Because this story is so terrifying, I’m going to give away the end: A.J. is fine.
Now we can begin.
It had been a very wet day. I was working at home, spending the day with my laptop on my lap and A.J. at my feet, the perfect working conditions. Late in the afternoon A.J. was staring at me, letting me know it was time to go to the park.
The rain had finally stopped, and we walked to the park. When we got to there, as always I made sure A.J.’s electronic collar was on properly and I had the controller in my hand. I took his leash off and let him run. There weren’t many squirrels out for him to chase, but he still had fun sniffing around, tracking where they had been. For half an hour he ran happily through the park, then it was time to go home. I started walking towards the spot where he always runs to meet me when it’s time to leave, the spot where I hook up his leash and we head home.
I saw A.J. running towards the edge of the park, getting closer to the road. He disappeared behind some trees, and I heard him bark. I knew he must have seen a squirrel, but I still couldn’t see him. I also knew he was too close to the road. I had my hand on the controller to signal him to come to me, when I saw the squirrel in the road. I tried to quickly turn up the controller to make sure I got A.J. stopped before he chased after the squirrel, but he was too fast. As I reached for the controls, I heard a loud “THUD.”
I saw A.J. lying in middle of the road. I ran to him and fell to my knees. His eyes were open, but he wasn’t moving.
“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”
That’s all I could say.
I immediately started trying to figure out what to do. Here’s what went through my mind in the first few seconds:
“I need to get him help.”
“If I pick him up I could kill him.”
“I have to pick him up. No ambulance is coming for my dog.”
“I’m half a mile away from home, and from the vet’s office. How do I get him there?”
“I can’t carry him half a mile.”
“I have to pick him up and carry him.”
“I need help.”
“I need to help my boy.”
About this time I saw a woman walking towards us. It was the woman who hit him. She had stopped and was coming to see if he was okay. As she approached she said “I’m sorry!”
I replied: “It’s not your fault. It’s mine. It’s all my fault. I’m sorry.”
“Where’s your vet?”
I told her where the vet’s office is. She asked “Can I help?” I said “Can you drive us to the vet?” She said “Yes.”
She had pulled over immediately and left the car to walk back towards us, so she went back to her car to back up and get closer to where we were. As she was backing up, A.J. stood up.
I hooked his leash onto him and talked to him, seeing if he could move. He walked with me to the car, I opened the back door, and we both climbed in.
I gave directions to the vet’s office. She again said how sorry she was and asked his name. I told her “This is A.J., and it was NOT your fault.”
When we got to the vet’s office, she asked if she could come in with us. I said “Yes, of course.” She got out and ran in to tell them we were coming as I coaxed A.J. out of the car. She was holding the door for us when we got there.
They took A.J. in right away to check him out. I sat down in the waiting room next to this wonderful woman and waited. She apologized again, while I again assured her this was my fault, not hers. I asked her to go look at her car to see if there was any damage, telling her I’d pay for it. She wouldn’t even go look, she just wanted to make sure A.J. was going to be okay. Because A.J. was a big muddy mess from his run in the park, I even offered to pay to have her car detailed to clean up the mess we’d made. She’d hear none of it.
The vet finally came out to talk to me. She had completely checked A.J. over. She couldn’t find any signs of broken bones or joint issues. She said his gums were a nice pink color and his lungs sounded clear. She told me she could take x-rays, but it could be up to three days before anything showed up.
“So, even if you take x-rays and they’re clear, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.”
She didn’t believe x-rays were necessary, even after I made it clear I didn’t care about how much anything cost, I just wanted my dog to be okay. So we went without the x-rays, and she said I could take him home.
She told me to watch his breathing, and I asked exactly what I should be watching for. She also told me to keep an eye on the color of his gums. They were a healthy pink right now, but if they turned pale or started to look blue to get him to the emergency vet immediately. (She even talked to me about where the closest emergency vets were and the services I could expect at each.)
I thanked her and asked her if A.J. could stay there while I ran home to get my car. The woman who had hit him, who was still there with me, said “I can take you home.”
“Are you sure? You’ve already helped us so much, and he’s made such a mess out of your car.”
“No, I can take you home.”
I thanked her and accepted her incredibly generous offer, and we waited for them to bring A.J. out so we could leave.
A.J. walked out. He wasn’t doing the same kind of pulling on the leash he normally does when leaving the vet’s office, but he headed straight for the door. They must have heard me offering to have this woman’s car detailed, because on our way out the vet tech gave us a blanket to put in the car to keep some of the mess down. (They had, thankfully, washed the mud off of A.J. when they checked him over so they could see better, but he was still very wet.)
We went to the car and went home. On the way home I found out this incredibly wonderful woman’s name is Louise, and she gave me her phone number, asking me to call her and let her know how A.J. was doing. I assured her I would, and she dropped us off in front of our house.
We went into the house, where A.J. walked into the middle of the living room and stopped. He just stood there. I fell to my knees next to him, and completely broke down.
When I was waiting in the vet’s office I had sent Greg a text message:
“We’re at the vet. Accident. He seems OK but they’re checking him now.”
“I can hardly wait to hear about it.”
I didn’t say anything about being hit by a car, I wanted to wait and hear what the vet had to say. In the meantime, Greg had no reason to think there was a major problem – crazy little A.J. has made plenty of unscheduled trips to the vet.
When I got home I sent another text:
“AJ is OK. I’m not.”
When it was time for A.J.’s dinner I went into the kitchen to get his food ready. He came with me and lied down on the rug in the sitting room next to the kitchen. When his food was ready I held his bowl in front of him so he could eat. He ate everything, which I took to be a good sign. But after eating he wouldn’t get up again. I sat down next to him and just talked to him and petted him. Then Greg came home.
He walked into the sitting room and looked at us. He greeted A.J., who still didn’t get up but looked perfectly fine lying there on the rug. Then Greg looked at me. “What happened?” I burst into tears again.
“Was it that bad?”
“YES!” (Between sobs.) “He got hit by a car!”
After I calmed down a little bit I told him what happened. I then spent the rest of the evening sitting on the floor with A.J., who still wasn’t moving.
At bedtime A.J. still wouldn’t get up. I knew he must have to go to the bathroom by this point. I finally picked him up and carried him outside. I set him down, and he immediately sat down and wouldn’t move. He hates being picked up so I managed to coax him back into the house. I got him as far as the sitting room rug, where he sat down and wouldn’t move again.
The bedroom is upstairs, and obviously A.J. wasn’t going up there, so we brought the bedroom to A.J. The sitting room only has a small loveseat, so Greg brought the futon from the other room and set it on the floor next to where A.J. was sitting. Greg sat with A.J. while I ran upstairs to take a shower, get some bedding for the futon, and everything I would need in the morning so I wouldn’t have to go upstairs again.
Up to this point I had been frequently checking A.J.’s gums, and I was continuously watching him breathe. When it was time to sleep, I dimmed the lights, leaving enough light that I could see any movement A.J. made. When I first lied down on the futon A.J. was still sitting, and he just stared at me.
“You’re all right bud, you can lie down.”
He just stared.
“Come on bud, it’s all right. Night night.”
With a heartbreaking little moan, he lied down. But he still stared at me.
“Go to sleep bud. You’re a good boy.”
Suddenly I realized: I hadn’t given A.J. his bedtime treat. I got up, got a doggie treat out of the cupboard and brought it to him. He ate the treat, put his head down, and fell asleep.
Maybe he’s going to be okay.
Of course I still barely slept all night. I continued to watch him breathe, and a couple of times during the night I went over to check his gum color. He was fine all night.
Greg and I were both supposed to go to work Tuesday. Normally A.J. would go to daycare. I had mentioned this at the vet’s office the day before, and the vet said “Just bring him here, we’ll watch him.” Perfect – we can go to work, and know that any emergency with A.J. will be dealt with immediately.
Of course, by the time I got up on Tuesday I knew there was no way I was going to work. Not only did I want to stay near A.J., but I was also still a wreck. I had decided that if I could get A.J. to go outside and relieve himself then I would just stay home with him. If he wouldn’t go out, I’d take him to the vet and wait at home.
A.J. wouldn’t go out. He wouldn’t even stand up. He ate his breakfast, but again I had to bring it to him. He hadn’t gone to the bathroom since 3:30 the previous afternoon, so I decided he had to go to the vet. I put his collar on him, grabbed his leash and went out to the garage. Greg was inside ready to carry A.J. to the car. When I pushed the button to open the garage door, A.J. jumped up and came out to the garage.
“Good boy! Let’s go into the yard.”
Since A.J. was up, I hooked on the leash and led him to the front lawn. I told him “Go potty.” He started to squat down, but instead he quickly sat. He was really hurting. We had to go to the vet.
We dropped A.J. off at the vet’s office, then Greg went off to work while I made an attempt to work from home. I was still crying.
It was just after noon and I hadn’t heard anything from the vet, so I called. I got disconnected, then I got a busy signal. It turned out the vet was calling me at the same time and had left me a message while I was trying to call her. She said A.J. was doing great. He’d gone out several times and gone to the bathroom, and everything looked really good. I got in the car and went to get him.
When we got home I lifted A.J. out of the car and set him down. He stood there in the garage staring at me. I called to him, and managed to get him into the house and into the living room. Again, he just stood for a little while. He was so sore, he needed to get himself ready to sit and lie down – every move hurt. He wouldn’t even step up onto his dog bed.
Greg had a relative visiting from out of town, so he went to meet up for dinner. There’s no way I was leaving A.J. I managed to get him to go out, but when we came back in he wouldn’t leave the mat just inside the door. I sat with him for a little while, then went into the living room where I could sit comfortably but still see him. I kept looking over to check on him. After about half an hour I heard a little whine.
I went over and sat next to A.J. again. I started talking to him. “Once upon a time, there was a very brave puppy.” I petted him while I told him all about the brave puppy. Eventually I got up and went back to the living room. Less than a minute after I sat down, I looked over, and A.J. was halfway to the living room.
“Good boy! Come on, you can come in here!”
He walked all the way into the living room.
“What a good boy! You know who the brave puppy is!”
Later that evening we finally clued in and figured out why A.J. wouldn’t leave the mat. He was terrified of the hardwood floors. The tiniest slip on the hardwoods really hurt him. We wound up putting towels and blankets all over the floors so he could at least get to the doors to go out.
At bedtime, A.J. walked across the towels to the door where I took him out to go to the bathroom. We walked a couple of houses up the street and back. He was slow and tentative, but moving along just fine. We came in, he got his bedtime treat, and he again slept on the rug, with me on the futon right next to him. Greg was on the couch in the other room so he could be close if we needed anything. I slept a little bit better, but still woke up periodically to watch A.J. breathe.
On Tuesday the vet had told me that A.J. was doing well and could go to daycare the next day. But Wednesday morning he was still very sore and still wouldn’t walk on the hardwood floors. I wasn’t about to put him in the car, walk him across a slippery lobby, and leave him where a bunch of playful dogs might jump on him or bump into him. Once again, I stayed home with him.
I gave A.J. his breakfast, again bringing it to him on the carpet. I had a bowl of cereal. Typically when I eat cereal A.J. comes running when I’m done so he can lap up the last bit of milk from my bowl. On this morning A.J. wouldn’t even sit up. I brought him my bowl, and he lapped up the milk while he was lying on his side. He was absolutely breaking my heart.
About an hour later I decided I needed to get A.J. out for a walk. He wouldn’t even pick up his head while I put his collar on. As I was putting on my shoes and coat he started whining, still not moving. When I was ready to go, I went to the door, picked up his leash, and said “Let’s go for a walk.”
A.J. practically ran to the front door.
What a brat.
As we started walking down the street, A.J. had his head down, just ambling along. He stopped several times to go to the bathroom. We reached the corner, and as we crossed the street A.J. picked his head up and started to move a little faster. When we reached the end of the next block, A.J. turned and started heading straight for the park.
I let him know we were not going to the park, and instead we turned the other direction. We went around the block and headed home. When we got home he sat on the mat inside the door and once again wouldn’t move – until I brought him a treat. As soon as I had the treat he got up and trotted into the living room. But after eating the treat he sat and wouldn’t move for at least five minutes. With a little moan, he finally laid down.
We made a little more progress later in the day. He got up and stepped onto his dog bed to lie down. That was a big step. While he was sleeping on his bed I called Louise (the woman who had hit him) and left her a message, letting her know A.J. was doing well, had gone for a walk, and was going to be fine. I also thanked her again for all her help, I really don’t know what I’d have done if she hadn’t stopped to help us. A few hours later she texted her reply: “I’m so happy!”
A.J. went on a couple more short walks on Wednesday. Greg stayed home with him on Thursday and Friday, where A.J.’s walks got progressively longer.
Friday night we put the futon away and we all went up the stairs to sleep in the bedroom. A.J. made it up the stairs, slowly, but then he had a trouble getting up onto the bed. He started to jump up, but he only got his front paws up then stopped. He has his own dog bed in our room, so I called him over there where he laid down, and I sat on the floor with him until he started to fall asleep. I got up, got back in bed – and within five seconds A.J. was right next to me asking to come up on the bed. I finally got up and decided to pick him up and put him on the bed. As soon as I knelt down to pick him up he jumped and landed on the bed.
I have no idea why I had to threaten to pick him up before he’d do what he wanted to do in the first place. But he was on the bed and fell asleep instantly.
He did well over the weekend. By Tuesday he was still sore – slow to climb stairs and hesitant to jump up on anything – but I decided he was well enough to go back to daycare. I let them know he’d been in an accident, and that he might not react well to being bumped or jumped on. I got to work and watched him on their webcam for most of the day. But he did great; when I picked him up, they said they didn’t see any change in his behavior, he was A.J.
I was finally starting to relax. On Thursday I worked from home again, and I decided it was finally time to let A.J. off leash. I took him to a different park, where he’d be nowhere near a road. We got to the park and I took off the leash. A.J. was happy as could be. He stayed a little closer to me than usual, but he was doing great. I stopped at a bench to sit and watch him and he came running over to me. He stood next to me for a moment before running off again. After he left I looked down – and I saw a bright red spot of blood.
I called A.J. over right away. I looked in his mouth, checking his teeth and gums, then I checked his nose. All I could see was a little spot of blood on the end of his tongue. I finally decided maybe he’d just bit his tongue. He was acting fine, so I let him take off and run for a little bit longer. When it was time to go, I checked his mouth again, still not seeing anything. We went home, and I never saw any more blood. Apparently he just needed to give me another little scare. And he wasn’t done yet.
He went back to daycare on Friday. At this point we were getting close to two weeks since his accident, and he was doing well. Still slow on stairs, but overall acting more like A.J. every day.
On Saturday we went for our typical weekend walk. On the way home we went to the park where he’d had his accident. He was very excited and full of energy, so when we got there I decided he could run off leash. We kept him far from the road, and he had a great time chasing squirrels. When it was time to leave, I hooked up the leash long before we got anywhere near the road.
Just before I hooked up the leash, I saw A.J. lick at his foot. After he was safely on leash, I looked down at his foot – it was bleeding. Sigh. Not again.
A.J. has twice had to go to the vet because he ripped his dew claw off while trying to chase squirrels up trees. On this day, he was bleeding from that same claw.
We got home where I washed off his paw and checked the dew claw. Fortunately it still seemed to be attached, so I didn’t have to rush him to the vet yet again.
It’s now Saturday afternoon. The bleeding seems to have stopped; hopefully we won’t have to visit the vet again, other than maybe to get his nails trimmed.
It’s been a very long couple of weeks. I can finally talk about his accident without crying, but I still feel awful when I see him try to climb stairs. And it would be nice if he’d stop doing things that make him bleed, at least until I have a little time to relax and breathe easy. Just for a little while. Please?
(Check the next post for an update.)