I had to do something.
RHODES, Greece- There were five German Shepherds behind the gate in front of the house at the end of my street. I know this because whenever I would walk by they would all run out to bark and me and my daughters, who would try to count them all.
This afternoon I was walking back from a beer run and I saw two of those German Shepherds run out in front of me. My first thought was a safety check: are they going to get me? But it was immediately apparent that they had better things to do. So I began diagnosing the situation. I had only been here for around a week but I knew that this wasn’t normal. I looked for their owner. She wasn’t around. It was clear that they had escaped.
So I made to go and inform their owner. But as I turned to go down our street I heard that particular, telltale crunch of plastic — one of the most violent sounds of our era — that could only mean one thing:
Something got hit by a car.
As I flung my head around I knew exactly what I was going to find. Unfortunately, I was not surprised.
Laying stiff in a clump on the side of the road was one of the German Shepherds.
I then expected to hear the sound of brakes and the flashing of red lights. But this didn’t happen. The car that hit it — a gray station wagon — sped down the road leading out of town without so much as a pump of the brakes.
I was left there all by myself standing right across the street from the dog. It wasn’t moving, it wasn’t yelping, it appeared completely dead. The other dog ran over and sniffed it for a moment before running off again, leaving me to stand there thinking of what I should do next.
I was in a situation that a traveler rarely experiences: I had a social responsibility to do something. There was nobody else around. Nobody other than the driver who ran the dog over even knew what had happened. I had to do something.
Things like this are usually better left to the locals. The traveler is just a momentary apparition, manifesting like a gust of wind before disappearing again. When in these situations I usual Shanghai the nearest local and say, “Hey, you need to take care of this.” But there was nobody around to dump this on. The responsibility was mine and mine alone.
I had to step into the scene as a player rather than an observer.
So I walked up to the gate that the dogs had escaped from. Their owner was standing just behind it — a fit and stylish 40-something woman in big sunglasses wearing what appeared to be the bottom half of a police uniform. She flashed me a ‘what the fuck are you doing here?’ kind of look as I approached and it became immediately apparent that she had no idea what was going on.
“Your dogs,” I spoke.
“Oh my god, are they out!?!” she interjected in a slight panic.
“Yes, and one of them was hit by a car.”
She brought her hands up to her mouth as trauma set in.
She asked me to stay with her. We walked back to the dog together. She froze when she saw it laying there and wailed. It looked as dead as any other roadkill — a mound of fur in a ditch.
We walked over and knelt above the apparently lifeless body. The lady cried. I din’t know what to do but hover there dumbly hoping that it would just come back to life.
Then something interesting happened: the dog suddenly opened its eyes and tried to lift its head.
“She’s still alive!” the woman proclaimed.
There was hope.
Her husband and friends soon arrived and the dog was loaded into the back of a van.
I saw the lady the next day as I was walking to the market to get beer. She was picking her two girls up from school and smiled really big at me when she saw me approaching.
“How’s the dog?” I asked with a touch of hesitation, not really wanting to hear what she was going to say.
It was my impression that the car struck the dogs head and that it was probably dead.
“She’s really good now!” she surprised me.
Apparently, the dog just had a broken leg and was going to be fine.
Later that night the lady dropped a bottle of wine off at my house as a thank you.
When I told my wife that the dog was going to be alright her reaction was not what I expected. Her eyes suddenly got watery, her cheeks contorted, and her lips quivered.
“You saved its life,” she squeaked as tears began flowing.
Apparently, she didn’t think I had it in me to do something like this.