The Metre Reader #3: RIP Owen

Do I type about this or not?

I was in my office yesterday afternoon and got a call from Cheryl.

“Owen got hit by a car and he’s dead. He got out the front door. He’s down on the corner.”
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I heard myself say, “What?” and before I knew it I was up the stairs, in my car, and driving with no answers. Only more questions: “How did he get out? Who hit him? How did Cheryl know?” But when I got to the corner my mind emptied. My son Cian was on his knees, bent over our dog—our nine-month-old puppy—crying. There was a guy there too, the driver of the van. He said he was sorry. He said it happened so fast.

“You better get at least a hundred feet away from me—right now.” I calmly told him. And he got up and left.

I got on my knees too and hugged Cian, surprised to find myself crying, heaving uncontrollably. “I’m sorry.” I kept telling him.

One of our neighbor friends had been witness to the accident. She told us that Owen only made a little crying noise when it happened and passed away almost instantly. I asked her to please get the license plate of the guy’s van as he drove off. I don’t know why. I was standing at that point—don’t remember getting up—and I couldn’t see. Cian was still on the ground over Owen, sobbing, when Cheryl pulled up in her van. I didn’t recognize it as hers until she got out of the driver’s seat. She’d been at work when she called me with the news and had driven straight over.

She went straight to Cian, I think, and got him to stand up. She hugged him and that’s when I understood the sound of his sobbing for the first time. It was the saddest thing I’ve ever heard—my son crying for his dog.

What’s the word? Involuntary? I picked up Owen, involuntarily, and then suddenly I was standing at the back of Cheryl’s van, waiting for someone to open the hatch. Owen was limp, like he was sleeping, but not heavy. “Isn’t dead weight supposed to be heavy?” I thought. I laid him down in the back and he really did look asleep except for a little bit of blood coming out of his mouth. His tongue was sticking out of his mouth, too, and when I went to tuck it in, I noticed that it was already cold.

Cheryl and I got Cian in her van and she drove him up the hill one block to our house. Our neighbor gave me Cian’s phone, which he’d left behind, and I asked her if she’d take his bike to her place. I’d pick it up later.

I walked over to my car and saw myself in the window, crying. I’d never really seen that before: me totally and completely crushed, sniffling, sobbing, out in the world. It was weird.

I drove home, too.

When I got there, Cian and Cheryl were on the couch. Cian lying on his stomach and Cheryl sitting next to him, hugging him, talking softly.

I almost fell into the chair and began crying some more.

I tried to call Miles, who was at school still. Tried texting him. Then texted his girlfriend, Sadie, and asked her to have him call me.

He called, I told him what happened, and asked if he wanted me to come get him. He waffled, confused. Then I told him I was coming to get him. “Okay.” He quietly agreed.

Cried all the way over to get him and all the way home. Miles put his hand on my shoulder as I drove.

We went inside and just kind of sat there.

Cian and Cheryl were back in his room, crying and talking. Miles and I took turns going back there, too, saying stuff I can’t remember.

Then I asked Miles if he wanted to see Owen and we went out to the van. My first instinct was to walk away and give Miles time by himself, but something told me not to leave so I crossed my arms, stayed there, and watched as Miles petted Owen who was still laying exactly where I’d set him down twenty minutes earlier. There was a little more blood that had come out of his mouth and the whole van smelled like puppy farts.

Miles got done, hugged me for a long time, and we went back inside.

I didn’t know what else to do so I Googled, “My dog was hit by a car and died. What should I do?” The Nebraska Humane Society website came up and said I could bury him in our backyard. I was relieved. I really didn’t want to call the vet, drive him there, talk to them about what happened, and hand him over, only to come back in a day or two to collect his remains.

I told Cheryl what I wanted to do, grabbed two shovels (where did we get two shovels?) and Cheryl helped me pick out a spot. We started digging. It’s hard. And it’s slow. I kept thinking about people on TV and in movies who dig graves like it’s nothing. Fuck TV and movies. I thought about my friend, Mike, who’s been digging up his entire backyard for elevated gardens. Fuck elevated gardens. Cheryl went and got Miles and together we dug a deep hole for Owen.

When we were done, I went and collected Owen from the back of the van. I asked Miles to take our other dog, Hubble, inside and shut the door. This was only a couple hours after the accident, but Owen was already getting stiff. I set him down gently in the grave and tried to get his tongue back in his mouth again. I brushed the dirt clods from his fur.

Cian and Cheryl came outside and I lost it again. I had to walk away and cry into the trees, cry into the fence.

We all said our goodbyes, but right before we were going to move the dirt on top of Owen, Cian asked, “Why did you put Hubble inside? I wanted him to see Owen again.” I mumbled something about not wanting Hubble to see this … to see us burying his little brother. It seemed awful.

Miles and I gently filled the spaces around Owen with dirt and then covered him completely. I put the shovels back where I’d gotten them, sat on a chair to clean off my shoes and feet, and broke down again, crying at the sky above my backyard.

3 Comments

  • Great articles don’t always have to be happy articles, and this is solid evidence. Having had our dog die in my arms a few years ago, struggling for his last gasps of air, this brings back some hard memories.

    I’m sorry for you all, and particularly your kids. The lesson of mortality is something so hard to share with our children – it’s hard for me not to lie to myself and dream that they will live forever.

    I’ve been told that pets have shorter lives to help us deal with the emotional struggles of human lives. It doesn’t make the lessons any less painful.

  • Katie says:

    I love you. I’m sorry. This might sound crazy but each moment you wrote about I thought about last night before I knew these details. I cried for you, cheryl, cian and miles. I cried for Owen. He was our family.

  • Katy says:

    I’m sorry…this is so familiar I just wanted to say that. Dogs are amazing. It hurts but you you will always have good memories.

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