Today, at Hillside (dog) Park, something horrible happened.
It was a beautiful fall day, clear skies, sunshine, all the dog owners only lightly bundled up, dogs of all sizes and colors bounding and playing. Dog owners were casually watching their dogs, talking with each other, throwing and kicking balls for the dogs to retrieve, and so forth. And Miss Nahe was in top form, flirting with everything that moved.
She was passing by a medium-sized brown and black dog, when all of a sudden that dog started baring its* teeth and raising its hackles and making terrible noises. I remember turning to Dave and saying, "What the heck is that dog doing?" When the dog did not stop doing those things, it became clear that the dog was choking on something.
Instantly the whole mood of the dog park changed. The female owner of the poor dog rushed over and swept it up in her arms. The dog seemed to be having a seizure, shaking and still making the terrible noises. The woman ran to the exit and laid the dog down, trying to come to its aid, while the man rushed to make a call on his cell phone. Other owners surrounded them and stood watch, everyone instinctively reaching for and comforting their own dogs. I would have done the same, but Nahe was still too busy flirting to deal with me wanting to embrace her out of my own fear and sadness.
Eventually, the woman scooped her dog back up off the ground and ran from the dog park, the man trailing. The dog seemed stiller, and I'm hoping it was because they got whatever it was out of its throat and were hurrying to the vet just to make sure there was no complications. We're not dog park regulars, so we stayed where we were on the hill, not wanting to intrude on these people's painful and private moment. I hugged Dave and buried my face in his jacket; everyone was quiet and solemn; but still there were dogs running and playing and barking.
There were two ways in which this moment deeply impacted my life.
First, life is made of such a strange quality of stuff, it is precious, it is hearty, it is filled with shine and verve, but it is also fragile, and sometimes swiftly fleeting. It is all you can do to give something you love your whole heart and the best care, but as watchful and alert as you can be, there may be a moment where a twig or a poison or a disease or a car or a crazy person can take away what you hold dear and there is nothing you can do about it.
Second, as unbearably sad as this moment was, in retrospect there was something beautiful about being in the middle of New York, witnessing a true moment of community. The mood instantly congealed into solemnity, and the other people instantly cocooned themselves around the afflicted dog and his/her owners, and even some of the other dogs were quiet and standing watch.
All in all, though, it was a horribly sad afternoon. I wish I were religious so I could say I'm keeping that dog and his/her people in my prayers and have it mean something.
* I don't usually use "it" to refer to a dog but I can't recall or didn't notice the dog's gender, and it's way too laborious to keep writing his/her, him/her, he/she.