About This Essay
This essay was written in October 2006 and originally entitled, “Final Wag on Route 35 – Dog Hit by Car and Owners Meet Neighbor’s Puppy in an Alley”.
It was then first published by The Ridgefield Press in November 2006 and they retitled it to “God Spelled Backwards is Dog” – which is a line from my essay.
The text here is what I supplied to the editor.
FYI – Editing is Tough but Worth It
As fyi, my original essay was over 3000 words – which was after several edits – and when I first sent it to the editor, he was kind enough to respond but his email reply went something like this:
“Hey Chuck. Thanks for your recent submission, but it’s too long and it will be a year before the paper has that kind of free space to fit something this long in it … Any chance you can cut it down to 1500 words or less ..??..”
This was perhaps the hardest part, editing it down to essential elements but once I trimmed down on my “ego embellishments”, the shorter piece had a better flow and voila – picked-up and printed.
Final Wag on Route 35 – Dog Hit by Car and Owners Meet Neighbor’s Puppy in an Alley
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in early October – an Indian Summer kind of day with a full-harvest moon waiting to glow forth later that evening.
I had just come back from a wonderful Connecticut Film Festival workshop in Westport about The Art and Craft of Visual Storytelling hosted by legendary West Coast Director, Jeff Seckendorf, and was flipping on the office computers when all of a sudden, I heard this awful commotion outside my window facing Route 35.
I heard cars screeching, people yelling, and one male voice in particular that shook my soul.
“Nooooooooooooooooo! Oh God, Nooooooooooooooooo!”
From my window, I could see cars pulled over in both directions and knew something bad happened, but could not see through the trees to fully understand.
I immediately called 911, and they promised to send assistance ASAP. I hung up and ran out to the scene but by the time I arrived, it was mostly gone. There was a lone BMW station wagon with a gal on her cell whom I recognized.
“Hi. I remember you from… What just happened? I called 911 when I heard the commotion…”
She turned to me. “Chuck, it was so sad. I was two cars behind the driver who hit the dog. They felt so bad but they only had two feet to react. The dog came out of nowhere. They were crushed. There was nothing anybody could do. It happened so fast. Another woman immediately responded with directions to put the dog in her car and went to the vet. We called ahead to let them know the dog was on the way. I’m so sad. I’m glad to see you again but wish it were under better circumstances.”
I returned home and felt hurt for all involved – the animal hit, the owner whose best friend was suffering, the person driving who was seemingly just going along with the flow.
I sat on the edge of the bed with my wife, Katie, just quietly petting Kasha, our new guide dog puppy. Somehow, we both knew we had just been reminded of the frailty of life. The here in this moment, the gone in the next. It hurt and it wasn’t even our moment.
Shortly thereafter, we started to talk about what we had planned for the day. Katie realized that I was mesmerized by the Film Festival workshops and would love to attend the 3PM one about “Cinematography Formats and What Makes Cinematographers Tick,” so she said, “You go – you need to go.”
I returned to Westport for the afternoon workshop and got back to Ridgefield at 4:45PM, picked up Katie and Kasha and proceeded to embark on a wonderful leisurely stroll on Main Street.
We met all kinds of delightful people on our stroll, most of whom wanted to interact with Kasha. People would reach down to pet her and rub her belly – all of which Kasha was too eager to play the pleasing part as a smart, toasted-marshmallow colored Labrador retriever with great taste in friendly humans.
We had walked from my mom’s office (www.RidgefieldRealEstate.com), up towards the Fountain, and started our way back. By the time we got to the Grove Street intersection, Katie decided to leave us and walk directly to Saint Mary’s for 5:30 Mass with the understanding that I would pick her up in an hour.
Kasha and I continued down Main Street to our car. Next we encountered five or six beautiful young women whose internal spirits matched their external radiance. They all said, “We’ve been waiting here so we can pet the puppy.”
The puppy loved each one of them. Kiss, Kiss. Tail Wag, Tail Wag. It was fun to see each one connect, and to see Kasha connect with them. Then another couple came by. “Ah, now we know why there is so much commotion on this sidewalk.” And the woman sat down on the ground and Kasha jumped into her lap and loving caresses ensued. Well, after moments of chit chatting about Kasha being a Guide Dog pup and what that entails, we resumed our walk back to the car. But then I spied two dogs heading in our direction so decided it would be best to pick up Kasha as she has not had all her shots and carry her for the last 50 feet before turning the corner into the alleyway.
All of a sudden, a blue car pulled into the alley and stopped. A man got out and walked directly to me, and without any words, grabbed Kasha. Not an aggressive grab but a reaching out like, “Hey man, I’d like to hold your dog like you are holding her,” and on some level I intuited it was okay thus willingly handed her over from my breast-holding position to his.
From the driver’s side of the blue car exited a woman, whom I later learned is his wife. She had a smile and a quizzical impression while he cuddled Kasha with love and respect. His eyes were slightly red and swollen, but I thought maybe he had allergies.
His wife then explained, “We lost our dog today. It was a basset hound and was run over by a car earlier today. My husband is grateful to pet your dog.”
“Do you live on Route 35 around Fox Hill?” I asked.
“Yes, that was us and our dog.”
I was blown away. The irony of moments and timing confused me – e.g., how was it God would subject me to bear witness to hear such awful, painful, soulful loss, yet then conspire to place Kasha a few hours later on a Main Street alleyway at perfect timing with the blue car turning into the alleyway in order to perhaps foster some puppy seeds of healing? Yeesh! The Divine’s timing is of a watch all His own.
We compared notes and talked about what had happened. I learned that the dog was 4 ½ years old and was his dog. They had been through everything together. They feasted and went through famine. They were buds and soul food for each other on all meaningful levels. The wife came later and seemed to intuit the bond between man and dog and honored them both.
Our encounter in the alley was tear-filled yet somehow hopeful. I asked about his relationship with his bear and what they did together and what she meant to him. And then I asked him, “So are you going to get another one?” And without hesitation he said, “Yes.”
I cheered. “So, the canine brotherhood helped you understand how great it is to live a life with them, versus living a life without them” and he retorted, “Absolutely.”
While he was hugging Kasha, I gave them a card for Guiding Eyes for the Blind (www.guidingeyes.org) and mentioned there are lots of pups waiting for great homes like his.
Long story short, I don’t know why anything happens, let alone grief and tragedy. But, I can’t help thinking that God spelled backwards is dog, and when it comes to Divinity and perfection, I wouldn’t trade a loving tail wag for anything.
In summary, bravo to the four-leggeds who give us unconditional affection, and double bravo to the Divine for His sensibilities in gifting us with spirited four-leggeds with tail-wagging paws of affection. Woof On!
– fin –