What a car tire can teach

Someone in the oncoming lane ran over a puppy.

I did not see the small puff of black and white until it was already under the other car and rolling like a furry bowling ball with legs.
My reaction was lighting fast; my concern was only for the animal whirling into the path of my car. I slammed hard on the brakes, leaving a couple feet of rubber on the asphalt behind me. Momentum flung my laptop on the passenger seat into the dash and then onto the floor with what would have been an unsavory series of clunks had I been paying attention. Luck would have it there was nobody behind me.

It was not clear to me what kind of animal it was. It could have been a dog or a cat or a skunk. All I knew is that it had been hit. I vaulted out of the car and sped around to the front. Several feet from my bumper was the body of a small dog, a pool of blood so brightly red it reflected iridescent already forming under its head. I knelt and, knowing it was futile, nudged two fingers into the softness on the inside of its front leg. All was quiet.

The little black-and-white patchwork mutt had some Westie around the face and ears; some Yorkie in the coat and who knew what else. But its coat was clean, smooth and bright. It was obviously someone’s, and obviously not an adult. A few milk teeth still nestled in its pink gums.

That’s when the tears started.

I lifted the body as gently as I could, one arrow piercing my heart for how light it was, one for how warm it was, one more for how broken it was, and stepped to the side of the road. On the other side was an apartment complex; on my side, woods. I gazed up at the apartments, wishing for its owner to come and not come at the same time. What was I supposed to do with this little body in my hands?

I sat on the curb asking myself this question over and over for a little while, sobbing, and then began to hate the person who’d hit this puppy. I began to hate its owner for letting it get away. I began to hate myself for being seconds too late to save it.

I thought maybe I should move my car out of the middle of the lane, but I didn’t want to, couldn’t, leave the puppy. I thought maybe I could go find its owner. But the thought of going door-to-door with the bleeding body of a puppy in my arms was macabre enough that I had to laugh. It was a croaking, cracked sound.
So, then, I asked myself as I looked down at its half-lidded oildrop eyes, what was I supposed to do with this tiny body?

I decided to sit with it for a few more minutes. If nobody came looking for it, I’d have to leave.

Nobody came.

With dry eyes I lay the body down on the grass. I stroked its fur one last time, more for my comfort than for anything else, and said goodbye.

I sat in the car for a few seconds longer, willing the puppy’s owner to come out now, please, so I wouldn’t have to leave it all alone.

But I drove the remaining quarter mile from my father’s place to my mother’s, reminding myself that the puppy wouldn’t be the one to suffer once I left it alone.

Life, as we all know but never truly understand, is short. You never know when some great cosmic tire could come rolling along and squish your head. So here is your great cosmic warning: Stop being paralyzed by doubt and indecision. Few people really KNOW who they are and what they want when they’re 18, 20, 25, 35 or even 45. You just have to start trying things. Start talking to people. Be open to where your endeavors take you and understand that plans can change. If you continue to cleave to inaction, your tire will roll along and you won’t have left anything behind besides strings of your own guts. That won’t really make the world any better.

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