Thanks to the San Jose Mercury News for these sad tidings.
San Jose neighborhood shaken by dog’s death
By Linda Goldston
The impact of the Toyota 4Runner was so loud that Mae and Ron Olson heard it in the back of their house, across Squiredell Drive in West San Jose.
“One of my sons started screaming, `Mom, somebody got killed out on the street,”‘ said Mae Olson.
The “somebody” was a 60-pound Australian shepherd named Tucker. His death on March 20, one week before his fifth birthday, has shaken not only owners Christine and Ved Sharma but an entire neighborhood.
A disabled woman who lived next door lost her daily “ray of sunshine,” a ray she felt when Tucker would come to lick her arm as she struggled from her car to her wheelchair. Neighbors Marilyn and Frank Martin and Mae and Roy Olson miss their canine “grandson.”
Feelings run deep toward the driver of the car, a neighborhood resident who witnesses say was talking on her cell phone and driving on the wrong side of the road. But there is also a new focus, with neighbors uniting to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again.
“There are a lot of cars that speed down this street,” said Claus Strand, who lives up on the corner and remembers the car that killed Tucker passing him March 20 “about 35-40 mph.”
“It’s made me more aware of cars around me,” he said. “I have a two-year-old daughter and I don’t let her anywhere near the sidewalk.”
Ved Sharma, who heard the accident from his seat in the garage, called police after Tucker was killed but was told “they couldn’t do anything.” San Jose’s Department of Transportation has agreed to investigate whether there is a speeding problem on the street and will work to monitor traffic.
“We take this as seriously as we’d take a human being hit,” said Linda Crabill Byrne, community relations manager for the Department of Transportation. “It just as easily could have been a child.”
Driver Connie Wong said she would never speed so close to her own home and denied she was on the wrong side of the street or talking on her cell phone.
“I tried to slow down, I tried to brake,” Wong said. “The dog hit the side of my car and bounced back.”
Tucker was hit by Wong’s beige 4-Runner about nine feet from the end of the Sharma’s driveway on the wide street. Neighbors drew a white circle around the spot that night and later added flowers and Tucker’s favorite toy – a stuffed squirrel – as a memorial to the dog so popular with many.
A sign the Olsons placed in front of the Sharmas’ yard is still there: “Slow Down, Save Lives,” it says.
“I never really realized the influence he had on everybody in the neighborhood until after this happened,” Christine Sharma said. “Some people just sat down and cried.”
After Tucker graduated from puppy school – “he was the only puppy who sat still for his graduation photo” – he was trained for search and rescue. But with two daughters, a job and a husband whose job required that he travel more, Christine Sharma never had her dog certified in search and rescue.
“We all feel that Tucker died to save someone else’s life,” said Mae Olson. “I watched him die and I’ll never get it out of my head: His eyes were like, `Why? I was a good dog.’ He didn’t know what happened or why.”
The Sharmas and the Martins were in the Sharma’s open garage that evening. Frank Martin had thrown the ball for Tucker in the yard earlier and when they stopped, Ved Sharma placed the ball under his chair. Tucker was not on a leash, as is required by city law.
“Frank had to come down and get his Tucker fix,” said Marilyn Martin, who has lived on the street for 34 years. “We were like a grandma and grandpa to Tucker.”
About the time they heard the 4Runner coming, Ved Sharma said he realized Tucker must have nudged the ball, which was rolling down the driveway.
“We said, `Tucker, stop,” Ved Sharma said. “By the time we said, stop, the car just blam,” hit him, he said. “There was no reason for him to be hit. There were no skid marks and there were no cars parked on that side of the street.”
Ved Sharma said he had warned Wong several times before about driving too fast down the street. He said he would wave his arm in a slow down motion when she passed. Wong said she assumed he was waving hello, and she would always wave back.
Tucker was cremated on March 27, his birthday, and the Sharmas are planning a small memorial for the people who loved him in the neighborhood.
“I got more cards for Tucker’s death, about 25-30, than I did when my mother died,” Christine Sharma said. “He just really touched so many people.”