It’s easier not to think about her during the day. I can distract myself with other things like my daughter, or I can make my mind go blank by watching a TV show.
It’s at night when I can’t get her out of my mind. Alone in the dark, when everyone is asleep, all I see is her face. Her adorable face. Staring at me with a sort of ‘deer in the headlight’ look. Confused. Unsure of what just happened. But she had heard my voice. She heard me call her name and reacted instinctively.
My heart sunk into my stomach when I rounded the corner and saw her. I hadn’t believed the noise I’d heard. The ‘thunk’ from the truck that was driving past didn’t make sense. It was as if it hit a pot hole. There are no pot-hole’s in front of my house. My mind didn’t put it together until I saw the lady with her dog across the street. As the truck drove slowly on, I knew my baby girl was going to want to play with that dog.
But she wasn’t in the yard with Kabuki. There he was, in mid-pee, staring at the road. But she was gone. And there was that dog across the street. And that truck. The thunk.
I called her name before I saw her. She was simply next to my car in the driveway looking at the other dog. She had to be.
I’m always so careful. So careful not to let her out when there’s anyone outside. She loves people. She loves dogs. I know she’ll go say hi to them if they’re outside when I let her out. Every time I wonder why I would let her outside without her leash, but I convince myself that she’s a good dog. She’s only two feet away. She doesn’t take long. Besides, if I’m careful she has no reason to do anything but her business and come back inside.
I wasn’t careful this day. She paid for my carelessness and irresponsibility.
The look on her face when I came around the corner is what haunts me at night. How her head shook as if she was having a seizure. She stumbled a step or two. Enough to reach me. Before we both collapsed on the road at the same time. My knees hit the rocks but I felt no pain. My arms wrapped around her as I called out her name over and over.
Talia. Talia. My baby girl. My Talia.
At some point I screamed for my husband. A sound for which I didn’t realize I made, but I’m told was frightening to hear.
I had no idea what to do.
Blood was everywhere. Thick. Red. A pool of it in front of her. Blood that still stains the road in front of my house. A stain that I can’t bear to look at when I go outside.
I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. Her fur was clean. No scrapes. No bruises. No missing appendages. I was confused. My mind drew a blank.
I had no idea what to do.
Maybe it was my own voice in my head. Maybe it was the lady across the street with her dog.
Your other dog.
Kabuki. Kabuki, who was now coming up to sniff at his big sister in the road. I screamed for my husband to take him back inside. At some point he asked who hit my baby girl. I pointed to the truck that was not far off. Apparently the driver decided not to run, and to turn around. I wanted to be mad at him. I wanted to yell at him for not paying attention.
Looking back, I know there was no way that he should have hit my baby girl. The speed limit along with the direction he was coming from. He was probably not paying attention to the road. Maybe he was oggling the lady across the street with her dog. I can’t say for sure.
I didn’t think of any of this at the time. All I could think about was this was my fault. My fault for not being a responsible pet owner. Not having my precious baby girl on a leash. I take so many precautions with my toddler. Why did I take the safety of my dog for granted? Am I truly that bad of a person.
As the images of her face flash through my mind in the darkness of the night, I know the answer. Yes. I am.
She lay on the ground as I knelt over her. Crying. Sobbing. I pet her long beautiful coat as she lay there trembling and twitching.
I don’t know when her movement stopped. I just knew that when it happened a part of me died at the same time. I knew my baby girl was gone.
I buried my face in her fur. I couldn’t stop myself.
Talia. My Talia baby. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry baby girl. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.
It was all I could say.
The man driving the truck stood a few feet away. I vaguely heard him say there was nothing he could do. That my dog ran out in front of him.
I didn’t care. My husband came out with a blanket, ready to rush her to the vet. I may have noticed him tense up when he saw the driver. I may have just imagined it. But I didn’t care.
Even now, I can’t blame him. I know where the blame should lie. It wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t his fault, I say. It was mine. Mine.
It’s my fault baby girl. I’m so sorry. It’s my fault.
As I crouch over her in nothing but my nightgown. I hold my baby girl and realize her eyes are open. Unfocused. I close her eyes with my hand but they won’t stay closed. I can’t bear to see that unfocused stare. I kept my hand over her eyes.
Close your eyes baby girl. Close your eyes. I love you so much baby girl. Close your eyes.
At night in the dark, those eyes come back to me. Unfocused. I realize I have a picture of her that way. I thought it was funny at the time. Now I can’t bear to see it. It was as if that picture was foreshadowing this wretched day. That picture is exactly the way she looked that day in the road.
I turn to my husband and tell him she’s gone. She’s gone. My baby girl is gone.
Hours later. Maybe it was years. Minutes. Time didn’t matter. She mattered. She mattered and she was gone. My husband told me I have to get up. He says I have to go inside and clean up. He says he’ll take care of her.
No! I can’t leave her! I don’t want to just leave her there! I can’t leave my baby girl!
I hear a woman’s voice tell me she’ll stay with her while I go inside. I don’t know who this woman is. Not the lady with the dog. She must have walked on. A random stranger. Her words allowed me to stand and make my way inside.
I stumble to the kitchen sink. I vomited at some point while cleaning myself up. My husband tells me he has to take her to the vet. I can only nod through my sobbing.
As I make my way to the bedroom I collapse in bed. Seconds later. Maybe it was minutes or hours. My husband comes back. He and my toddler lie with me in bed as I cry.
Every night since then this is the scene that plays out in my mind as I lie in bed. This is why I can’t sleep. It was the way she looked at me. The heart-crushing way she looked at me when she heard me call her name. She came to me. Using the last of her strength. She came to me. To be with me in her last moments. Always my dog. Till the end.
And so I am robbed of sleep. But I don’t complain. I can’t. How could I? She was robbed of her life. By me. How could I possibly complain of such a little thing like sleep?
Sometimes when I look at Kabuki, I see his sad eyes. I can tell he misses his sister. She’s the only family he’s ever known. Kabuki is still so young, but sometimes I see my guilt reflected in his eyes. As if he blames me as much as I do. But I know he doesn’t. He and I have grown even closer since that day. We two who loved her the most. We two who were hers. Our hearts will never be the same. Which makes Kabuki and I one and the same.
The best dog I ever had. The most friendly, loving dog. Not a single person disliked her. Everywhere she went she made people smile. She would greet you with a warm nuzzle and a kiss. She wanted nothing but to make her humans happy.
She guarded my daughter even from us. She would bark and dance along as we played and tickled my daughter. She would chase her around the house. She would lie next to her when she was asleep. She would lick the water that dripped from Kabuki’s jowls and play with him for hours. She would fetch a ball like a pro. It was her favorite thing to do.
She ran like the wind. Graceful and beautiful. She kept all the dogs in line at the daycare center. She would play with them all and make sure they kept out of trouble. In the end, she was always my dog. She could be sound asleep, but if I moved, she would wake up and follow me. Even to the bathroom. Especially to the bathroom. If she wasn’t laying at the foot of my bed, she was on the floor where I could drop my hand and run my hands through her long coat. She would nuzzle my arm, letting me know she was there as I sat at my desk. She would be happy just to have a single finger touch her. And she loved her treats.
This was my perfect dog. That I was lucky to have found her is an understatement. She blessed our home for such a short time. Only a year and a half. I didn’t deserve her, but she filled my heart with joy that only a dog like her could.
She left us much too soon. And in such a tragic way. It haunts me every night.
I miss you baby girl. More than I could ever say.