Too late

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The day after my birthday on Guy Fawkes Day, the dog snuck out through the front door when my back was turned. I tried to stop him to corner him in the front yard before he reached the entrance gate but he was too quick.

He ran out onto the road and did not die. Cars honked, I screamed and eventually my daughter managed to corner him on Beaconsfield Road, around the corner, but the trauma of the near miss is still with me. I cannot settle.

The next day I gave a paper at a conference on migration. And now I’m struggling to prepare that paper for publication.

The image of the dog running onto Riversdale Road won’t leave me. It’s one of those recurrent scenes that flashes before my eyes involuntarily and I have to shake my head to get rid of it.

It is a small trauma in the scheme of things but a trauma nevertheless and it will be days before it leaves my memory, not entirely, not forever, but at least like music that repeats itself again and again when you least want it, in time this image will only come back when I call upon it.

For the moment it is lodged there, cruelly shattering my sense of peace. It reminds me of how easy it is to lose a loved one; how easy it is to fail to be vigilant and leave the front door open long enough for the dog to slip out; and before you know it he is out on the street.

The dog has no road sense, no understanding whatsoever that the things roaring past will not stop for him if he chooses to run in front of them, if he chooses to play.

When I was a child we had a dog named, Peta. Peta loved to chase cars. It amazed me even then that she never ran under the wheels. When our car took off from the curb, Peta started to chase us all the way down or up Wentworth Avenue to Canterbury or Mont Albert Roads where he finally stopped.

Peta seemed to know when the cars were too much for her. She chased only the single file of cars on the side road on which we lived. She did not take on the main road.

We called her Peta with an ‘a’ because when we found her as a stray and begged our father to let us keep her we had to convince him that Peta was a boy and not a girl.

Several litters of puppies later he knew the truth, but by then it was too late.

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12 Comments on Too late

  1. Conda V. Douglas
    November 8, 2009 at 5:00 am (7 years ago)

    Oh dear, I'd be a nervous wreck too. My dog is a sight hound so she chases anything that moves, including cars. The main cause of death for her breed, basenji, is automobile.

    And how, exactly, did you convince your dad to misdiagnose the sex of your pet?!

    Reply
  2. Elisabeth
    November 8, 2009 at 5:07 am (7 years ago)

    You know, I've often puzzled about this in later years. I don't think he looked.

    The sex of a dog is obvious if you look, isn't it?

    Reply
  3. Jim Murdoch
    November 8, 2009 at 11:09 am (7 years ago)

    We never had a dog growing up not that I ever had a dog after I'd grown nor any desire to have one. There are cat people and dog people and I'm firmly one of the former as was my mother. My father was a dog person. It was just one of the many ways in which they were incompatible. Before I was born my dad had a dog, a Scottie called Butch. Butch used to run out onto the street whenever he saw my dad's car and Dad would open the door and they'd drive the last bit together. One day Butch never ran to meet him. On scouring the neighbour's gardens he found him, dead. His assumption was that this day a car identical to his drove down the street and didn't stop. He took him home and waited till dark to do and bury him by which time rigor mortis had set it and the thing was as stiff as a board apparently. He swore after that he would never have another dog – my dad was big on swearing things – and he never did which opened the door for all the neighbourhood stray cats.

    As a child growing up we were never without a cat for very long. No sooner did one die than another would appear on the doorstep. Only one was ever killed by a car however. I passed the cat on the way home but had to keep walking because my little sister (or perhaps brother . . . I really can't remember) was with me and I didn't want them to see. When I got home I told my mum and I remember laughing as I did which upset me more than seeing the cat dead on the roadside. I have no recollection of burying it but I can't imagine us leaving it there.

    Now I have a bird and a fish and the chance of either of them getting mowed down by a passing car are negligible.

    Reply
  4. Middle Ditch
    November 8, 2009 at 2:05 pm (7 years ago)

    How horrible. I can imagine how you must feel.

    My cat was killed in a road accident. He disappeared. He was a cat who liked doing this and at first I was not too worried but after three weeks I began to wonder what happened. When a girl identified him from a photo I showed her she informed me about his death some time ago. I was horrified of course because I could never say my goodbyes.

    Thank goodness your dog was okay.

    Reply
  5. Reader Wil
    November 8, 2009 at 3:43 pm (7 years ago)

    Hi Elisabeth! My Australian daughter's name is Elisabeth Catherina! So that's at least the first thing we have in common! I can understand quite well that you were upset. I still remember that my Elisabeth was 6 years old and crossing the street without looking. She was almost run over by a car.I also screamed, the cardriver honked and my daughter started crying.
    Thanks for your visit. If you want to read something about the Netherlands, scroll down my blog and see on the right side my archives in the side bar. If you click on Netherlands, Friesland or that's my World, You will find some photos and posts about the Netherlands.I hope to see you often.

    Reply
  6. The Weaver of Grass
    November 9, 2009 at 6:58 pm (7 years ago)

    I wonder what makes these "near misses" stay in our minds so long. I almost had a car accident last week – and I still keep recalling the moment when I thought I was going to hit the other car. It didn't happen, so why do I keep recalling it? Fascinating stuff, but as you say, you could do without it. I do also know that feeling of having apiece of music going round and round in my head – even in the middle of the night – and for why?

    Reply
  7. Elisabeth
    November 10, 2009 at 11:53 am (7 years ago)

    Jim: We are cat people, too. In fact we have three of them at the moment. Once we had five, but two were killed on the road, two years apart.

    There's a long story attached to the cats. My oldest daughter rescued a litter of strays, four cats and their mother from a parking lot behind where she lived then in a lagre rambling apartment block above a felaffel shop.

    She could not bear to take thenm to the RSPCA, (they'd put them down) so she went through her vet, who checked them out, eventually desexed them, wormed them, de- fleaed them etc.

    Then my daughter went off overseas to Gemany. She found homes for two of the cats, beforehand but left us with the other three plus her own pet cat.

    At that stage we only had one cat of our own, hence the full compliment of five. We needed a special licence from the local council.

    Since the two died and our cat Pickes also died of old age, we're left with three cas, one boy, two girls. The dog is intimidated by the cats.

    It's something of a menagerie here. Ralph is our first ever dog.

    Your father's dog story is very sad.

    You're better off with your fish and bird.

    Reply
  8. Elisabeth
    November 10, 2009 at 11:56 am (7 years ago)

    Middle Ditch: It's always sad to lose a pet, whatever the circumstances. We form attachments to them. They become like our children.

    That's why I sometimes feel like the old woman who lived in a shoe, she had so many children,she knew not what to do…

    I imagine you know the rest of the rhyme.

    Reply
  9. Elisabeth
    November 10, 2009 at 11:58 am (7 years ago)

    Weaver:

    They call it trauma, and there are varying degrees of it.

    I'm glad you did not have that near miss car accident. It must have been awful to keep re-visiting you.

    I hate the flood of adrenalin in these circumstances along with the prickle of sweat under my arm pits.

    Reply
  10. Tommaso Gervasutti
    November 10, 2009 at 6:48 pm (7 years ago)

    Dear Elisabeth, how true, there are images that got stuck in our mind with a tremendous force. A dog for me too, and more than once: what I will never forget was how bad I felt when I found myself "Forced" to whip, just a bit, a Samoyed I had to convince her to go free along the beach without bathing in the sea which looked polluted and dangerous…fortunately she obeyed after three weak lashes otherwise I would have had to give up and put her on the leash, but the feeling of seeing myself hitting such a gentle being as she was is still haunting me…
    Thank for the comment in my blog.

    Reply
  11. Tommaso Gervasutti
    November 10, 2009 at 7:45 pm (7 years ago)

    Thank you for the comment on Half Smile.

    How true, considering this post of yours, the way in which some images haunt us…

    Reply
  12. Elisabeth
    November 10, 2009 at 11:57 pm (7 years ago)

    Reader Will:

    Thanks for your comment. It's lovely to share your daughter's name. I always spell mine with an 's'. Here people often want to spell it with a 'z', the English version. I was named after my mother.

    I look forward to looking into your blog.

    My family is from Haarlem, but my sister's in laws are from Friesland and I've even been there once many years ago in the 1980s.

    I remember Friesland for the size of the tiny houses in an historical fishing village we visited as part of our journey.

    Reply

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