Monday, November 12, 2007

The worst day ever.

My mother, the Phone Harpy Who I Love Very Very Much, has no appreciation for the skill and subtleties of a good storyteller. Which is to say, she does NOT like tension or fictional creeping dread in any movies or TV shows. She’s been known to bolt the room during an ER rerun on TNT.

And while she reads mysteries from the library and doesn’t skip to the last page, or listen to a James Patterson book on tape and not fast forward to the last chapter during a grisly murder scene, when I try to tell her anything about what’s going on in my life and it contains the merest sliver of Bad News, she immediately cuts to the chase, “But you’re okay, right?” “But the car still runs, right?” “But the house didn’t burn down during the fires, right?” “But you still have health insurance, right?” She doesn’t want to know about the How of the situation, it’s too traumatic to listen to the logical progression of What, When, and Why, she wants to hit the Epilogue five seconds into the telling. I try to tell myself that this is just how she is, and it doesn’t mean she doesn’t care, it simply means she’s got some kind of delicate Mom condition, and while I had to live out the Bad News, it doesn’t mean she has to hear about it.

So Mom, print this out for Dad, whose issue is that he doesn’t know how to work the computer like the rest of the world. And should you choose to keep reading, know this, and keep it first and foremost in your head during the rest of this entry: THE DOG IS OKAY. THE DOG IS OKAY. FROM EVERYTHING I’VE GATHERED, THE DOG IS OKAY.

And a note for the rest of you, this is one of those extra special entries where I drop the F bomb. Repeatedly. With no apologies. As you’ll see, I think the situation warrants it.


The ironic thing about it all was that I was praying in the car before it happened. Lately, I find myself stymied about what exactly I should be praying for, because I’m still wrestling with the idea that you’re not supposed to pray for things that are YOUR idea, you should be praying for things that are GOD’s idea. And I still don’t know what God’s idea for me is, so the last sentence I remember praying for was this:

“I have no idea what will happening today, God, but please let me be obedient no matter what happens.”

I’m driving on Cahuenga, having made the turn from Santa Monica, and all of the sudden, on the right hand side, I see a small white dog running at break neck speed, tongue out, somewhat crazed look in his eyes, right into the street. Oh my God, it’s not gonna stop.

I slam on the brakes, veer as hard as I can, but there’s still the sickening thump. And in my rearview, I see the dog now lying on his back, four paws up in the air. I even hear the pained, high pitched Arf Arf ARF!

(Did you just hear that shriek? That’s my mother, the Phone Harpy Who I Love Very Very Much, screaming from Alabama. She’s now printing out the entry and shoving it in front of my father to finish reading, ‘cause there’s no way she can do it.)

I jump out of the car and run back to the intersection. There’s a woman on the sidewalk with her dog, another girl trying to get directions to a vet from another woman in a car, and a guy is holding the dog I hit.

“Was that your dog?” I ask the woman with dog. She says no. I say “I’m the one who hit it.”

I’m the one who hit it. It sounds awful. My eyes were on the road the entire time, the dog came out of nowhere. I sound like one of those idiots in a TV show, or a movie, “It came out of nowhere! Nowhere, I swear!”

We have to get this dog to the vet. And because I’m the one that hit it, I’m gonna have to take responsibility. I jump in the car with the guy holding the dog, and I swear, I see a brief two second flash of relief from the other girl well, at least I don’t have to do anything more. Someone else is gonna take care of this mess.

I’m now holding the dog, hyperventilating, crying. I’m thinking this dog is two seconds away from dying, and it’s my fault. Helpful Guy driving is trying to calm me down, “I have a lot of respect for you for coming back. You know how many people wouldn’t have stopped?” Of course I have to stop. Of course I do. I have to take responsibility here. I couldn’t just leave it, go on about my day, why no, God, I didn’t hit a thing. I’m still a good person, because I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and savior. The guy goes on to say how he was right behind me, it’s totally not my fault, he saw the whole thing, and the woman with the dog on the corner tried to stop it, and it wouldn’t stop, it was determined to run into the street, on its date with destiny with my car. Helpful Guy also adds that he was listening to The Secret when the whole thing happened, and maybe this all happened for a reason. I inwardly groan. You say The Secret, I say God, it’s still not clear why this dog decided to run in front of my car.

We find the vet place on Cahuenga, and dash in. They refuse to take the dog, saying they’re not equipped to do X-rays, and it seems that this dog’s leg clearly is broken. Amazingly enough, that appears to be all that’s wrong with it right now. We see the tags on the collar, call the phone number, it’s disconnected. We get them to run a microchip thing over the dog. There’s one there, they call the microchip company, now we’ve got a name of an owner, the same disconnected phone number, and an address. The dog’s name is Beau. It's a Maltese mix, and it's in need of a good bath. The vet directs us to a place in West Hollywood, it would cost about $60 for an initial exam, and $250 probably for treatment. Fuck. I am barely climbing my way out of debt, which is what happens when your temp agency only got you two days of work in a three and a half week period. Yeah, now I have a gig that seems like it’s gonna last awhile, but I’m not ready to go back into debt for this dog, even if I’m responsible in so much that I hit it. Then I then have to take it home with me, rearrange my life around it, find its owner, if it’s owner can’t be found, I have to take care of it until I can get someone to adopt it, and if I can’t get someone to adopt it, I have to take care of it for the rest of my life, because that’s my punishment for hitting it in the first place.

And I don’t wanna do that. Does that make me a bad person? I am a huge dog lover, I grew up with dogs, I dogsit all the time, but I don’t want one of my own. I can’t do it. Getting a dog was on the list of Things To Do after I Sold Three Scripts and Bought A House. I don’t have the kind of stable lifestyle a dog needs. I don’t usually get home until 9pm – 11pm most nights, because of all the functions I have to do. Having a dog costs money. Money I don’t have.

I tell Helpful Guy I’ll take it to the vet. Helpful Guy drives me back to my car. I leave the dog with him briefly while I call work to explain why I’m gonna be late. When I hang up the phone, the guy is holding the dog up so the dog can see me through the window, “He likes you!” The guy says, “He wanted to see where you were going.” The dog likes me. Doesn’t the dog remember I FUCKING HIT IT?

I take the dog from the guy to put him in my car (doesn’t the dog have any kind of memory that THIS IS THE CAR THAT FUCKING HIT IT?!) and I see a two second flash of relief on Helpful Guy's face. Another well, at least I don’t have to do anything more. Someone else is gonna take care of this mess.

And off we go to the vet on Santa Monica Blvd, between La Cienega and Robertson. I’m still crying, worried that Beau the Dog is in the final spiral, and there’s nothing I can do, except drive and navigate the rush hour traffic as best I can.

Is this obedient? Is this being obedient enough?

The questions are coming fast and furious. Why wasn’t it on a leash? Where’s this guy’s owner? Why didn’t they update their information? Did they purposefully abandon the dog? The address is in North Hollywood. Has the dog run all this way? Was it kidnapped, and now escaping its dognappers? Was it abused and escaping its owner? Who’s gonna take care of this mess. WHO’S GONNA TAKE CARE OF THIS MESS? Me. I’m gonna have to take care of this mess. Because it’s my fault. I’m responsible.

Beau the dog yips everytime I have to tap the brakes, which makes me feel awful. We get to the vet on Santa Monica Blvd, and I carry the dog inside. It must be said that the dog is not shaking, is not shivering, is not moaning in pain. Other than if someone brushes his broken paw, which makes him yip, he appears to be fine, unless there’s some broken ribs or internal bleeding or something, (but that still wouldn’t make sense, because he’d be yipping if I was holding him.)

The second vet tells me that THEY’RE not equipped to handle this kind of injury, and I need to go to an Animal Surgical and Emergency Center, which is on fucking SEPULVEDA on the FUCKING WEST SIDE. I can’t believe this.

There is a woman in the waiting room who seems to get it, “He ran out in front of your car? That must have been so scary for you!” yes it was, yes I’m fucking wrecked about it. Then, as I’m carrying the dog to the door, she says, “You’re doing the right thing, you really are.”

Traffic isn’t moving at all on Santa Monica Blvd. (I find out later that the WGA writers are striking in Century City, which is where I have to drive through in order to get to the West Side.) I start crying again, as I pull out every trick in the book to try and avoid traffic, to keep moving, to keep moving.

I can’t take this dog home with me! I can’t! I can’t afford to go into debt for this dog! I can’t! Well, you shouldn’t have hit it, then, if you can’t afford to pay for its treatment. IT WASN’T MY FAULT! IT RAN OUT IN FRONT OF MY CAR! It looks like this dog has no one to look after it except for you. It’s all on you now. God doesn’t care if you can’t take it home, or if you can’t go into debt for it. You have to. You fucking have to, because it’s all on you now. You have to be obedient, just like you told God you would be, and that means you now have to accept this dog as your own even though you don’t want one. Who cares what you want. Fuck what you want.

My mind is racing, I feel like I should call somebody, anybody, so I can explain what’s happening here. But then I think better of it. What would calling anyone do? It’s not like anyone would be able to fix this solution for me. I already know what I need to do, and that’s to try and get to the Animal Surgical and Emergency Center, before Beau the Dog dies on me. Calling anyone would spread the worry and discontent. Hey, look at this impossible situation I’m in! There’s no way out! Feel bad for MEEEEEEEEE. I look at it from anyone else’s perspective. If someone called me, panicked because they hit a dog, what could I reasonably do? What would I reasonably WANT to do? Nothing. So I don’t call anyone. You have to fix this all by yourself.

The dog has now fallen asleep in the seat. I drive with one hand on the wheel, one hand on the dog, checking to make sure it’s still breathing. Praying to God is a little frazzling right now, because I keep getting suffocated by all the guilt thoughts. Please don’t let this dog die. But please don’t create a situation where I have to pay for it, take it home, and find it a home all by myself. Because I can’t do that. Please let me be able to find his owner, and please let finding his owner be the right thing to do.

I keep remember that blasted phrase from Matthew 25:37 - 40 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Does a dog count at the least of these? Does going this far count as obedient? Does going this far count as being a good Christian? Is extending myself this much mean I’m a good person, or somebody trying to assuage guilt? And even if it’s just that I’m assuaging guilt, does that still count? Does that still COUNT, if you’re not doing it with a shining pure heart and motives, but you’re propelled by fear that if you DON’T do it, you’ll be consumed by guilt for the rest of your life? Or did I really need to be all Yippee! I hit a DOG! Why sure I’ll take it home, and feed it, and clothe it, and call it George, because gosh darn it, I NEEDED a dog in my life!

It takes an hour to get to the ASEC, and I once again carry the dog inside. I explain the situation, and they quickly take the dog from me, and whisk him away behind closed doors. They then push a piece of paper towards me, an authorization of treatment, a list of all the things they MIGHT have to do to treat the dog, including but not limited to X-rays, glucose drips, blah blah blah. The initial estimate is $500 - $750.

“I can’t sign this,” I say, “This is not my dog. I don’t have this kind of money,” I start crying again. I explain to them that I’ve called the number on the collar, the number is disconnected, I can’t get a hold of the owner, I don’t know what to do, I can’t pay for this. And I’m getting a sea of blank stares. “Do you understand?” I ask. “Oh, I understand,” replies the woman behind the desk, with the same kind of blank stare, but an undercurrent of judgment is now seeping into it, like oh, I understand you fucking hit this dog and you don’t wanna pay to fix what you’ve done. I think these people think I was guzzling a fifth of Jack Daniels, changing channels on the radio station, and putting on my lipstick all at the same time, saw the dog minding its business on the corner, and deliberately screeched the car towards it, thinking TWENTY POINTS FOR HITTING THE MALTESE! WHOOOOO HOOOOO!, because that’s what kind of evil bitch I am.

I think these people think I’m the dog equivalent of those LAPD nutjobs who pick the bums up from Skid Row and dump them in front of the hospital and drive away, so somebody else can clean up their mess.

All because I know I can’t pay to fix this dog. What’s wrong with you? Just go into debt. Just rack up what’ll probably run close to one or two grand to fix the dog. You’re the one that hit it.

They confer amongst themselves, come back and ask me to give my contact information to them. They say they’ll notify the animal shelter, who’s come in and paid for treatment of dogs before. They say I can call later to check on his status.

And just like that. It’s done. Now what? What’s your problem? You wanted the dog to be taken care of, now it’s done. Aren’t you fucking happy already? The dog is officially someone else’s problem.

But no, I’m not happy. It’s not everything I could’ve done. I can do more. I can drive out to North Hollywood, to the address listed on the collar, and see who’s there. I can do that much, because I know nobody from the hospital will do that. The animal shelter won’t do that. But I can do that. You better do that. That’s the very least of what you SHOULD be doing.

So I drive out to North Hollywood, entertaining visions of knocking on a door and finding a tear strained distraught grandma like woman opening it, “You found my DOG!?” and hearing some story about how it dug a hole under the fence, how somebody dognapped it, how this, that and the other happened.

It takes forever to get to the address, because it’s not just in North Hollywood, it’s in BUMFUCK North Hollywood, and I get lost so many times, and for every neighborhood that I pass that looks nice, and that nice people live here that would want to know where their dog is, I pass into another neighborhood that’s ratty, where suspicious types stare at my car. And I’m praying again, Please let me find this owner, Lord. I know it’s 10:30am in the morning, and most people are at work, and not at home, but please let me find this person, please let me find this person.

But finally I find the place, and a middle aged guy who speaks little English opens the door. Looking past him, I see that there’s no furniture in the house, it looks like the guy is a construction worker, working on the house, which is draped in painting sheets and the like. I try to communicate with him as best as I know how, pointing to the address we had written down, and the woman’s name, and asking if that person lives here. The guy goes back inside and returns with the gas bill, which has the right address, but a completely different person’s name. He says the guy is his boss. I ask him how long it’s been since his boss has been living here. He says a few months.

And I shuffle back to my car, hopes dying again. This SO looks like a case of somebody moving and just deciding not to take the dog with them. Goodbye little one! You’re on your own!

But I’ve done everything I can, right? No. You’re gonna have to find this dog a home. This dog doesn’t have an owner, obviously. The phone is disconnected, and the people living at the address aren’t the people that own the dog. This dog is officially your burden now, and you’re gonna have to take care of it. But I CAN’T! I CAN’T! Life is not a movie where I hit a dog, and subsequently adopt it, and life becomes one beautiful fucking doggie Hallmark card. It’s NOT.

I spent the rest of the day at work trying to figure out if all the nonprofit adoption agencies do things like go to clinics and rescue dogs with broken legs. Because I can’t have this dog go to the pound or animal shelter, and be dead in a week. The only one that should be going in there to rescue it is YOU, Amy. Clean up this mess. Fix this mess. It’s your responsibility.

Is this being obedient? Is this being obedient enough?

At 3pm, I call the clinic to check on the status of the dog. The person answering the phone says, “We’re legally not allowed to give you any information about the dog’s status because you’re not the dog’s owner, but we can tell you that he’s doing fine.” Gee thanks. I ask what’s going to happen next, and they say that they’ll be calling either the pound or an animal shelter to come get him. I ask for those numbers, they say they can’t give them to me, “because we don’t know where he’ll be going.”


I get the idea that I should hit Google, and google the owner’s name. And after about five minutes of clicking around, I stumble upon
this L.A. Times article.

The dog's owner is dead now, but according to the article (Written THREE FUCKING DAYS AGO), her roommate is CARING FOR THE FUCKING DOG WHICH IS EVEN MENTIONED IN THE FUCKING ARTICLE.

Is this how God is going to help me? Seriously? This is God’s grace shining a light into my situation? Honestly? If this is how God’s gonna help me, why didn’t He convince the dog NOT TO RUN OUT IN FRONT OF MY CAR!?

I call the Alternative Living for the Aging center, and explain the situation. They are much more understanding than the folks at the animal clinic, and while they don't give me the guy's phone, I give them the animal clinic address and phone, and they say they'll contact him and let him know where his dog is. I explain that I'm concerned about the time factor, if someone can't prove they own this dog, this dog might be put down in 48 hours or something. They say they understand, and I believe them. I hang up, stunned at the whole situation.

Is this being obedient? Is this being obedient enough?

But I can’t pat myself on the back, because again, it feels like all of this is the LEAST of what I should’ve done. There’s still that nagging undercurrent of You should have paid for the dog’s treatment. You should have been “oh yes, absolutely, I’ll take the dog home and rearrange my life around it and find it a good home.” That is to say, because I wasn’t meeting the test with an absolute pure heart and joy about What Can I Do To HELP, that everything I did do is lacking in a way. It wasn’t enough, because you weren’t joyful about it.

My cell phone rings on Saturday afternoon. It’s an 83 year old woman named Betty. She’s the new prospective roommate for Beau’s owner, and the Alternative Living for the Aging center contacted her when they couldn’t get a hold of him. Beau’s owner is one of those people that only has a cell phone, so she’s been leaving messages on it, as has the Alternative Living for the Aging center, and so far, no return call. I explain the situation as best I could, and she says she absolutely understands, she’s not blaming me. She says she’s met the dog before, Beau’s owner brought it over last week for their first interview together. He was supposed to contact her to come over again today or tomorrow, and she hasn’t heard from him. She also called the ASEC, and if you’re an 83 year old woman who’s a prospective roommate with the dog’s owner, they’re going to be nicer to you than if you’re the person who brought in the dog because you hit it. The clinic says that the dog is fine, resting comfortably, and that he’ll be going to the West L.A. Animal Shelter either today or tomorrow, where he’ll be held for five days, giving the owner a chance to claim him. All information they WOULDN’T give me, nice.

I explain to Betty that I’m researching nonprofit animal shelters that could go in and get the dog to take him off the five-day watch in case Beau’s owner can’t be contacted. She says she’ll start calling the hospitals, “I know he’s with Kaiser.” We promise to keep each other updated.

Irony of ironies, Saturday night finds me attending a charity event for a nonprofit animal shelter. This was set up waaaaay in advance of me hitting any dogs. My awesome friends Ned and Nora invited me because they had tickets. Free food, free booze, lots of dogs running around that you can ADOPT. I’m amazed the dogs don’t have a sixth sense about me, that I’m not giving off some sort of Guilt Smell, sniff sniff sniff, hey, I smell the murderous stink of a Almost Dog Killer!

The evening’s entertainment is Sylvia St. James, the mistress of ceremonies at the House of Blues gospel brunch, she’s wearing the same dress and everything. They’re singing overtly religious songs, which I find weird, since this isn’t an explicitly Christian event, but you can make the case that God is the God of dogs and cats too.

But it’s hard not to laugh at the songs, “Nobody does me like Jesus. Nobody touches me like Jesus.” And when they start singing, “I Am A Friend Of God.” I start rearranging the lyrics for Nora’s benefit, “I am a friend of dog. I am a friend of dog. Except when I run them over and then spend my whole day trying to find their owner.”

I had mentioned to Ned and Nora that I’m pretty sure Beau’s owner must be dead. Because if the choices are that you’re either dead, or you lost your dog AND your cell phone so you can’t return your messages, it’s strangely more logical to go with the You’re Dead choice. Because nobody loses their dog AND their cell phone at the same time. “Maybe he was mugged.” Ned says. “Nah, I’m pretty sure he’s dead.” I say, because I always hit the Worst Case Scenario button.

But Betty calls during the middle of the event, and reports that yes, Beau’s owner is alive and well, and yes, she has made contact with him. It turns out he’s been in his car for hours, looking for the dog. He’s been staying with friends, and they accidentally left the gate open, which is how the dog got out. It doesn’t explain why it took him forever to return the message, but whatever. Betty has given him all the information – the clinic info, and the West L.A. Animal Shelter where he’ll be going, so it’s now all on Beau’s owner to pick up his dog, pay for whatever treatment was given and la la la.

So now it’s officially off me. Honestly and truly. “You really are an angel” says Betty.

Am I? Or am I just someone who suffers tremendously from a guilty conscience, to the point where I move heaven and earth, not just because it’s the right thing to do, not just because it’s my responsibility, but because I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t. Does it count? Does it count as obedient enough?

Some stereotypical church people would look at this story so far and say, Amy, you don’t understand. You are the dog, and GOD is you. God would move heaven and earth to take care of you. And yet, I still don’t feel Him. I still don’t see Him. I didn’t have a pure heart and joy to help the dog. I helped the dog out of fear and guilt. I have no grace for myself. It’s the struggle of my life. I don’t know how to get over it.

Right now, life appears to be a series of instances where I thank God that it’s not worse. Thank you that I didn’t get fired for taking all that time to work on helping the dog. Thank you that the dog didn’t die. When does the part of my life come where I get to thank Him for the stuff that went RIGHT, not for the bad things that I was able to fix, or the bad things that I managed to avoid.

What counts? And how would you know?


Allison said...

You're right, that really was an awful day. I hate it when things like that happen through no fault of our own, and I'm sorry it had to happen to you.

Just a thought -- seems like the focus is on you and whether or not you're obedient. (The answer is heck no, and it will always be heck no, which, yeah, is depressing.) Aren't we all going to feel guilty and depressed when we meditate on our sinful nature instead of on God? And what God's doing in the whole world -- not just our lives.

Feel free to write it off as overly simplistic, but it's something I'm struggling with, too. Trying to judge my feelings by the Truth, not the Truth by my feelings.

Anonymous said...

i think it totally counts. i don't know if this really relates but for some reason this (true)story popped into my head:

my grandmother and aunt went to a hypnotist to stop smoking. they complained when they returned from the hypnotist that they didn't feel ANY different, that the guy was probably a quack. they also said, however, that they spent so much freakin' money on this stupid hypnotist that they weren't gonna let it go to waste. so they both quit smoking...for good.

so, the way i see it relating is does it matter the reason/motivation if the good thing gets done?


Tracy said...

Factor God out for a moment. Just for a moment.

You had just hit a tiny dog. Even though the dog ran out in front of your car, through absolutely no fault of your own ... it happened.

Is there any human being on this planet who would be feeling JOY of any kind? Even if they'd been able to pay for said dog and take it home? Seriously?

Most people - assuming they could feel anything, which I never assume any more - would feel horrible. Guilty. Miserable.

Chalk one up for Amy being human. ;)

Now bringing God back into it.
And you know I'm not particularly religious, but I gotta say ... I don't believe God would want to make your life miserable (ie, going into more debt) when you were completely capable of accomplishing what needed to be accomplished (finding the dog's owner) without doing so? In fact, couldn't a case be made that he trusted YOU to be smart enough to do all the right things, which you did?


Alexa said...

What a doozie, girl. I'm impressed at your presence of mind to blog so articulately about it all!

Not to be too simplistic about the whole affair - you did great. And I think what Allison said was spot on.