This past weekend, I was driving on a two-lane stretch of Route 41, surrounded by vast empty fields and punctuated by the occasional warehouse or farm. It was around 7 o’clock. The light of the day was starting to wane and most drivers were on their way home, either near or far. I noticed that a few of the cars in front of me swerved to avoid something in the road, something black and curved. A blown out tire perhaps. But as I got closer, I saw that it was moving. That is was in fact a black dog. It had been hit. It was dying.
My stomach clenched up as the heat of shock rushed over my skin. A million thoughts raced through my mind: Should I turn around? There were a lot of cars on the road, and no safe place to turn around. But how could I leave the dog back there alone and suffering? And once I got back to the dog, how would I even get to it without getting hit myself? And even if I did miraculously get the dog out of the road, what could I do for it? I wasn’t equipped to put it out of it’s misery. I didn’t have a gun or a syringe of cyanide. We were hours away from any emergency vet clinic. There was nothing I could do.
I kept driving.
Over the next twenty minutes, I saw both a dead striped cat and a dead gray dog on the side of the road. I was grateful when it got too dark to see anything except the other cars.
I was a wreck for the rest of my three hour drive home, looping through a series of crying jags as I tried to shake the vision of that dog from my mind, and assuring my own black dog curled up in the backseat that I will always look after her. That I will keep her safe.
My sixteen year old cat is in slow decline. My fourteen year old dog recently had a health scare that smacked me across the face with the reminder that she is getting old. The father of someone very dear to me is losing his battle with numerous ailments to the point where he must be spoon-fed most of his meals — that is, when they can get him to eat.
And then I saw that dog in the road. Several days later, in quiet moments, I keep catching myself thinking I should have done something.
It is difficult not to be affected by this sense of death lurking around the corner, and I’ve been in a bit of a funk. A friend suggested that I find a way to celebrate life. Start a new creative project. Adopt a kitten. Foster a puppy. While the two animals I already have certainly will not allow the addition of a third, my friend was on to something. This is why people have children. Make art. Write novels. To celebrate life. To create something that will live beyond death.
So. Perhaps it’s time to start my next novel.