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.