Sunday, November 30, 2008
I love riding my scooter. It can be a time of joy and praise. It can even be a time of quiet meditation. Usually, I sing to myself while riding on the 10 freeway, to work and back. Sometimes I pray. Sometimes, I simply pray that more animals are placed in loving and protective homes so that we'll see fewer of them on the freeway.
Maybe it's a measure of how good my life is, but I become very sad when I see a dead dog or cat on the freeway, even the ones that are still in one piece and look as if they're sleeping peacefully. I try to focus on the fact that their pain and fear are already over.
And I pray that the end came as swiftly as possible for them.
When I see objects on the road that I'm quickly approaching, I'll pray, "Please don't be dog, please don't be a dog." I'm always relieved and grateful whenever it turns out to be an old jacket, or some tire tread, or a rumpled blanket.
Last month, I saw a dog resting on the shoulder of the carpool lane. It was obviously still alive. It was also four or five lanes across from the nearest freeway exit. I immediately pulled over into a safe parking spot for my small bike. I couldn't believe that no other vehicles were pulling over after seeing the dog. I couldn't just continue on my way to work and leave a live animal to risk its life. I couldn't just not worry about the poor creature.
Risky as I knew it was, I walked over to the dog carefully, hugging the shoulder. The poor thing was resting against the wall of a merging ramp and I wanted to make sure not to scare it right into oncoming traffic. The dog was not happy to see me. It ran further up the shoulder and tried to hop the small wall, over into the Metro Link train tracks.
One of its hind legs was bleeding, not a lot, but obviously the dog had been hit. I was glad that the injury probably - ironically - kept the dog from jumping over into the tracks.
I saw that the dog was wearing a collar with license tags. It looked healthy, so it was probably some one's pet that had gotten lost. I got close enough to hold out a fist for the dog to sniff, but it snapped at me. The dog was probably in pain, and very frightened. I didn't blame it for snapping.
A tow truck pulled up close to where my scooter was parked. A bus in the carpool lane slowed down, and the lady bus driver told me that she had called for the police to come and help. Thank God for mobile phones! (I had mine - why didn't I think to dial 911?)
The police arrived almost immediately. After swerving back and forth to slow and stop traffic, they parked in the middle of the freeway. They brought out one of those metal poles with a wire noose, which the dog let them slip onto its neck without a struggle.
I was beyond relieved that the dog was taken safely off of the freeway, no matter where it may have ended up. At least the dog would not have to suffer a painful and fearful death. Still, I was crying when I got back onto my scooter, and safely back into the car pool lane.
The poor dog was so damn vulnerable, and it made me feel vulnerable.
Whenever I see a dead animal on the freeway, I think, That could be me. I am that animal, small and vulnerable on my scooter. Or I could be.
When I was about seven or eight, I actually spent time feeling sorry for homeless dogs and cats. When I was older, my mother said it was probably because I felt emotionally abandoned by my father, even though he was always present, physically.
I am that animal. I didn't feel loved and protected enough from my father's anger and his emotional damage while growing up.
And that's probably why I adopt dogs from a rescue group or shelter. It's why we took in a four week kitten, last year, that had been abandoned on our roof. It's why I'll take in hamsters when our cat brings them to us, half alive, and give them a plastic home from Petco instead of turning them loose again in our backyard.
And it's why I stopped on the side of the freeway for a dog that was still alive, foolish as it may be to leave my vehicle and walk so close to traffic.
Fortunately, that had happened on Veteran's Day-Monday. Traffic was much lighter than usual. Had it not been a holiday, I probably would have driven by another dead dog. It took me almost the rest of the week to stop feeling so shaky and vulnerable. I wasn't able to blog about it right away.
Thanks to Mike Valentino for inspiring this post with one of his own.