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In Case of Accident…

By Caroline Coile Ph.D.

“I’m sorry, dogs.” These were my last thoughts right before slamming head-on into a concrete interstate barrier at 65 mph. This being my first try at high speed collisions, I wasn’t sure if I would live, but I was sure my loose dogs would not. Yes, I knew they should have been riding in crates, not lounging on the bed in the back of my camping van. But they had looked so comfortable…

There was only a fraction of a second to regret my choice; in case you are curious, it’s quite a jolt when you hit a concrete wall at that speed. Then we were airborne, flipping, over and over and over, then spinning and sliding on the van’s side, the dotted lines passing by my face until we finally came to a stop. Seconds passed. A pair of golden legs stood on my head. One of my dogs was alive! Another pair, then another! All three dogs! People were pulling out the windshield to rescue us, but I knew the crisis wasn’t over. “Stop! Don’t open it!” I yelled. They surely thought I must be suffering from a concussion, but my thoughts were crystal clear.

I had three panicked dogs with me, and all I could think of was the vision of an interstate accident I’d come across a few months earlier. A small accident, but the car door had popped open, and the dog, panicked, had sprung from the car and fled down the roadway, oblivious to his owner’s cries as she chased behind, finally sinking to her knees in tears as he disappeared from sight.

My dogs would also flee if they got out. “I have to find leashes,” I called out. The leashes had been by the rear door, but now they were lost in the rubble. I rummaged around frantically and finally fished out two just as the rescuers decided to ignore me and pull open the windshield anyway. I had three dogs. I found a show lead hanging from the rear view mirror as I made my way out with the last dog.

My head was bloody and both the dogs and I had assorted cuts and bruises. The paramedics wanted to take me to the hospital, which meant the dogs would have to go to the shelter. Fortunately, I wasn’t so badly injured that I couldn’t say no, and after some arguing, the dogs and I got to ride in the fire truck rather than them being carted away in the animal control truck. I knew I was lucky. I also had a few lessons drummed into my battered head:

1: Dogs should always ride in crates. I KNEW that. But again, I was tired, they looked so comfy, and I was only driving a hundred miles or so. I’d driven thousands without an accident. But not this time. The unexpected happens, in my case, a car ricocheting off the concrete barrier and into my van’s rear. My dogs were thrown into the sheltered midsection of the van before it started rolling. That sort of luck doesn’t happen often. And yes, some crates are better than others—the high-impact types are especially safe but expensive—but any crate is better than none.

2: Leashes should be readily accessible. Hanging by the door doesn’t work in a wreck. When you flip, nothing stays where it was. My van looked like the inside of a kaleidoscope. My leashes needed to be clipped onto something, preferably each dog’s crate, or by my side. Extras wouldn’t hurt; in fact, I’d had extras in there and that was how I finally found a total of three out of the nine or so that were probably in there.

3: Provisions should be made for the dog’s care in case you can’t talk. I saw stars, but I wasn’t knocked out. What if I had been? My rescuers would have let the dogs loose because they weren’t in crates. Back to that crate thing. And what if the dogs had been hurt? On each crate, and in my purse, should have been emergency instructions for them, listing their required medications and giving a release and payment assurance for emergency veterinary treatment. Plus, of course, an emergency contact number. Several, in fact.

4: Dogs should always wear identification. I did do one thing right: the dogs were wearing collars with identification, and they were all microchipped. Never take a car trip, whether cross country or cross town, without this simple precaution.

5: Our accident took place in Texas, in July. My three dogs and I ended up trying to find shade in the middle of the hot Interstate (yes, they closed the road). There’s no air conditioning on the Interstate—no water fountains or ice machines either. At this point the biggest threat to my dogs’ safety was overheating. I needed an emergency kit with towels I could soak for them to stand on, or act as cool coats, plus of course a bowl and at very least a gallon of water. An ice chest would have been a godsend. As would a battery fan or two or three. And all this needed to be buckled in place somewhere I could reach it. The same concept goes if you’re traveling in frigid temps. Blankets and hand warmers and dog coats—remember your dogs could be injured or in shock and may not be able to handle temperature extremes as they normally would.

I lucked out. But LUCK is the operative word. I’m now one of those people whose dogs ride in crates to go to the end of the block. I’ve read too many sad tales of dogs killed as they hit the dashboard from a wreck occurring at 30 mph, or dogs escaping an Interstate wreck only to run into traffic and be hit—or off into oblivion never to be found. Every time I read such stories I know I should have been one of them. And my heart aches for their owners who also thought it would never happen to them.

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Posted by on Aug 11 2018. Filed under Current Articles, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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