Saving a Dog. Learning a Lesson.

Yesterday, co-author Joe Kelley and I saved a dog’s life. I know, I know… it sounds very dramatic. And believe me, it was.

Now, before anyone thinks this story has a Dateline ending, here is a photo of the dog. He is OK!


We were driving down the main east-west thoroughfare in my hometown. Picture a 4-lane road, plus a turning lane in the middle, speed limits of 40, with everyone going 50, of course. As a traffic light in front of us turned yellow, we saw a little dog run out from the left hand side of the road. A car swerved and missed him, as did another. The little thing couldn’t have been more than ten pounds— if he would have gotten hit, he would have been a goner.

Joe was driving so he didn’t have the pleasure of closing his eyes or looking away. But I did— I couldn’t watch. If this little critter would have been hit and killed right in front of me, it would have ruined my day, my week, my month. It would have stoked my already crazy fear of leaving my dog, Riley, for any extended period of time. When I’m not with my dog, having him jump on my lap or hold up his paw for a treat, I’ve got massive anxiety. So I just couldn’t watch what was happening.

As we slowed to stop at the traffic light, a minivan that was on the dog’s side of the street slid open its side door and someone started to get out. Just as quick, the dog ran back up onto the curb and appeared to head for safety. Then, the door of the minivan closed again and the people went on their way. Unfortunately, the dog was clearly scared and was running every which way— and right back into traffic, which was fortunately stopped at the light. The little guy was running in between the parked cars when the light turned green— and, believe it or not, the traffic around us began to move. That’s right— not one person stopped to help.

Joe yelled for me to get out of the car and try to grab the dog. Slowly, I realized that this was the only thing that we could really do. Sure, I was scared of getting injured myself or seeing the dog get hurt up close-and-personal. But, listening to Joe tell me to do it, I jumped out of the car. As I did, human behavior showed its ugly side as cars behind us began honking their horns. Now, maybe they couldn’t see what was going on or maybe they were just heartless bastards that were afraid they’d miss the first two minutes of Jeopardy, but I was pissed.

Luckily, the woman in the lane next to us stood still, effectively blocking traffic from moving forward and hitting me or the dog. In addition, she kept pointing at where the dog was running, so that I could get him. It all happened so fast, but the dog ran out from in front of our car and I bent down, saying in my best doggie voice, “come here, buddy.” Well, he did. And although he was muddy and stinky from the rain and snowmelt, I held him close and climbed in the car. That poor dog was shivering and shaking so bad out of the fear he must have felt from being in such an unknown place.

As I felt his heart beat so fast, I knew this animal was going to be OK… because of our direct actions. Yeah, I was feeling kinda proud of myself. Until I wasn’t. My mind racing, I thought to myself, “Nick, you hesitated before getting out of the car— that hesitation could have meant the difference between life and death.” And why did I hesitate? The only excuse I can possibly give is this: I was waiting for someone else to do it. After all, there were at least 25 other cars in the vicinity that could probably see what was happening, why didn’t one of them step up and take responsibility?

Here is why: we’re all way too wrapped up in ourselves and our lives and our own stupidness to give a damn about anyone else. Why care about that dog? Oh, someone else will take care of it! I preach against this attitude, yet here I was practicing it myself. It hit me like a ton of bricks, to tell you the truth. Am I happy that I got my fat ass out of the car and got that little creature to safety? Absolutely. But what I walked away with more than anything else was a feeling of disappointment that, with Joe’s encouragement, I was the only human being willing to take a moment and help not just a dog, but at least one other human— and more likely a family of humans.

This was proof to me that what I’ve been saying for years is true: we’ve lost that feeling of, “we’re all in this together.” We’ve become a nation of takers that only care about I and Me and Myself. 

Am I being a little dramatic by making this connection? After all, it was just a dog. But how many people are missing that dog? What little kid won’t be able to sleep until that furry guy comes home? Maybe an elderly person didn’t have their best or only friend with them last night? This whole episode was just a very vivid example of how we all need to slow down a bit and think of someone else, even for a moment.

End of sermon. Back to the story.

Joe and I were on our way to a meeting. So we called the biggest dog lover we know: our friend Ellen. She agreed to make sure our little find got to the shelter. Pulling up in front of her house, I could see the sparkle in Ellen’s eyes as she saw the dog. Ellen’s dog just passed away last month and I think she saw something special here in my hands.

Ellen took the dog into the shelter and they assigned him a number. Because he had no license, they have no idea who he belongs to. He’ll be checked out by a vet and held for a week to see if his family comes for him. And I really hope that they do— this would be the happiest ending. Doggie gets his family and the family gets their doggie. That’s the way this story should end.

But in case it doesn’t, Ellen wrote down the dog’s number. And she’s planning to follow through with the shelter. If the family doesn’t claim him, I think Ellen will… I could just tell by that sparkle in her eye. And the fact that she told us that if God wants this dog to be in her life, his name would be Rocky. Ellen always has told me, “you don’t find the dog, the dog finds you.”

Thanks for the lesson, Rocky. Or whatever your name is.

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4 comments on “Saving a Dog. Learning a Lesson.

  1. Don’t be too hard on ur self, hesitation is always out of self preservation and thats a hard thing to break since its kind of a genetic/ hard-wiring thing. U saved the dog and that’s what counts and u know next time u wont hesitate 🙂

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