Cincinnati, four-year-old child, negligence, gorilla, barrier, moat, zoo officials…
Though face/book resonated with emotion, mostly indignation at the parent involved, after the recent event at the zoo in Cincinnati took place, I remained blissfully unaware. I had no reason to pay any attention because it did not relate to me.
It had nothing to do with me, that is, until the morning before last, when in a macabre series of unlikely events, I allowed my beloved pet, Dozer, to get run over by a truck and trailer. Whose fault was it?
|Dozer the dog|
Like the parent of the four-year-old who managed to get into the gorilla’s enclosure, I dropped the ball, even if only for a nanosecond. All the ball has to do is hit the ground for the damage to be done. In this case it was the length of time it would have taken to shovel two more scoops of compost into the back of my truck, and problem prevented.
Back in Ohio there naturally is ample room for debate: That the child indeed was rescued should be the main story, but many want to levy criticism at the parent for not being more alert, and allowing the tyke to wander into harm’s way in the first place. Regardless of the specifics, I must protest that of all the areas of concern upon which to focus, this one has the least merit.
I do not mean to imply that parents should not watch their offspring, or that those who make it a habit of being irresponsible shouldn't be held unaccountable, I just mean that criticizing a mom for what could have been only a moment’s lapse, is unfair.
As a parent of three sons I can only say that the job of raising a kid is impossible at best and absurd at worse. Having both Annie and me in the kitchen at the same time one fine winter’s morning back in the day, was not enough to prevent a practically newborn Lito from being pushed off the kitchen table by an older sibling. Accidentally, I am certain, or as accidentally as any nineteen-month-old does things.
Both Annie and I were within a stride of the action, and yet neither was able to prevent it from happening. Occupying the little bassinet on the table while lying on his back, the little dude fell face-first onto the floor while our hearts simply stopped.
Why the pillow was on the floor in the first place, we never figured out, but it served as a more than adequate cushion as Lito plopped directly onto it, ending up no more than scared out of his wits. Had there been no cushion, I can only imagine what the result would have been. It would have been ugly.
And I can only imagine the indignation others might have expressed at Annie’s and my “negligence.”
“Let me get this straight,” the nice Mendocino Sheriff might have responded. “You allowed one of your children to shove the baby off the table, without doing anything to prevent it? You are reprehensible slimeballs, aren’t you?”
As for Dozer I walk him every morning of his life that weather permits. Well, weather always permits, but the Doze does not “do” rain; something about being outside and getting all wet just does not appeal to the sensible little guy.
I do not allow Dozer outside the fenced-in-complex unless he is on a leash. Though he minds me quite well, there is always the possibility that something out of the ordinary may come along, as it has in the past, to distract him.
There was the time the wild boar chased us, or the time the bobcat attacked the fawn within a couple hundred feet of us, or the time the coyotes went sailing by, with Emma and Clancy in hot pursuit. I mean, these are “normal” occurrences in the country that I may have foreseen, but did not.
I do not know the specifics of the incident in Cincinnati; I do not know what distracted the mother. Frankly, I don’t care. Life happens, moms get distracted and kids will pick that instant to find a way to get into mischief.
In my case it was six o’clock in the morning and no one was around. I was shoveling sixty scoops of compost into the back of my little pickup; the vehicle was situated between me and the road. I was on a roll, my right shoulder cooperating just enough to get the job done, even if it protested mightily the last ten or so scoops.
I was approaching the completion of the task, I had music blasting in my ears from headphones, I was aware of an approaching vehicle emitting the telltales signs of a trailer being towed, and I could hear barking. If I had been pressed at the moment, I am certain that I would have thought that the barking was coming from Emma. I did not realize that Dozer was also barking.
I had allowed him to simply wander in the early morning stillness, since the territory was familiar and there was no one around, and I had drifted into automatic-pilot mode. I didn’t focus on the sound of the approaching truck and I did not focus on the leash sitting on the passenger seat. I was consumed by numbers 59 and 60 in my pursuit of compost.
Over the din of the barking, I hollered out, “Good girl, Emma. Thank you for letting us know that company is coming through,” and having deposited that sixtieth shovelful of compost into the bed of my pickup, headed directly past my truck out to the road to see if I could calm her down.
I never thought about Dozer; for me he did not exist at that moment. I thought only of the inconvenience my neighbor may have been experiencing from having a barking dog impede his progress.
The truck suddenly stopped and the driver got out for an unknown reason. He was conversing with the passenger and had just asked, “Did I hit him?”
It was the “him” part that alarmed me.
“Him?” I repeated inanely. It was not computing; Emma is not a him.
“Nooooooooooo!” The intensity of my response shocked even me. Comprehension dawned and reality set in.
Dozer looked OK. He did not show any outward sign that there was a problem but something had made the driver know. When I called for the dog, he was able to walk the dozen or so steps to me, and I took that as a good sign.
Relief flowed over me and I told the driver that I would take care of things and that he should proceed on his way. When he expressed regret at the incident, I hastened to assure him that it was my bad, that Dozer was normally on the leash and that he was just not car-savvy.
“No worries,” was what I said because it is not the responsibility of those operating a motor vehicle to dodge critters. It is up to dog owners to leash their dogs. As mortified as I was over the whole thing, levying criticism at a neighbor because of my shortcomings, was not the way to go.
I feel the same way about the mom in Cincinnati. Unless there is evidence to indicate that irresponsible behavior was involved, she can’t be held accountable for the dastardly deed of being human.
Nor do I want to be held accountable for my unforgivable lapse of attention the other morning. I went with Annie to Willits, where that nice Dr. Jacobs did everything he could to make things right. There is road rash, ripped pads, lacerations and bruising, but there is a live dog. Sedated, no appetite, accusing stare, but alive and recovering.
“It only takes a second,” Dr. Jacobs sympathized, restraining the impulse to chastise me for being such an irresponsible owner as to allow my dog to get hit.
I don’t care who you are or what the circumstances are, stuff happens in life that is unfair and that’s the way of it. If you are lucky, as I am, you learn from your mistakes and there is no loss of life. Dozer belongs on a leash when I take him out and there is no excuse for not doing so.
Maybe that parent in Cincinnati should consider putting her kid on a leash too.