I remember it like it was yesterday. We lived on Schuylkill Street, high above the valley. I was walking to school by myself. I had reached the bottom of the hill where our street connected to U.S. Highway 15, which was the main highway running north and south through Pennsylvania. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a white, black, and tan blur race past me toward U.S. 15.
Pal was on the loose again!
I had no more begun to call out his name when darted across the busy highway. He did not make it all the way. A northbound car, with screeching brakes, struck Pal and continued over him as Pal bounced and rolled several times beneath the car.
To his credit, the driver stopped, but before he could get out to check on Pal, our feisty little Rat Terrier bounced to his feet and began to scramble back across the highway. Despite having absorbed a direct hit by the car’s bumper, Pal was moving pretty fast, obviously hurt and scared, but yelping and determined to put as much distance between himself and the highway as possible.
I went through a serious of emotions in scant seconds. Surprise and annoyance that Pal had escaped yet again; fear and genuine terror as he streaked across the busy highway; horror at the sight and sound of him being struck by and rolling beneath the car; disbelief and joy when Pal jumped up and made a beeline back across the highway; fear he might be hit yet again by a southbound car; and finally relief when Pal successfully crossed the highway and ran pell-mell into Charlie Ward’s front yard.
Talk about your roller coaster of emotions.
Those of you who have been reading my columns know that Pal lived a long and happy life, but for my new readers, please be assured there’s a happy ending.
Anyway, back to Charlie Ward.
I mention Mr. Ward by name because this is an important fact for the next part of Pal’s story. Mr. Ward owned and operated the Ward Casting Foundry, the largest employer in my hometown. As such, Mr. Ward’s home was fairly substantial, and other than the spacious, unfenced front yard, it was mostly inaccessible, as it was protected by a variety of gates, fences, walls, and heavy undergrowth. Not that Mr. Ward was the type to chase you away. He was a favorite stop for neighborhood children at Halloween and, to my knowledge, was not the type who wanted or needed a true security fence. We stayed off his property out of respect, not because his estate was heavily guarded. The fences were decorative, and access to Mr. Ward’s backyard was a simple matter of dropping over a stone wall and threading through the trees and bushes. Yeah, I know, it was definitely a different time.
When we last left Pal, he was making a beeline through Mr. Ward’s front yard and around the house to the back, which is where I ran to in hopes of cutting off or catching Pal. No such luck. I couldn’t see or hear Pal in Mr. Ward’s backyard (well, forest, really) and it didn’t take me long to realize I wasn’t going to find Pal there, because Pal hadn’t stopped.
So there I was, a distraught 12-year-old whose dog has just been hit and run over by a car. I’m for sure going to be late for school, and I don’t know where my injured dog is. Maybe he’s running for home or maybe he’s running for the fields and hills behind our house, where he always seemed to go whenever he managed to get off his chain. This is long before cell phones, so if I’m going to call anyone, I’ve got to go to someone’s house. Mr. Ward was a nice man to visit for candy at Halloween, but I wasn’t about to knock on the front door of the richest man in town.
What would you have done? Home was back up the hill. My great-grandma’s house was closer, but what could she do? She was mostly housebound. I was scared for my dog and also scared to be more late to school than I already was. I went to school.
Before going to home room, I called my mom at work and told her what had happened. She told me if Pal was still able to run fast enough that I couldn’t catch him, he was likely going to be okay until one of us could get back home, and she promised to help me look for Pal when she got home from work.
I worried myself sick all day wondering if Pal really was okay. You can imagine my relief when I got home and found Pal holed up in his doghouse. He was a little worse for wear, with a small triangular chunk missing from his rump, but otherwise seemed to be fine.
I can’t remember for sure if we even had to take him to the vet or not, but I imagine we did. Pal was pretty sore for a couple of weeks, but made a full recovery and was soon back to escaping his chain and leading us on more mad chases through the neighborhood — but Charlie Ward’s backyard was the closest Pal ever came to U.S. 15 for the remaining years he lived with us.
How about you? Did your dog ever do something crazy and survive despite the odds? Share your miraculous stories with us in the comments section. Please remember, we’re not looking for tragedies here. We’ve got enough tragedy in our lives. I’m specifically asking for stories of the “How’d my dog get away with doing that!?” variety, where your precious pup ended up okay when he or she probably shouldn’t have.