participant in life is always mor.. more..