If anything can be called a ‘miracle’, the story I am about to tell you would fit the bill. So many things had to go exactly right, conditions no less than perfect, for this not to end in disaster. You may think it is silly, but this event actually made me question my faith, or lack of.
A Lucky Dog’s Tale
Let me begin with my dog, Loki. Less than a year old at the time, and weighing perhaps 15 lbs. (give or take a pound) he was a recent rescue. Back then we lived in a relatively small property on the edge of a rather large, and busy, freeway.
Raising a terrier breed- especially a Jack Russell, near a busy road can easily end in disaster (and it certainly has, many times). Not only did we live off a busy road, but they don’t get a lot busier than this. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much of a choice as far as locations at the time, and there was no one who would look after my beloved pet.
I’m sure you can see where this lucky dog’d tale is going.
Even though I was always very diligent with his training and whereabouts, one can’t alter instinct. In any case, my roommate was in a rush, and must have forgotten the door. Of course, where do you think the first place was Loki headed for? Well, as I am sure you guessed, it wasn’t anywhere inside the house.
That being said, I promptly raced for the front yard, preying he didn’t head for the road. Well, of course you can probably guess where he went. It took maybe a second for me to spot him, pacing back and forth, sniffing the ground at the other side of this wide road.
My first thought was ‘How the hell did he get there so fast’, promptly followed by ‘what do I do now?’ Calling him to me, from the other side of a currently very large and busy road, wasn’t an option. Crossing during those few seconds wasn’t either. My fellow occupant put an end to that question for me.
The inevitable shout sounded.
This would be the only circumstance in my life when I questioned my training methods; of course Loki was great with his recall, and knew exactly what to do. Living so near this deadly road, I made sure there was no question, always very consistent, repeating exact training principles until they were crystal clear.
A New Breed Of Animal
Border collies are sheep herding breeds, believed to be the smartest dog breed in the world today- displaying a unique set of instincts finely tuned over generations for very specific purposes. All herding breeds display a surprising intelligence, but Border Collies- with their intense focus, the ‘crouch’ they are known for, their natural ability to integrate as a unit to complete a task with little instruction- there simply is no equal. When it comes to their intended purpose, they are un-matched.
I don’t claim to know exactly how the skill is achieved; there was never reason for me to train anything to herd, though it has been described to me before. Much like their predecessors, Border Collies carry out predatory actions precisely as a hunting wolf pack would- every step exact until the last; they don’t attack. In this way, the herd animals are very accurately directed as needed.
Titan Among Dogs
However, Loki is still just a dog. Parents possess a deathly fear their children will get hit by a car- they run out in front of them more often than not (hell, even I did once). And they are humans, possessing the advanced capability of intellectual thought and reasoning. Though a titan among dogs, Loki lacked the tools to ask himself “Is this really the best thing to do”? He wanted the inevitable reward he always receives for correctly and timely performing his recall.
‘Fight or Flight’
Victims involved in car accidents often speak of those last few seconds in terms of ‘slow motion’. Believe it or not, this is very true; I can’t fully rationalize it from a scientific standpoint, but those seconds seem to slow. Events become clearer, more focused. As far as I can explain, your mind has gone into ‘fight or flight’ mode, endocrine system releasing a surge of adrenaline. It can only be a survival mechanism, evolved into us through countless years. Anyway, things seemed to slow for me; colors perhaps seemed more intense, sounds sharper. Those few seconds were very clear, highly detailed and extremely agonizing, because there was absolutely nothing I could do (I did in fact run out into the middle of said road a moment later- perhaps not the wisest decision).
When Tragedy Struck
The guy didn’t even seem to slow down; stopping certainly didn’t cross his mind. At maybe 70 mph, he made contact and was gone. There was only my baby, lying unconscious on his back, with his little legs pointed rigidly toward the sky.
Here comes the unbelievable part. A set of factors that had to occur exactly as they did, or a much different outcome would have resulted.
Try to imagine any animal his size suffering a direct hit from a rapidly moving object hundreds of times its body mass (I have seen house cats weighing more than Loki did at the time). This wasn’t a glancing blow; I very vividly recall hearing that ultimate ‘thwak’ of crushing impact.
Having played and replayed the instance in my mind maybe a hundred times, I keep reaching one unlikely conclusion; it had to be his size that saved him. A hundred pound dog would have certainly and unquestionably died. Another animal differing in size in any way could only have met with a quick and definite end. Yes, due to his odd height- taller than any Jack Russell yet half the size of most Collies-
Upon inspection (after I had moved him from the middle of the road), Loki was a mess. Bleeding out of both eye sockets, a gradual but steady flow from his nose, and a nice gash on his left forelimb, appearing very disoriented, my beloved pup was in a sorry state. Thinking it merciful, ‘fellow occupant’ suggested going for the shovel, and told me to go inside.
No way on God’s green Earth was I about to let that happen.
We contacted the emergency vet, and took him in. Loki wound up to have ruptured blood vessels near his eyes, a rather nasty but otherwise minor gash on one of his legs, and a muzzle the size of a Bull Terrier’s (no joke; I have never seen swelling that bad before) for a week- but that was it. According to the vet, there were no fractures at all. He did develop a minor infection from licking at his stitches, but the help of an E-collar and antibiotics cured that.
The Only Explanation
Later on, I found the partial remains of a plastic hub-cap and half of perhaps a side flasher further down the road. The only way I can explain it- the vehicle must have swerved a tiny bit at the second of impact. The passenger side wheel must have struck him just right, tossing my little puppy off to the side. Even so, such a small animal taking out the thick plastic of a light housing with its’ face (no wonder Loki’s little nose blew up like a balloon).
How did he manage to damage both the light housing, and the hub cap- did his nose ricochet off one to the other? Had he been hit from a slightly different angle, either his head would have been smashed, or his neck broken. If Loki had been any taller, been hit at absolutely any other angle… If those hub caps had been metal wheels, or even chrome… If I, in my grief, hadn’t resisted the shovel suggestion……
As it stands, Loki still carries a shallow scar from that wound on his leg, but that is it. To this day, he not only remains one of the smartest little fur-kids I have ever had the privilege of training, but perhaps the most adorable little guy I know. Indeed, I have trained Loki to perform maybe 30 separate tricks, including the location and retrieval of my car keys (in case I misplace them).
I have developed (in my opinion) is a good ‘Emergency Recall‘ for this type of situation. If you ever wondered what the point of emergency recalls are- this story should clear that up. My method may seem a bit harsh to some and overkill to others, but it is only meant as a last resort to prevent severe injury or death.