There aren’t a lot of ‘firsts’ that I get to experience any more.  I’ll be 53 in August, and over the course of time I’ve had my first broken bone, seen my first child born, and tried liver for the first (and only) time.  A few weeks ago, I had another first, and it’s a first I had hoped to never experience.

It was a Monday, it was evening and dark, and I was riding along in my pick-up truck less than a mile from my home out in the boonies.  I hit the brakes as hard and as quick as I could, but the little black image was there in an instant.  I wasn’t speeding, I wasn’t distracted, but there was no avoiding that small, black dog in the middle of the highway.  For the first time in my life, I hit a dog with a vehicle.

Numerous dogs have been a part of my family through the past decades, and I’ve had my share of heartaches in having to bury them or take them for one last visit to the vet, but my heart just dropped when I realized what had happened.  This was not a glancing blow, so I knew what the outcome would be.

So…that brings me to the real reason that I’m sharing this horrible story with you…this horrible, wonderful story.

At that moment, I had a decision to make, a choice of two options.

Number one – drive on to my home and just leave the terrible aftermath in my rear view mirror.  I already felt bad, why bring myself down even more to look at the result and to possibly move the dog out of the roadway.

Number two – pull over and go back and check on the dog and at the very least try to find the owner of the pet to let them know what happened.

Anyone with a conscience knows that option number two is the right decision to make…certainly not the easiest decision, but definitely the moral one.  I pulled my truck to the side of this country road and turned my headlights towards the dark outline on the pavement.  Someone driving another vehicle saw what had happened and also pulled around to help.

I didn’t know that my heart could sink any lower, but it did when I saw another dog there at the side of the one I just hit.  It was easy to interpret that the other dog, a German Shepherd, was there trying to aid their friend.  Even though that vision was so hard to look at, it made me realize even more that I had made the right decision to go back.  That protective pooch was willing to stand by the dog in the middle of that roadway and another vehicle could have hit that German Shepherd had we not directed it to the side of the road.

When I went back to the road, the small dog I had just hit wasn’t there.  It was still alive, and somehow it had managed to drag itself a few feet off the road into a grassy area.  I went to the dog and knelt down beside it.  The dog was obviously badly hurt, but we made eye contact and he allowed me to pet him a few times. (I don’t know if the dog was male or female, but I’m assuming male for this story).  With each gentle stroke my heart sunk lower.  It was a tough, horrible, tender, beautiful few seconds.

We had to get help for the dog, but first, we wanted to know if the dog belonged to anyone living in the nearby houses.  I went to the nearest house and knocked.  I explained the situation to the young man that opened the door, and after giving a description of the dog, he told me the dog belonged to them.  He followed me across the road to where his dog was laying.  The dog’s owner softly cradled the injured dog in his arms to carry him back to the house.

I couldn’t apologize enough.  I knew in my heart that I couldn’t have done anything different to avoid this outcome, but I was the reason that this family pet of 6 years would probably die.  The reaction of this young man and his family still gives me chills and tears.  Repeatedly, they thanked ME for stopping to help and to let them know what had happened.  They were obviously pained by the events that took place, but they went out of their way to make sure that they didn’t bear any ill will towards me.  Quite the opposite, they made me feel proud of ultimately turning my truck around.  Not that we need proof of God’s existence, but the actions of that family and the way they made me feel, showing such care and concern for my well-being…that’s God’s love at work through them.  Still, when I got home, the tears flowed freely.

It's been several weeks since that night.  I drive by the owner’s house every time on my way home.  On occasion, I see the German Shepherd by himself on the porch.  I keep on hoping to catch a glimpse of a little black dog with a very noticeable limp on that porch.  I keep hoping that maybe I’ll see that young man slowly walking a black dog with a cast on one of its legs.  I haven’t see any of these images, and I doubt I will.

Folks that know me well are probably expecting a punch line right about now, something to bring some levity to the situation.  Not this time.  I felt compelled to write this account mainly because I want to relay how important it is that you stop if you hit someone’s pet on the road.  The reasons to drive on and take the easy route are numerous…you’re running late, you don’t want to see the aftermath, it might be dangerous, just to name a few.  Unfortunately, out of sight, out of mind is common place reasoning for many of the inactions of society these days.

When I made the decision to stop, I helped save another dog from getting hit, I shared a very tough, yet wonderful moment with the dog I hit, and I allowed the dog’s owners to spend a little more time with their pet.  Even if nothing ultimately comes from going back, stopping and going back is the right choice.  They say a dog’s love is unconditional, stopping to render aid seems to be the least we can do.

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