If you give a mouse freedom…

26 Oct

Maggie in boat hunting with Travis.

Less than a month after Travis and I moved to Northbrook, IL, our Yellow Labrador, Maggie, was hit by a car while I was walking her.

We were walking the same route that I took with her every day. We rounded the same corners that day, crossed the exact same streets. She even pooped in the same area at the same time every day. I did not do anything differently that day at all. The thing about me is that I love routine. Boring as it is, it makes me feel safe. Life is full of surprises as it is so I don’t go looking for them. But then again, that’s the thing about life, you don’t have to go looking for them, they’ll come to you. These surprises don’t usually catch you off guard when on a random Tuesday you decide to sneak off to a strip club for lunch and then you get a flat tire on your way out of the parking lot. That kind of instant retribution happens only in the movies.

My friend Tatiana used to caution me when I lived in the city about taking the same exact walks at the same time every day, stating that someone was probably watching me and learning my schedule. “Me? Why? What’s there to learn?” I’d say. “Exactly. You are making it easy on them.” I’d brush her off and say, “If someone wants to rob me, they will find a way.”

But there were signs that day. Dark. Cold day. Wet, icy road.

If someone were to ask me who my two role models were, I’d say without a doubt, my two dogs: Griffin and Maggie.

Griffin is more of a human being than any human I’ve ever met and Maggie, she has a soul…I swear it. She will give you this look like, “Come lay with me with on the couch and together we’ll solve this problem.”  When I get home from work, the first thing Griffin does is he hops up out of his bed and runs towards me, stretching himself towards my hands. The first thing Maggie does when I come in the door is to grab a toy and bring it to me as if to say, “Thank you for coming home. I have a present for you.”

Another human thing about Maggie is that she will hold a grudge like it’s nobody’s business and she never forgets a damn thing. She remembers every trauma that ever happened to her.

One day, Travis’ nephews closed the sliding glass door on her and now she goes through sliding glass doors like she is being chased by rabid dogs. Another time, when she was a puppy, these same nieces and nephews rolled the window up on her neck while she had her head out the window like most dogs do in the car.  Now, she will not go near a car window. The sliding glass door thing I can overlook, but I can’t quite forgive them for taking the “dog’s head out of the window while in a car” thing from her. It’s a dog’s great joy to stick their head out, ears flopping, nose sniffing the air.

More signs. iPod on loud. Progressive radio. Leftists, Obama bashing.

I pushed the button to indicate that a pedestrian was at the intersection, prepared to cross. We were less than a block from home. We waited, and waited and then the white outline of the pedestrian form came on the screen, we started to hurry across but we were not running. We couldn’t have been more than 3 steps from the curb when I saw a Toyota Camry, the color of champagne, put on their breaks, then hesitate, slowly accelerate, and SMACK, Maggie was hit.

She yelped loudly and then I screamed and I immediately started wailing on the back of the car with my fists to stop.  “STOP! STOP! You hit my dog! You hit my dog!” The driver stopped and I saw a young girl roll down her passenger window and say, “Oh my God. I’m so sorry-“ “Pull over right now into that gas station! You hit my dog! You are driving us to the vet now!” She pulled into the gas station and I grabbed the leash and led Maggie over there while she limped over. There was blood coming down the back of one of her legs.  The young girl opened the car door in the back and we managed to coax Maggie in. “C’mon Maggie- up-up-up! Good girl-up!” Maggie gave me one last look before jumping in as if to say, “You’re kidding me, right. I’m supposed to listen to you now?”

I shut the door and said “Didn’t you see us?! We had the crosswalk! Where’s the nearest vet? You have to take us NOW!” “My window was fogged up. I’m real sorry,” she said.  I looked over at her windshield. It was completely fogged up. Not a trace of clear glass.

I didn’t care; I was in angry survival mode. I just kept barking orders at this girl who couldn’t have been more than 18. “Drive me to my house down the street. I have to go and get my cell phone and call my boyfriend. That’s his dog! He is going to kill me. We just moved here. Where’s the nearest vet?!” We got to our house and she pulled into our driveway and I ran inside.

This was the second most traumatic thing that had happened to me since we moved into this house now. The day we were able to move in, I came by myself because Travis was away hunting, so I could put a few boxes away. I started wiping down some counters and when I was done, I went to the kitchen and opened up the cabinet under the sink to throw away the dirty paper towels in my hand. When I pulled the garbage out, I found two mice in the garbage.  One was dead, half-eaten, and the other one was leaning over him, lethargic. I jumped back and ran out of the kitchen to my car. I closed my car door, hands to my face and began to cry like a baby.

I couldn’t stop replaying the scene in my head. The mice on their way to the trash for a feast climbed up the side where there was traction. Once they climbed in, they discovered it was empty not a trace of food or even a plastic bag for them to use as a climbing material. Hours went by and they had no way to get out and must have been stuck there for days since the landlord left the property to prep it for us to move in. One died and the other one started eating his brother for survival. I couldn’t get over the depravity of that image.  I called Travis and he tried to calm me down. Finally I did, and I was able to muster the strength to grab the trash can, take it outside to free the live mouse and throw away the garbage can with the dead one.  I called my best friend and told her the story balling.

The next day, when Travis called to check on me, he said that he told his mom the story and she told him that the mouse that I set free was going to come back with his friends to the house looking for more food and that I should set traps.  She thought I was scared and upset that mice were in the house. That’s not why I was upset. I was scared and upset that I had witnessed a live mouse eating his dead brother.  There’s a difference. Would I be thrilled at seeing a bunch of live mouse in the house parading around? No. But I also don’t think that I have more of a right to exist than any other living creature.  I finally said to Travis, indignantly, “Tell your mom that I really don’t think he will be back after he was forced to eat his own dead brother.” Travis’ look seemed to say “Oh, brother.”

“I think there’s an animal hospital off of Central, ” I finally heard the girl say. “Drive there and I’ll call information to get the exact address.”

I called information and then I called Travis and left him a message and said that it was an emergency. He never answers his phone when I need him to. Not on purpose or anything. It’s just that he never seems to have it near when I’m desperate to speak with him.

After I hung up with Travis, I looked back at Maggie and she looked awful. She was shaking and vibrating and wouldn’t lay down. She was tense. I wanted to kill this girl but then right as I was about to give her another round of “What the hell were you thinking?! You hit my dog!” I looked back from Maggie to the girl and she was as far up to the window as can be, with both hands clutching the wheel. Then she started using her fist to wipe off the driver side window so she could see. She was a tall, thin girl, with long, blonde curly hair down her back. She had blue eyes but her face wasn’t what you’d call beautiful. It’s like she got all her parents’ so-so genes. I was getting a little calmer and I finally said, exasperated, “I’m sorry I yelled at you but that dog is like my child and I just don’t understand how you could not see us in the crosswalk. Look at her, she is shaking.”

She said, “I’m so, so sorry but Miss I couldn’t see anything out of my window and I didn’t see you.”

“How old are you? You should probably call your parents when we get to the vet.” “I’m seventeen,” she said. Jesus Christ.

I leaned back and tried to touch and comfort Maggie. Can you imagine? She has no comprehension of what happened to her while she was in my care and now she has to trust that I am going to make her better.  That for me was the epitome of faith.

We got to the animal hospital and Maggie was seen right away. I sat in the waiting room with the young girl and I listened to her call her parents and explain what happened. If you want to know what awkward personified looks like, it’s the picture of a woman in an emergency waiting room sitting side by side with the driver of the car that hit her dog.

Ten or fifteen minutes or so later, a tall “Dad” looking man walked through the door and the young girl jumped to her feet and the man and her embraced and I heard him say, “are you okay?” “I’m okay dad. This is the lady.” I hated the way that sounded. “The Lady” sounded like I was something that was outside of them, a foreign object or something. She might as well have said, “this is the wart on my finger…”

“Hi, I’m Christine, I’m Maggie’s owner.” The father’s lip pursed and then he forced out a half-smile and said, “hi, I’m Tom, I’m Maggie’s father” he said tilting his head towards the young girl.

“Wait. Your name is Maggie too?” I said to the girl. “Yes,” she responded.

My dog Maggie had been hit by a girl named Maggie.  My boyfriend at this point made his way through the revolving door. We made introductions.

In the end, Maggie was fine and resumed to normal activity within the week. As for the other Maggie, I don’t know.  The last thing her dad said after he paid the vet bill was, “Well see you around town though hopefully under different circumstances.”

Travis and I continued to live in that house for 6 more months and during that time the exterminators came back approximately 7 times but we never saw a live or dead mouse in the house again.

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