What happened next, I missed. I was groggily trying to get myself out of bed, vaguely aware there was a commotion at the door.
As it was related to me later, Heather opened the door to find my sister-in-law on the stairs up to our apartment, with none other than Oscar. “He’s home!” she said, as the look on Heather’s face changed from confusion to a mixture of shock, joy and relief. Oscar hobbled up the stairs, and managed to limp his way into the apartment, and then promptly sat down, refusing to move. There was hugging, and a few tears, and tons of relief that our grumpy poodle had made his way home. Sheri had found him lying on our porch – so based on when Heather got home, and when Sheri was passing by our door on her way to work, Oscar had managed to limp out of his hiding spot and come home. Whether the timing was coincidental or he’d been lying in wait somewhere nearby and had seen Heather come home, we’ll never know.
It was apparent that something had happened to Oscar since we had last seen him – he was limping and couldn’t get up on the couch (where he sleeps during the day). We carried him over to the animal hospital that is luckily less than a block away, and discovered that he had been hit by a car, and his pelvis had been broken in two places. We knew, of course when we saw him limping. But we needed to know something, as the events of the evening after his disappearance were a mystery to us. The doctor assured us that he’d be fine, and prescribed an overnight stay for some observation. He was sent home with us the next day with instructions on his care.
So, for the next six weeks I get to walk Gemma for the usual amounts of time, then afterwards carry Oscar down the stairs, put him in a sling and hold his butt while he does his business. He’s supposed to remain immobile – as immobile as possible – for the next three weeks, and we have pain meds, morphine and an assortment of pills we have to feed him to keep him docile so he doesn’t jerk suddenly and do more damage. We’ve shelled out for a larger crate for him, and nearly a grand later, Poodle is safe at home, resting comfortably in his crate (which he loves).
After all is said and done, and the wave of emotions has ebbed, there are a few lingering feelings about the whole situation. There is still a sensation of relief – an appreciative relief that Oscar is home, safe and relatively sound. There is a bit of guilt – I blame myself for not having chased him on foot, when I could still see him. The last is a bit of residual anger.
At first, I couldn’t figure out where to put this anger. My instinct was to place it on the shoulders of whomever set off the fireworks. Labour Day Fireworks. It’s not really an occasion that I think requires fireworks, nor do I recall ever having seen fireworks on Labour Day. I mean really? And while it’s still light out? But I can’t be upset over setting off some fireworks blocks away, and being too enthusiastic to wait for the right light conditions. I love fireworks, too.
The second place was on the person who hit Oscar. While this felt more justifiable than the fireworks- I couldn’t really figure out the why I was angry with them. Yes they had hit my dog, but I can’t really be angry at them for hitting a black poodle that darted out into traffic in growing darkness. This was pointed out to me in discussion with Heather and Matt later on, and it’s sensible. At night, at the speeds people drive here in Toronto, and the recklessness that animals (especially when spooked) show when crossing streets mean that it would be next to impossible for a dog moving at top speed to cross two, or four, lanes of traffic on a busy road (we live near one of the main streets in Toronto, which is where we figure he was hit) to cross without getting struck. People’s reactions just aren’t fast enough to compensate for that kind of thing. Nor are the vehicles designed in a manner to stop that fast, even in good conditions.
But it continued to irk me, and it took me a few days to figure out why. And why am I angry with the person that hit Oscar? Because they didn’t stop.
Let me clarify that: Because they didn’t stop and check. They didn’t stop to see what they’d hit, or if they knew what they hit, to try and identify the animal and contact someone – or stayed in the area long enough to see if someone was looking for him.
If something like this was an isolated incident, I’d probably have let this go by now. But similar things have happened to my brother, and other friends. In my brother’s case, his dog, a beautiful golden retriever named Keeper was spooked by something while on a leashed walk. She darted into traffic with such speed that my brother lost his grip on the leash, and the dog was clipped by an SUV. The car slowed, Keeper got up and kept running, and my brother darted after her. Now, if I had been the vehicle that struck someone’s dog, I would probably pull over and go and help look for the dog, to see if I could help. What did the SUV do?
It drove off immediately, stopping for barely a moment. And it didn’t just drive off – it roared off. The driver ran. In relating this tale to people at the dog parks or to people that have enquired when seeing me with Oscar in his sling out front of my apartment, several similar tales have been related back to me. In speculating about it, I think that I know why it happens, but I can’t say that running is in any way acceptable. You might say that I’ve already exonerated them for any responsibility by understanding the impossibility of avoiding the accident. But that’s not the case at all. There’s a certain amount of accountability and responsibility one has to accept when signing up for a driver’s license. In Toronto, there are two laws that loosely (although not specifically) might apply to this. The least compatible is the Canadian Criminal Code Law:
252. (1) Every person commits an offence who has the care, charge or control of a vehicle, vessel or aircraft that is involved in an accident with
- (a) another person,
- (b) a vehicle, vessel or aircraft, or
- (c) in the case of a vehicle, cattle in the charge of another person, and with intent to escape civil or criminal liability fails to stop the vehicle, vessel or, if possible, the aircraft, give his or her name and address and, where any person has been injured or appears to require assistance, offer assistance.
I get it. I get that the language here is discriminating enough here to exclude the pets that run wildly out into traffic. I realize that pulling out the ‘Failure to Stop’ criminal law is not only an extreme argument, but it’s one that is grasping at straws. I’m not trying to say that the person needs to be held to account in a criminal sense – but bear with me, I’m going somewhere with this. The one that seems more applicable to this particular situation is the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. Here it states:
Duty of person in charge of vehicle in case of accident
200. (1) Where an accident occurs on a highway, every person in charge of a vehicle or street car that is directly or indirectly involved in the accident shall,
- remain at or immediately return to the scene of the accident;
- render all possible assistance; and
- upon request, give in writing to anyone sustaining loss or injury or to any police officer or to any witness his or her name, address, driver’s licence number and jurisdiction of issuance, motor vehicle liability insurance policy insurer and policy number, name and address of the registered owner of the vehicle and the vehicle permit number. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 200 (1); 1997, c. 12, s. 16.
This starts to leave it a little wider open. I should note that the street we’re sure he was hit on is technically considered a highway, insofar as I remember. But regardless of whether or not the law applies in criminal or civil manner, what I’m trying to illustrate here is that there is a governance that has stated that there is a responsibility of the operator of a motor vehicle to at least make an attempt at rendering assistance. Perhaps the fear that drives them to put their foot down on the accelerator instead of the brake is fear of some kind of legal reprisal. I’m sure there are those that have struck a dog that are worried about being sued by the owner for medical expenses etc. And in today’s world, I can understand those are real fears. People love to litigate, and there are many out there that would hope to benefit financially from a damages payout.I’m sure if I had been present or had caught the person who struck Oscar, I’d be more than tempted to attempt to sue to recuperate medical expenses. Had I been irrational enough to pursue such an action, I probably would have found myself without anything but a large legal bill on top of that. Regardless of how doubtful it is that you, as the vehicle operator would be found guilty of any kind of expense in cases like this, I think it’s important that it’s faced up to.
There’s an incredible lack of responsibility for one’s own actions in cases like this, and what I’m talking about is a matter of principle. It’s not that I consider the act of striking the dog as the deplorable act, it’s the flight from holding oneself accountable. If you do something right, you often seek and desire praise. But in the event that we have wronged, we often duck and evade, defend and fight being held responsible for the wrong. If half the effort we put into avoiding owning up to our mistakes was used instead to simply apologize and assist in rectifying the situation, I think we’d avoid a lot of wasted time and grief. Had the person stopped, looked around for Oscar, or stayed in the area long enough to hear one of the half-dozen people searching a 20 block area calling after a dog, or had checked on the humane society site for missing dogs, we might have found Oscar a lot sooner.
There’s good people and bad people out there, and you define which of those you are through the day to day decisions you make, and facing the consequences of those actions be they good or bad results.