How did people react when Joey got hit by the car?
I never was able to tell my parents the actual story of how I was hit. So how did they find out the details?
Humans like to talk so, naturally, following my accident, there had been a lot of buzz in our neighborhood amongst dog owners and dog lovers that a dog had gotten hit by a car. Many of these people were shaken up. They didn’t know if “the dog” had died or had survived. Nobody put it together that I was the dog that had been hit. They said it was a brown dog (that would describe me), a large brown dog (that would definitely describe me), but when my favorite mail carrier suggested that it was me, Joey, the chocolate Labrador Retriever, people said “No, No, it wasn’t a Lab”.
Within a few days of my returning home, when my parents started taking me for walks up and down the block and people saw my wounds and my bandages, they starting putting two and two together that it was me who had been run over. People who my parents talked to said that there had been witnesses to the accident. Our mail carrier knew one of the witnesses and told us where this person lived. One day my parents went over to this person’s house.
She had been the person who reached out to grab me to keep me away from the other dogs who I wanted to play with. She had heard my scream and had been haunted by it for days; she had been thinking about me and hearing my scream in her mind over and over for days. Because I ran off, nobody knew whether I had survived; she and several others feared that I had not.
When my parents talked to her, to her great relief, they told her that I had survived.
However, they didn’t tell her that I had survived to write about it!
Is it ever okay to approach a dog that we do not know? What is a dog’s instinctive response when we approach him? How can we protect a dog that we see is playing near traffic?
A few days ago Jane was talking to a young man named Steve who asked that question, “How did he get hit by a car?” When Steve was younger, he too had seen a dog off-leash and near traffic and, worried that the dog might get hit by a car, had walked toward that dog to try to grab her by her collar to bring her home. That dog too, like me, had run in exactly the opposite direction from the approaching person and had run, just like me, into the street. That’s what we dogs generally do.
I was luckier than that dog. That dog died. And for years after that, Steve felt badly. Even as he was telling my Mom about it, his voice trailed off as he seemed to contemplate the scene, saying, ‘I felt badly about it.”
But one thing is for sure: We dogs don’t like it when people whom we do not know approach us, especially if they approach us suddenly and if our owner is not there to tell us that this person is “okay”. This is the case even if the person approaches us in order protect us, as happened in my situation and in Steve’s situation. Our dog instinct is to run away from this person which, sadly and unfortunately, may mean that we run right into exactly what the person is trying to protect us from: in this case, into the traffic. We dogs perceive the person – though a good person with good intentions – as a threat, and ignore the danger of the traffic.
Steve said that the best thing to do if a person sees an off-leash dog that is about to run into traffic is to stand still and firmly say “Come” to the dog, and it’s even better if you can get a bone or some treat to entice us to come to you. Also, everybody else should move away from the off-leash dog, further away from traffic. Nobody’s asking me, but I’d say that Steve has it right. Especially the part about offering us a treat.
So I guess the answer to the question is: Don’t approach a dog that you don’t know if the dog’s owner is not there with the dog – even if you are trying to help the dog.