On the road to Gorham

On our way to dinner the other night, Groom and I had a very strange encounter. We were driving along Route 2, headed to dinner in Gorham, NH, for a late supper. I was gabbing away, blah blah blah blah blah blah BLAH BLAH blah blah blah, and watching the road because as well as being a loud and prolific talker, I am also a persistent and unwavering backseat driver.

In the distance, I saw what looked like two large eyes in the opposite lane. First thought, MOTHMAN! Second, more rational thought, dead animal with eyes open.

Getting closer, we could see it was a large animal. Groom didn’t say anything. I stopped talking. He didn’t slow down. I started to cry.

It was a black dog. For those of you who read this blog, you know Groom and I recently put our dog down. I don’t talk about it much. But, I think about our dog every day. I rely on the art of surface tension to keep from spilling over, like I’m carrying an ice-less glass of water filled to the brim. Eyes forward, firm grip, steady pace. One tiny bump in the road and we’re down.

Needless to say, but I’m going to say it anyway, a dead black dog in the middle of the road was going to be rough.

I have driven upon or witnessed many accidents and I have called 911 so many times, I think they’re going to put an injunction on my phone. (I have no idea if that language is correct. I recently started watching Drop Dead Diva and they throw that word around a lot. I know it means warning, but I’m not sure how to use it correctly.)

I once saw a car veer off I-95 near Newport, ME, at top speed and bounce/roll into a tree in the median. I witnessed a car on Route 1 just north of Bath cross the middle line, swerve toward me, and hit the car behind me head on. I saw a pickup truck careen off 295 just north of Portland and slam into the overpass during a somewhat mild but surprising early fall ice storm—that accident included sparks.

I once watched a guy on a new crotch-rocket jump onto Route 90 ahead of me in Warren just in time to smack a deer straight on. We were traveling over 55 mph, I can tell you that much, and the motorcycle literally disintegrated. I pulled over and ran the length of the debris, about the stretch of an 18-wheeler, all the while thinking “Do I remove his helmet, please don’t be gross and bloody, do I remove the helmet, please don’t be dead.”

By the time I got to the motorcycle driver, he was struggling to stand up. He looked down at the wreckage and gazed at me as I was saying in my least trembly voice, “Did you go unconscious? Who is the president of the United States?!” Finally, he looked down at his clothes and said, “Aawww… I’m all covered in deer shit. Gotta call my dad so he can bring me some clothes.” He flipped open his phone (see how I did that so you could estimate how long ago this story happened?), called his dad, then looked at me and said, “I gotta get to work!” So, he was fine. The deer? Not so much.

Groom for his part has been trained as a first responder and even carries latex gloves in the back of his truck. He has witnessed far worse than I have and he has nerves of steel–he is so steady that for the first 10 years we were together, I was convinced he was a psychopath or maybe even a serial killer. A lovable psychopath, sure, but honestly, not a squeamish or emotional bone in his body.

We saw this dog; I started crying; and Groom said, “It’s already dead. It’s dead. Should we turn around?”

Yes. The answer to that is an immediate yes. Pick up the dog. Find the owner.

But I wavered. A dead black dog in the middle of Route 2. Seriously? No. But yes. Of course. We had to stop. We went a much farther distance than I care to admit before we did stop and turn around.

Slowly we approached the animal. Cars were coming toward us from the opposite direction now, and I thought maybe they would stop—a completely selfish thought, but a dead black dog in the middle of the road six weeks after we put our beloved black lab to sleep? Really cosmos?

No cars stopped. They didn’t even flash their lights at us. If we didn’t know about the dog in the middle of the eastbound lane, we would have run him over. Someone hit this dog and continued driving, and other drivers saw this dog and passed it. What kinds of people live in this world? Has everyone recently put their dog down and are we all afraid of pressing the emotional bruise or are we a nation of assholes? Don’t answer that.

I told Groom I wouldn’t be able to look, so I stared at the floormat. He pulled over and opened his door. “It’s alive,” he said quietly.

I would love to say I jumped into action right then. Instead, I stalled. “Do we call 911? What do we do? Let’s bring him to the town hall.” I was useless. I had been at the Gilead town meeting earlier that night to support a friend who is running for office and knew the Gilead animal control officer was at the town hall, about 10 minutes from where we were, at that moment. Yes. We should drive to Gilead, I decided. We should have someone else deal with this.

I finally got out of the truck after Groom calmly told me to grab the flashlight he keeps in his center console. I flashed the light to ward off oncoming traffic as Groom lifted the dog into the back of the truck. “We don’t have time to grab the tarp.”

Quick refresh: Groom keeps a flashlight, latex gloves, and a tarp in his truck. Either I am married to the manliest man I could have found from suburban Boston or I am going to get called in for police questioning very soon.*

The dog had no collar. He was bleeding profusely from his mouth and was having real trouble with his back legs. But, his breathing wasn’t labored and he wasn’t shaking or acting out. Good signs. He was just sitting in the back seat staring at us. He was, without a doubt, one of the sweetest pups I have ever seen. Eyes wide open, full eye contact, trusting us to bring him home.

Groom knows someone who lives in that area and called to see whether he could identify the dog. We drove to various houses and knocked on doors. After a curt and understandably impatient, “We are not driving all the way to Gilead,” from Groom, I called the Oxford County animal control office. We pulled into driveways and drove down back roads as we waited for someone to call us back to identify the name and location of this super sweet gentle dog’s owner.

I began to realize we might be driving to the animal ER in Lewiston. I started to calculate whether we could take on the vet bills for this dog. I imagined the posts to Facebook and the flyers we would tack up around town.

And, just as I started to entertain the possibility we might be taking this dog home with us to recuperate on the couch with me while I lazily watched reruns of The Office on a rainy Sunday morning, the phone rang.

*No, seriously, Groom is not a serial killer.

UPDATE: The owners called Groom this morning with an update. The dog suffered a bad head wound and will have some teeth removed, but he is going to be okay.

Sarah Devlin

About Sarah Devlin

Sarah Devlin has been writing about the recreational industry since the late ’90s but ironically can’t run, swim, or bike a mile.