If only I’d have taken Hellberg Avenue instead of Hillcrest Avenue.
If only I’d have waited five minutes later before lacing up my shoes and getting the dog leash off the counter.
If only I’d have held that leash and that dog tight by my side…
Mondays for me, have always been a favorite day. A day of beginnings – “start the diet on Monday” – “start writing a new book on Monday” – “start working out on Monday” – but on Monday, the 26th of September, it was a day for endings.
Almost every day I walk my dog Diablo – a crazy energetic loving Australian Cattle Dog with the softest coat of fur you’ve ever felt in your life. We walk for at least 60 minutes. I change up our route, but I’m sure everyone who lives by us in Chalfont has seen us pass by them at one point or another in the last 4 years. Diablo even got me kicked out of Manhattan Bagel – I used to stop in for a morning bagel and I’d bring Diablo in – it was only for a few minutes – and one employee chastised me in front of everyone in the store! A year later however, the owner approached me and apologized and said Diablo and I were welcome at any time. Because seriously, he knew how awesome Diablo was.
Almost every day we walked to North Branch Park, and if no other dogs were around, I’d let Diablo off leash and he’d roll in the big mud puddles, he’d swim in the creek, he loved to run but would always turn around once he got too far away and he’d run right back to me.
My family has many crazy memories of Diablo – me jumping in the creek to save him, Diablo running so fast, he ran sideswiped my legs and knocked me to the ground. Diablo biting another dog at North Branch Park –who happened to be a police K9 – who happened to be a police K9 who works with the same department John & Thor work for! It was an oddly random surreal incident – as we had never encountered Ed and Bo at the park before that day. There was Diablo jumping out of the car when we were driving! There was the time I went to a vet clinic to get him his rabies shot and he again, knocked me over and I landed, in front of about 100 people waiting in a long line, on my ass and hurt my coccyx bone. It literally took about 4 months to heal. And when John and I came back from Australia – Diablo was fine when we brought him home from the kennel, but then the next day – he was limping so bad he couldn’t walk. John thought we should rush him to the vet and I said, “How could he have gotten hurt? He was fine yesterday! Running and jumping. Fine last night. Let’s just wait.” Then at 5 pm the pizza delivery guy rings the doorbell, and Diablo, smelling a stranger with food, miraculously is healed and runs to the door, jumping up to greet the stranger. His injury had been an act – a big “FK You” for leaving me for 9 days! Yep, that’s our Diablo.
Diablo was afraid of paper. When I sat at my desk filing papers or I took down a binder full of notes about the book I was working on, he would run out of the room and up the stairs. Maybe to him the rattling of paper was like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.
And of course, he always tried to attack the vacuum cleaner. A dog ‘therapist’ whom I met at a party once told me that dogs attack the vacuum because the dog thinks the vacuum is attacking the person vacuuming – therefore he is trying to protect me. I don’t know, I just think it’s because Diablo was crazy like that.
He also tried to attack cars. Not often, but there have been a few times in the last four years where we’d be walking and all of a sudden, he pulls at the leash and tries to lunge at a car. So, usually, when I’m walking with him along Limekiln pike, close to the road, I have the leash shored up to keep him tight by my side.
And this is where it all went wrong on Monday morning.
We were waiting to cross Hillcrest and Limekiln pike. There isn’t a sidewalk there, so you have to stand on the side of the road, but there’s a small shoulder.
Diablo and I have a routine downpat. When it comes time to cross the road I say “Wait,” and he sits and looks up at me. Then when it’s clear, I say, “Go!” and we run across the street - actually – usually it’s him pulling me across the street.
Diablo sat and looked at me. Some cars drove by. And then a large dump truck – the kind with wheels as tall as I am roared by.
It happened in a split second.
Diablo lunged at the truck, trying to attack the wheels. Look Diablo, you’re a crazy tough mother fucker, but you’re not gonna win, little D.
He was thrown back to the side of the road. Or maybe I pulled the leash to bring him back. I don’t remember.
I do remember that he started seizing and blood was everywhere.
I lost it. Crying. Panicking. I thought he was dying right before my eyes. And, in essence, he was. People stopped to help.
And some kind old man who was trying to tell me Diablo had just bit his tongue.
I remember sobbing, “Won’t someone please just help me. Please take us to the vet.” I said it over and over because it seemed like forever.
And then Diablo got up! He ran away! He was alive. And running! 2 people offered take us to the vet. I ended up going with Ian, because he had put the floormats on the seat of his car and even though I was sick about Diablo, I was worried about getting blood all over a stranger’s car.
Diablo seemed almost ok. Ian drove me down the street to my house. I quickly gave him stuff to clean out his car and then rushed Diablo to the vet.
John had been working but thank god they let him leave and come home after I called to tell him about the accident. I was so appreciative to have him there. I couldn’t imagine being alone.
The vet told us Diablo had suffered terrible damage to his head. Though they felt they could fix him, it would take much time, much money, many visits to the vet (Diablo HATES the vet), there were no guarantees, and his quality of life would be compromised.
We made the decision to send him to that great big bacon boneyard in the sky. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.
They brought him in, he was full of muscle relaxers so he laid on a towel on the floor, and John and I cried as we told him how much we loved him, how much Katie loved him, how we would miss him, how much joy he brought to us in the last 4 years. I got on the floor and lay beside him, his breathing slowed as we talked to him – he knew we were there.
And then the vet injected him and we watched as his chest rose and fell for the last time.
It. Was. Just. Heartbreaking.
John and I sat outside the rest of the day, drinking wine and beer (John) and cranberry whisky (me) and talking about Diablo until the sky grew dark and our eyes were red from endless tears and our chests hurt from laughing at Diablo’s funny moments and from crying because of heartache.
At the vet, I requested to take home his leash and slept with it curled up in my hand close to my heart.
I know, I know, he’s just ‘a dog’ to some people, but to us, to people who treasure their pets, they will understand why, 2 days later, I still can’t stop crying.
And I can’t stop thinking – if I’d have taken a different route – if I’d have waiting one minute later to leave the house – if I’d have held that leash and kept Diablo right by side – and that’s the lesson in there. If I can save just one pet – if someone reads this and remembers this story and makes sure to have their dog firmly by their side when crossing a road – well, some good might come out of this heartbreak.
Diablo, there is an emptiness in the house and in our hearts – no one could ever replace you. You were amazing and funny and my best friend always by my side for 4 years. I am so sorry I let you down. I would give anything, anything, to re-live that morning – I’d give anything to have a ‘do over.’
I do know though, that you had an incredible 4 years of walks, runs, swimming, Frisbee catching, bike riding, bacon, and belly rubs.
Thank you for bringing so much happiness to our lives. We love you and miss you and there will never, ever, be another Diablo. I’d say Rest In Peace, but knowing Diablo, I’ll have to say, “Run Forever In The Sunshine, Our Little Devil Dog.”