My Neighbor Indicates That He Embraces The Golden Rule. I’m Keeping My Fingers Crossed…

Spuds head small

Spuds is keeping his toes crossed.

After sunset, four neighbors with puppies of varying ages and sizes have been gathering in the field near my house to let the adorable little dears run free. They are all inordinately fond of Spuds, who isn’t a puppy but acts like one, and I often let him run around and wrestle with the younger dogs on his leash. (Spuds is a constant risk to gallop off to meet any child, dog or human who appears in the distance, so I let him run free rarely.) This week, two of the puppies ran up to greet him as I tried to sneak past the pack on our evening walk, and after Spuds started crying pitifully, I gave in and allowed him to join the group.

It was cold and dark, and the likelihood of anyone tempting Spuds by showing up on the horizon was minimal, so I relented and let him run with his pals, off the leash. They were a sight to see, tearing around the field. One puppy, a hound named Vinnie, was a particularly lively instigator: earlier, while eluding a puppy he had incited, Vinnie ran full speed into my knee, causing him (not me) to yelp. You have to be wary when a pack of pups is having fun.

Suddenly I saw that Vinnie was coming at us again at mach speed, with Spuds galloping right behind. They veered a bit away from me and at one of the owners of the lively Belgian Shepherd puppy. I shouted to her, “Watch out!” but in vain: she stepped aside to avoid Vinnie, but right into Spuds. He tried to avoid her, but his 70 pound-pus body slammed into her leg, and she went down writhing in pain. We had to call the EMT’s to get her off the field and to a hospital.

While she was lying on the field, waiting, Spuds slowly crawled over to her on his belly, and pushed up against her, gently licking her face and hand.

I profusely apologized to her husband—the couple has lived next door to us for 30 years—as she was wheeled off into the ambulance. “It’s not anyone’s fault,” he said, dismissively. “It could have been anyone, and anyone’s dog. I was flipped just a week ago; luckily, my artificial knees were OK. Don’t worry about it.”

The next day, I stopped by his house to find out what the X-rays had revealed. Spuds’ accidental victim has a broken tibia, and is looking at at least six weeks to recover.

My wife is certain that regardless of what my neighbor says now, we will be sued. All that needs to happen, she says, is for an enterprising lawyer to get their ear before the statute of limitation runs out.

Really? I wouldn’t sue a neighbor and fellow dog owner over an episode like that. As much as we hear about how litigious Americans are, many do not believe in suing friends and neighbors, or even strangers, when “There but the grace of God go I” is resounding in their heads. Danny Kaye, hardly the epitome of a good Christian, refused to sue the heart surgeon or the hospital when a heart bypass operation gave him a fatal case of hepatitis from a tainted blood transfusion. Arthur Ashe, also killed by bad blood after a heart procedure, wouldn’t sue the same people who had kept him alive for years. A musician friend of mine lost part of his hearing as a consequence of a botched operation to treat Bell’s Palsy. He wouldn’t sue because, he said, it was “an honest” mistake.

There were five witnesses to the dog-human collision besides me. All of them agreed that it was just an unlucky accident that could have involved any of the dog owners and any of the dogs. Right now, the Golden Rule is dominating everyone’s thinking.

Let’s see if it holds.

9 thoughts on “My Neighbor Indicates That He Embraces The Golden Rule. I’m Keeping My Fingers Crossed…

  1. My main concern would be that insurance might want to sue you. Some policies essentially have a clause that they are allowed to do that if they’re paying for treatment and that they may not cover the incident if the insured does not cooperate. Given this was an ER visit we are looking at thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. The questions are: will they try to compel your neighbors? And, will they hold their ground in the face of a large monetary denial?

    This echoes my impressions from the “aunt sues nephew” episode. I strongly suspect there was no in-family animosity there and it was all a legal dance to avoid insurance denying a claim.

  2. I would offer that yourmoat likely source of a suit would be the “Medical Care-Health Insurance Complex”. The care end that treated her will be compensated at a lesser than MSRP rate by the insurance end. That leaves the medical folk to find some place to recoup the short-fall; the insurance folk would like to recover what they paid.

    I narrowly escaped such a scenario when the saddling of horses was interrupted by a cat that wanted to ride and hopped onto the back of a horse. the ensuing commotion left my wife with a badly damaged arm (only soft-tissue, thankfully) and at the ER there was much inquiry about “during employment” and where it happened. Since it happened at our home there was no insurance issue. Had it happened elsewhere that property owner’s insurance would have been hit by the hospital to recover care costs. They said it was a “standard practice”.

    Hopefully the Golden Rule will stand its ground.

    Is Spuds OK?

  3. Huge hugs to you, Spuds, and your sweet neighbor. Praying that she recovers fully and more quickly than expected, and that there won’t be any legal repercussions.

    It was clearly an accident, and while a broken tibia is a painful annoyance, it’s not a permanent issue, disfigurement, or life-changing/threatening injury.

    And that’s the sort of conflict The Golden Rule helps us sort out.

  4. I have a bad knee dating back to high school basketball. All our dogs have timed out and not been replaced. At 70, putting dogs down is just too hard. But we were in Amsterdam for three years a few years ago and I took our miniature dachshunds to the dog park regularly. Whenever any dogs were running around at speed, I’d simply get down on my knees. Same with my son’s super fast German pointer mix. If Otto wanted to dive bomb me and the dachshunds at full speed for fun when we were out for a walk on the golf course, I’d simply drop down on my knees. Other than veering, Otto had no way to avoid a collision. My advice is that when dogs are rollicking, get down on your knees so they, your knees, don’t get taken out. Getting bowled over is much less a serious threat and you can protect yourself with your arms. Legs are exposed.

  5. I’m no lawyer, but I think your neighbour assumed the risk by engaging in the obviously dangerous activity of “standing around chatting while dogs are frolicking nearby”.

  6. I think your wife has a good point, that there is at least the risk of legal action. As noted above, the medical folks are going to want to get their money, the insurance company for the injured is not going to want to get stuck with the bills, and the injured party may have second thoughts when they get billed for deductibles and co-pays which can be hefty. Then there’s that pesky leash law thing in Alexandria. Don’t know about VA, but in Fla, injury plaintiff lawyers are annoyingly prevalent on TV and promising the kind of gold that can dim the golden rule. Your neighbor may go with the golden rule with regard to the pain and suffering, but that rule probably should work in the opposite direction as well, at least with regard to the monetary costs.

    • My initial assumptions are being borne out as I consult various colleagues, as well as the witnesses and other dog owners. This is assumption of the risk, all the way. It’s in the dark, we all know dogs, we all know dogs run into us while playing. Everyone is at risk of getting hurt. This was just unusually severe.

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