In the absence of feathers

It wasn’t an alarming sound — more sensation than a sound. The dull ga-gunk of my tire informed me I’d run over something.

It was 8 a.m. on Kawaihau Road. It was a Monday. I wasn’t rushing. I wasn’t on the phone. Looking into my rearview mirror I saw a flutter of movement on the road. The absence of feathers told me it was not a chicken.

I turned my car around and drove back. I parked across from him. His body lay across the yellow center line. He had entered at the middle of my car and that’s why I never saw him. He was brown and white. He had gray whiskers on his muzzle. He wore a faded red collar and the pool of blood grew around his head.

I stood over him crying. Cars came from both directions. I waved my arms to stop traffic and ran back to my car for a beach towel. A woman jumped from her truck to come to me in the road and all I could repeat was, “I just killed someone’s dog.”

I lifted his body from the road and wrapped him in the towel. I placed him near a hedge and stroked his head apologizing, while the rest of life quivered from his body. Then I unbuckled his collar. There was a little, yellow plastic heart with very small writing on it. I called the number and was delivered into voice mail. I blubbered a hysterical message into the receiver.

Driving up the highway my phone rang. It was a man’s voice. He said it was his daughter’s dog and he’d just let him out the back door.

He must not have understood my message because I could tell he didn’t know what happened. I told him I was on my way to work. I described where his dog lay. I could tell he was on the road now looking.

As he walked he said, “I see the blue towel,” followed by, “he knows he’s not supposed to cross the street.” And then: “Oh my God, he’s dead. Oh my God.” Click.

After work I bought flowers to leave on the spot where I’d left his body. Within a day or two, my remorse turned to anger. I asked myself, how does a dog know not to cross a street? Why do people think their dogs are that smart? Why don’t people protect the things they love?

What prompted this column was a letter to the editor on Nov. 9, titled “Protect your doggies,” from Rene Young of Kalaheo. Rene called them “free-range dogs” and wrote about how often she sees them running  loose in her neighborhood. Her concern: “… how dangerous it is to have your dog wandering the street … I worry for these dogs’ safety … I want to encourage the people of my street to keep your dog in your protection.”

Enough said.

• Pam Woolway is the lifestyle writer at The Garden Island. Her column “Being there” appears every other week.

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