I am a good walker. It took some training, and although he's still not perfect, Duncan has come a long way from the days when he pulled so hard on his leash, dragging Ken and I down the sidewalks past the perfectly manicured lawns and Disney-esque neighborhood of Stapleton where we lived, reaching so far forward that he practically laid down on the sidewalk, choking and sputtering as he went. Now he wanders a little ahead of me, pulling only slightly and minding me when I tell him to leave it when he's investigated the same blade of grass for five minutes. I have trained him to stop at my side before we cross the street, even if only by bribing him with pumpkin cookies. But no matter how mindful and vigilant I am I constantly remind myself that accidents do happen.
This morning on the way to work, tired after another long sleepless night of staring at the pillow or the Picasso hanging on the wall across from my bed, I finally jolted fully awake––not by my shower or my morning walk with Roo, or even the slow drive across Denver––by the sight of three fire trucks stopped in the middle of the road. They'd pulled over in a half circle directly behind a Subaru, which had skidded to a stop along the edge of the sidewalk. Their lights flashed brightly even in the summer sun. A small crowd had gathered on the sidewalk and as I steered slowly and cautiously around them, I glanced over to see a beautiful chocolate lab laying in the street only inches from the curb, a gang of fireman standing around him looking down on his body, discussing what should be done. It was only a brief glance but long enough to see the poor boy twitch and heave, his leg shiver and his chest rise and fall in big, heaving gasps. And worst of all, standing over him his human companion, sobbing hysterically, the leash still clutched in her tight fist, its other end still fastened to his collar. I gasped and looked away, my eyes stinging with tears. I have seen that image every time my eyes have closed today, behind each and every blink.
Accidents happen, I've told myself a thousand times today. Accidents happen. But still, tonight as we crossed the six lanes of Bowles on our way to the park, we stood a long time, Duncan at my side waiting for the okay to cross, waiting for every single car to pass before we stepped out into the street. Each step we took was precious but guarded and there has not been a moment since I walked in the door that I have not silently thanked The Universe for his life and whispered pleas that we are together a very long time, and then when we do part it is not with violence and pain, but silence and peace.
Please, do not let the accidents happen to us. Please keep me a good papa to a good dog.