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5 July 2000, 01:00

A friend’s dog passed on recently, and this story is for FREEINDIVIDUAL

In 1996, I believe, my dog got hit by a car.

My dogs are light and warmth in my days. They are my loves and my joys. The best parts of me shine when I see myself reflected in their eyes – like many people have their glories mirrored back to them by their children – I have my hope and my redemption buried deep in my dogs.

Having little or no family to speak of in real terms, my animals have given me a fountain of undying devotion, loved me when the world did not, and shared my pain unflinchingly.

My dog got hit by a car.

It was a late and quiet night when I came home, and Afga, joyous and excited at my arrival, had run past my legs to sprint out into the night.. I didn’t really rush to get her – after all, its late and I had a bunch of groceries to put down.. I went to the kitchen, and after a minute or two, I heard my other dog, Kodak, cry at the door – a shrill, pained cry that I have never heard him vocalized before. So I went to the front door, and called her name. “AFGA”.

There was no answer, no dog running up to the door, no sign, only ominous silence. My eyes squinting from monmentary blindness, readjusted to the dark and focused on a clump in the street. Not knowing what it was, still in that instant, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach, a feeling of dread. I ran out into the street.

My dog lie motionless and blood surrounded her head. My whole body seized up and cramped until I could no longer stand, and I struggled to scream, but all I could do was shake and tremble. I bent down, hugging my knees beside my dog. I felt the rush of blood to my head, the uncontrollable convulsions as my body worked to a expell the air in my lungs and the tears in my eyes.

I reached out to touch her, fearing that one of the only pure joys in my life had been ripped from me by death, one of my dearest friends had life dragged from her body violently and suddenly. She moved and whimpered, trying to make a howl only to quietly whine.. I was hysterical. I was joyous. I thanked a god I didn’t believe in and prayed to the unknown to spare her life, and give me back my dog.

Dizzied from fear, I rushed her to the Emergency Vet. I was crying and catatonic – in a daze, in a panic. I begged for the attending nurse to open the door to me. They took my dog from me, and I sat in the empty waiting room, hugging the neck of my other dog, and I prayed. I prayed and I bargined. I looked to the heavens and offered my life, offered my comfort, offered my soul, if my dog was spared, if Afga was again with me.

It was forever that I waited. Until finally, the doctor on call came to see me. The news wasn’t good. The injuries were massive and serious. She, in all likelyhood, would be severely crippled for the rest of her life, and it would be best to put her down. The words stabbed at my broken heart, tearing it even further until I could not breath. I took her home. I sat with her. She looked at me with sad eyes, haunting, peircing eyes that looked back at me with deep despair. She could not stand, and could not walk. She urinated where she sat and struggled with all her might to move away from the soiled spot. She looked at me with pain and sadness, the light in her eye was dim, and the joy in her life seem to be gone.

I had to deal with putting her down. One of the only constants in my life, one of the only touchstones that kept me sane, that kept me human – and I had to decide whether to prolong her suffering, her agony – or to put her to death. I can’t imagine another pain so deep or so wounding. But it seemed as though I was the only one who felt this. I received puzzlement and pity from most, with a few who mocked me with muffled voices that spoke in dulcid tones,. “It’s just a dog…”

I had decided to talk to MY vet, and I was determined if she was suffering, I would help her. It would be a compassionate act, but it would be a painfilled one. I would be the last face she sees, the last touch she feels and the last voice she hears. And I would mourn for a very long time, and damn the people to hell that told me “It’s just a dog…”

My vet saw my dog, and was hopeful. She recommend extensive surgery – the kind of surgery they only do in a handful of animal hospitals in the country. The kind of surgery they do at Kansas State University. The kind of surgery my dog eventually had.

She has her legs back. She has her joy back. She runs now. She plays now. She is strength and she is bravery. I have met no person more courageous facing such adversity, I have seen no face more beautiful. Her light is back, her life is back, and for this I will forever be grateful.. And as I write this, I am crying for her, and for me, for I have never felt a love so deep as I do for my dogs. And God damn to hell those who say, “It’s just a dog…”

Free, I understand your pain. I feel for you.

(editor’s note: Afga lived until she was 16 1/2, died in 2007)