Hit & Run


Published in the New York Times Op-Ed

Recently my dog, Honey, was taking a walk in the neighborhood with her dog walker, Lauren, when she was clipped by a car. Honey bolted, yanking the leash out of Lauren’s hand — apparently dogs get a huge surge of adrenaline after being hit by cars.

Several people chased after her and after the car, which slowed for a moment and then sped off down Seventh Avenue. A total stranger named David Zeh photographed the license plate. Then he flagged a cab and got Honey, Lauren and Ayana (another dog walker, who managed to capture Honey, a small white Havanese) to the Fifth Avenue Veterinary Specialists — a 24-hour emergency hospital with an amazing trauma team. The second night, she was able to lift her head. She is now home on bed rest recovering with several cracked ribs and leg wounds.

Since this happened, two people have told me that their feet were run over by taxicabs, and a third that a cab took off while she was getting out of it, tossing her onto the sidewalk. But this isn’t about taxis. I mention this only because I am astonished that it was not a cab that hit Honey, given the maniac drivers and the endless telephone talking that they do, even though it’s illegal. This is about how nice everyone in this city is: the New Yorkers who chased the car and my dog, the good Samaritan, Mr. Zeh, the couple in the waiting room whose pit bull had broken out in hives and needed a shot of Benadryl, the animal hospital staffed with surgeons who didn’t become surgeons because they hate to speak to people. And my apartment building, too.

Word traveled quickly and all the dog lovers in the building asked about Honey. In most cases I know their dogs’ names, not theirs — Moki, Biscuit, Jack, Maisie — and they know Honey’s name, not mine, because the thing about apartment living is that neighbors are friendly but not friends. An apartment building provides a comfort zone, a bit of padding between you and the city, a reminder when it counts that the city is not about the driver who hit Honey and kept going, but about folks who care what happens to your dog.

An apartment building is a little like Facebook. It seemed rather crazy to me that I posted news of Honey’s accident on my wall, but her photo is on my wall. Her photo is where my photo is supposed to be. Many Facebook friends (most of whom I have never met) posted good wishes, and I was grateful. No one wrote, I hope your dog dies, dude. But then I’m not a teenager. I suppose Facebook is a kind of Internet apartment building, providing a bit of padding between you and whatever might pop up about you on the Web.

I called 311 to find out if hitting a dog was a crime, and was referred to the Sixth Precinct. According to a dog owner working there, the police would not arrest the driver. Dogs are property (hence the term dog owner). The offense was, I assume, civil, not criminal. And therefore that driver can go on hitting dogs and getting away with it. 

Published in the New York Times