When a dog gets hit by a car

February 25, 2011

My dog got hit by a car today. We were crossing a street. Both directions were totally clear, no sight of a car even in distance. Then a woman driver in a SUV drove out of a driveway, not looking in front of her at all. As I saw her SUV coming towards us, it was like a slow-motion video—I shouted, “Stop, stop, stop!”

She of course couldn’t hear me behind closed windows, maybe with music blasting. She hit my dog, Valentino. I named him Valentino because I adopted him close to Valentine’s Day 11 years ago when he was just about a year old.

Valentino twitched in the air and landed on his back. It was the worst sight for anyone who loves his/her dog. He was hit on his lower back and possibly the side of his abdomen.

I did not know what to fear. He is 12 years old with arthritis. I feared he may not walk again. I feared he had internal bleeding. It was horrifying. But he could stand up, so I called my friend, and he picked us up. I called my (or my dog’s) veterinarian to coach me through what I had to watch for and what would be a cue for me to rush him to an ER.

Valentino is peacefully resting right next to me now, so I’m counting on him to be ok by tomorrow. I think in a way I was in a worse shape than he because upon arrival at home, the thought of how much worse it could have been made me vomit, and I’ve been sitting next to him on the floor for the past 7 hours straight. I just got up to type this experience, so that I can clearly depict this event while it’s still raw in my mind.

The driver at least pulled over, as there were many cars stopped around us. She said she was sorry, but immediately accused me of J-walking because I was crossing the street, not in an intersection. But it was in a residential area, so that wouldn’t have justified her hitting my dog. In fact, she was lucky that it was my dog whom she hit instead of me because unlike in NY, she’d be at fault In California even if she hit a J-walker, and I was 3 inches away from her SUV when it came to halt.

It was raining. I was in shock. I did not have much to say. She claimed, “What else do you want me to do!? I already said I’m sorry!” I got it—she wanted me to let her go. So I told her she could leave because she meant nothing to me at that point.

The law sees Valentino as “property,” so she wouldn’t even get a ticket. I only hope that her reckless driving skills will not kill someone in the future. For that, citing her would have been a good thing for everybody because she would be on notice and become more careful the next time.

What really made it worse was that all she cared was her rights, in case I sued her. When I asked her how fast she thought she was driving, because I wanted to assess the level of impact to determine if I had to take Valentino to an ER, she rolled her eyes and blamed me for J-walking.

Yes, we live in the sue-happy city of Los Angeles, but before you get worried about that, please have compassion. Please be a human first.

Valentino’s veterinarian said he should be out of the woods by tomorrow but I should closely watch him. Someone said that he loved his dog more than life. People ridiculed it, but having seen my dog possibly die in front of my own eyes made his notion resonate with me.

I’ll be by his side all night, and I trust he’ll be his-wonderful-self tomorrow.

Marie Atake is Founder & President of Forte Animal Rescue and a former Commissioner on the Board of L.A. Animal Services.