Maggie, the family dog, was hit by a car yesterday.
The kids and I left for the store to pick up cornstarch for a nectarine cobbler Denette was making. Maggie was out of the yard and as I drove down the dirt road to the main road she started to follow. I stopped, got out, and told her in no uncertain terms to go home. My verbal remonstrations have worked in the past. Apparently not this time.
We don’t get many people out where we live, so Denette was startled by a sharp knock on the door as she was cutting zucchini for dinner. Two women and one man stood on the porch, breathing hard. The man held a license plate in his hand.
One of the women assumed the role of spokesperson; her eyes wide, she told Denette that someone had just hit what looked like a black lab with white boots and a white tip on it’s tail—a perfect description of Maggie. She said the car had hit the dog pretty hard. After the impact the had dig picked itself up and limped down the dirt road. The woman and her passengers jumped out of their car and followed it, watching it disappear into the trees along the stream adjacent to our house.
They wished Denette luck and went back to their car.
As the kids and I turned back down the road I could see Denette pacing over by the stream, obviously looking for something.
Look, guys, I said, is that your mom? What is she doing? We laughed and joked about how crazy she is.
What are you doing, crazy lady, I said, as we pulled up.
She told we with tears in her eyes.
Logan immediately began to cry. He is my sensitive one: loss is particularly hard for him to take. Kaia followed her brother’s lead. I told them that hope was not lost yet, that Maggie might have hidden somewhere nearby to nurse her wounds and heal. Dogs do that, I said.
But I didn’t think that was the case this time.
We searched for an hour, calling her name and tromping through undergrowth, yet we found nothing. No sign whatsoever. It was as though Maggie had ceased to exist.
Over dinner we talked about different topics to keep the kids’ minds off of Maggie, but Denette was distracted and kept looking out the window. When she looked back at me I mouthed to her, Maggie’s gone. She nodded at me, but I could see she didn’t fully accept it.
Later that evening, as I caught up on work, I heard Denette open the front door and start calling for Maggie. I joined her. And as soon as I called out, I heard a response. Or at least I thought I did: a faint sound of leaves rustling. I swung the flashlight toward the sound, my heart beating faster—I was trepidatious about what kind of shape Maggie would be in if we found her: it might be just to let her die in more comfort.
But we didn’t find her. We called and searched to no avail. Eventually, the responses stopped. It could have been that they were figments of my wishful thinking the whole time. As I began to lose hope I was struck by the eeriness of our endeavor: I was searching for an being that that had lost its being-ness; what remained was an artifact; we were, in effect, mouthing a lamentation.
Finally, we headed in. We sat down before the tv, maintaining a conscious silence.
Then Denette said, Do you hear that? I swear I heard something thumping on the front porch.
Better go check, I said.
Oh my god, it’s Maggie, Samson.
It certainly was—covered in leaves and road rash with a badly bruised hip—and when I opened the screen door she simply lay down across the threshold and sighed. Then she wagged her tail.
I think she’ll be fine. Me, not so much. I’m already itching from a new case of poison oak I “found” while tromping through the brush. Maggie is never leaving the back yard again. Ever.