Early one evening I was driving on an old parallel blacktop road that runs alongside Dort Highway, a north-south artery connecting Flint and Detroit. It was early October, pheasant hunting season in Michigan, when it is not uncommon to hear the sound of shotguns in the nearby fields and the barking of excited dogs. There were few cars on the two-lane asphalt and I didn’t see the one that hit the dog, but it couldn’t have been more than a curve or two in the road ahead of me.
When I saw the dog lying on the pavement ahead of me, I slowed and pulled over on the gravel shoulder. I can’t remember if I saw it move, but I somehow knew the dog was alive and had just recently been struck. I reached under the front seat and grabbed a road flare, popping it as I got out of my car, and tossed it as far back down the road as I could to warn oncoming drivers. Then I went to the dog to see what if anything could be done. It was a small black and tan female Beagle and she was not wearing a collar of any sort. Her coat was glossy and she looked young and sturdy.
Just as I knelt down to determine, as best I could, the extent of her injuries, an oncoming Volkswagon beetle in the other lane made a U-turn and pulled in behind my car on the shoulder and a young woman got out. She hurried over to where I was and joined me in my inspection. “She’s not bleeding from the mouth,” the woman said. “That’s good.”
“I think it just happened a few minutes ago,” I said.
The dog’s eyes were open and blinking. The woman ran a hand quickly and lightly over the Beagle’s body. “No compound fractures,” she said.
“Should we try to get her to a vet?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, ”we’ve got to pick her up and move her.”
I went to the trunk of my car and popped it open, unsure of exactly what I’d find, but I remembered an old blanket used to cover a TV set recently transported from my apartment to a friend’s. It was there all right; but more importantly, so was a large collapsed and folded cardboard box that I had no memory of ever seeing before; it was perfect for the task.
We slid the cardboard under the little dog without bending her body or limbs, and quickly and easily transferred her to the oversized trunk of my Buick.
“Follow me,” the woman said. “My veterinarian friend’s clinic is just a few miles over on Davison Road. His house is right behind it—I’ll call him.”
While I closed the trunk and got in my car, she was already on her cellphone calling ahead. When we arrived a few minutes later the vet was waiting with a gurney in the clinic’s parking lot. They quickly eased the little dog onto the gurney and wheeled it into the building. It was the smoothest medvac operation I’ve ever seen, and I’d seen a few of them while in the Army.
I stayed in my car in the parking lot and smoked a cigarette. My curiosity in medical matters goes only so far. It wasn’t long until the young woman came out with the news that the little dog was probably going to be okay, it was just stunned and there didn’t appear to be any internal injuries. We smiled at each other and felt good about ourselves.
“We were all very lucky today,” she said.
From the dog’s point of view it was an extraordinary string of good luck following an awful stroke of bad luck, as if the young woman and I being there was fortune hurriedly attempting to make amends. I mean … my happening on the scene, the immediate arrival of the young woman, the mysterious sheet of cardboard, the near proximity of the clinic, the availability of the veterinarian himself was—all of it—almost too much to believe at the time; and even now, years later, seems highly unlikely. I’m smiling as i write this.
I have no belief in a personal God, nor any other kind of god for that matter, but if that little Beagle were a person you can be certain that she sure as hell would.
And I guess that would place me among the angels in Beagle heaven.