Tuesday evening was a sad day for my neighbors, whose dog Waffles tragically lost its life when he darted out in front of an SUV on Old Mammoth Rd. across from Aspen Village. I’m sure your first reaction is, “Why wasn’t he on a leash?” Valid question. I’ll get to that shortly. First, however, I want to point out that I really like my neighbors. Like many of us, they’re textbook examples of hard-working everyday folk trying to make it in Mammoth Lakes. And they loved their dog. Still something of a puppy (he turned one on Tuesday), he was so full of the joy that comes with a rescue dog who’s got a good home and knows it. Friendly, lovable … you couldn’t ask for a better dog. He and my own dog played together frequently. They played together Tuesday afternoon, and were chasing each other only minutes before.
What happened was an accident. My neighbor’s dog saw some of his other friends in his apartment complex returning from a walk with their owner, and wanted to cross the street and say hello. He had done the same thing to me and my dog a short time earlier. Both my neighbor’s dog and admittedly my own weren’t leashed. I can’t speak for my neighbor, but I always knew in my heart of hearts that I was taking a chance letting my dog off leash, even for a few minutes of play time. Tuesday night changed my thinking on all that, and at a very high price, one I (and I’m sure my neighbor) hope you reading this never have to pay.
After the tragedy, several of us who are all dog owners waited for my neighbors to return from the vet hospital. One of them mentioned that we should all rethink putting a leash on our dogs more often, given that we all basically live right on Old Mammoth Rd. That made me think of things we all think, but have too long gone unsaid, that may keep pets and people safer.
Leashes are the most obvious. In town, there are leash laws just about everywhere. Private property may be different, but even so, residential streets still host automobile and other traffic, bicycles included. On the section of Old Mammoth Rd. where Tuesday’s tragedy took place, the speed limit is 25 miles per hour, but it’s not unusual to see motorists going as fast as 50, 60 or more miles per hour.
The person in the SUV that was involved in the incident with my neighbor’s dog didn’t appear to be speeding, and if he was, it certainly wasn’t by much.
My neighbor and I both made the mistake of not keeping our dogs on leashes. Mine was lucky, this time … his wasn’t. Many of us, more than perhaps would ever admit to it, are all guilty of treating our town as if it were an open range and letting our dogs wander streets and neighborhoods untethered. I witnessed first-hand what can happen when that lax attitude leads to something gone horribly wrong. I feel for my neighbor’s loss in many ways, and can only imagine how I’d feel if it were my dog that had been hit or both dogs had been lost.
That brings us to what motorists can do to help. Watching what’s going on around you and NOT SPEEDING would be a great start. In many of these areas, kids are playing, dogs are being walked. Keep an eye on the roadsides. Stop texting and cell chatting. AND SLOW DOWN. That goes for pets and people. One of my other neighbors has been injured TWICE by careless motorists while using Main Street crosswalks.
Lastly, hitting a dog is a terrible experience for drivers, but in case (God forbid) it should happen to you: HELP THE DOG AND THE OWNER. The owner will be freaked, you’ll be freaked, but do what you can to assist. Help divert traffic, and be ready to help take the owner and the dog to the nearest animal hospital or vet if at all possible.
Nothing can bring back my neighbor’s dog, but perhaps that big, lovable, great example of all we love about dogs (Waffles) can teach us some hard lessons about changing our lifestyles. Maybe he’s telling us that too many of us (me included) have been too complacent for too long.