Needing to Vent

Photo Credit: ©Kathie Meier

Traveling home in the dark last night along a two-lane road near my home I drove into some fog. My response was to slow down which is what I think allowed me to somehow swerve and miss the two animals that abruptly appeared in my headlights. Two dogs- one a white Standard Poodle, the other a yellow Lab mix were sprinting neck and neck down the centerline of the pavement straight towards me. Although I viewed them for less than a second, the smiling expressions on their faces told me they were out on a joy run and having one helluva good time. I still cannot fathom how I avoided hitting them.

It took me no more than a minute to circle back to the scene of my “near miss” where I encountered flashing blue lights and a police officer directing me to drive past. I stopped, rolled down my window, and the officer told me that two dogs had just been killed…….

As it turns out, it was the police officer’s car that hit both dogs, flipping them to opposite sides of the pavement. After explaining that I’m a veterinarian, I requested the opportunity to confirm that both dogs were in fact deceased. Sadly, this was the case. The Poodle bore no visible marks on her body. The Lab mix was another story.

Fortunately, two Good Samaritans were at the scene. I say fortunate, because once the police officer located the piece of his patrol car that had broken off during the accident he took off indicating that he was late for work in another county. He left no contact information. More importantly he left the three of us in a precarious situation, trying to do the right thing on a dark, foggy road with cars screaming by.

We examined the dog’s collars in the headlights of my car. The tag numbers were too worn to be legible. One of the Good Samaritans was savvy enough to search the road surface where he found a rabies tag that tracked to a local 24-hour veterinary hospital. I was shocked when my call to this hospital traced the tag number to one of their very own employees who happened to be at home just a half mile from the scene of the accident.

With a single phone call I forever changed the life of a young woman who dearly loved her two dogs. In between sobs, she told me that they must have escaped from their yard. She was just getting her young daughter out of the bathtub and asked that I bring the dogs to her workplace where their remains could be cared for. When I met her there we hugged and I attempted to console her with the only good thing I could think of. I told her that, in my heart of hearts I believed that her two dogs were having one heck of a good time and that they did not experience even a single moment of fear or pain.

I am left feeling deep sadness, yet relief that I was not the one who hit these two dogs. I also feel somewhat ripped off- how remarkably unfair that a veterinarian who happens so quickly upon the scene of an accident involving animals has no opportunity to mend or to heal. Equally remarkable for me is the not so gentle reminder about our own vulnerability and how our lives can be irrevocably changed by one moment in time.

Thanks for this opportunity to vent. Please double-check your fencing and gates to make sure that your yard is safe and secure.

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.



Be Sociable, Share!

40 Comments on “Needing to Vent

  1. Dear Doctor Nancy,
    As usual you bring important issues to our attention. I would like to add a post script to your request for pet owners to check their fences and gates.
    My husband and I have 4 dogs living securely on 5 fenced acres. We have a Black and Tan Coonhound, a German Shepherd, a Shepherd/Ridgeback cross and a Greyhound/Blue Heeler cross (I call them my “Motley Crew”).
    While we have a six foot, no-climb fence with barbed wire top and bottom, and an automatic gate that has an electro-magnetic latch, our dogs are all micro-chipped.
    As one of your responders called their dogs “Houdinis” we don’t believe ANYTHING is Escape Proof.
    Thanks for ALL you do and say.

  2. Wow. This broke my heart. But I thank God that they didn’t suffer. I guess in a world where animals are horrifically tortured for “fun” and greed, I suppose it could have been much worse. (What a horrible statement, but true none-the-less!!) God bless your beautiful heart for caring enough to go back for those two precious souls. May the cop be convicted for his lack of caring.

    “A righteous man regards the life of animals” – PROVERBS 12:10; “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion & pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men” – FRANCIS OF ASSISI; “I hope to make people realize how totally helpless animals are, how dependent on us, trusting as a child must that we will be kind and take care of their needs…(They) are an obligation put on us, a responsibility we have no rights to neglect, nor to violate by cruelty….” – JAMES HARRIOT; “The greatness of a nation & its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” – MAHATMA GANDHI

  3. So true. Have to be extra careful if you choose to leave your beloved pets outside!

  4. What a heart wrenching story! I understand why you needed to vent! I agree with those who felt the police officer seemed very uncaring and even irresponsible in his actions. Very disappointing! I am sure you were able to inform the dogs’ owner in a much more supportive and caring way than he ever would have. I feel so sad for her.

  5. Bless your huge heart for being there. Sorry you had to experience that, however.

  6. Dear Dr Kay,

    From personal experience, I know what powerful, kind support you give to grieving pet owners. Your support group back in Sonoma was a gift to many. This young mother was fortunate to have you by her side.

    We still miss you out here.

  7. I totally agree with so many writers! How terrible that these poor dogs were hit and how fast and careless was this police officer going? That is just horrible he let others deal with his hit and run version of these dog’s deaths!
    I can’t believe it! Yes, dogs get out. We had a dog that would sail over a 6 ft fence when kids were on the other side. Thankfully she never got hit! But the police officer making others “do his job” is just unbelieveable!!!

  8. Oh Dr. Kay, I’m so sorry. This is very sad and tragic for you, the one who really tried to help the dogs. May your love for animals and your wonderful stories of caring help us become better caregivers for Gods loving creatures .

  9. This story brought me to tears and I knew what was going to happen. I am so sorry that you had to experience this, but I am also grateful, as I am sure the owner is, that you we there and were able to let her know what happened to her beloved pets. Thank you for being there for the dogs and their guardian.

  10. A heart breaking story…..thanks to you and the others who cared to stop. Not sure I understand or accept that is was appropriate for the police officer to leave the scene without aiding further. All life is precious and as you shared, can change in a moment…..

  11. So very sorry to hear this sad, sad story. I’m sure you cannot get it out of your mind. A great reminder to hug our own dogs close, check our fences and gate latches, use our leashes, and restrain our door-dashers.

  12. Nancy, first of all you’re a human being not just a Vet, and it was so good to hear you say the two dogs looked like they were having a great time before the accident. At least their last moments were shared with joy and you did get to see it.
    The story broke my heart because I knew from the beginning what was going to happen.

  13. Please, before you judge, think about this person and what she is going through. Perhaps she just had her fence completely walked through and fixed the very day her dogs got out. Perhaps she feels the same ill feeling when she is driving and sees loose dogs. Perhaps, on a daily basis she sees the pain in owners eyes when their beloved pet is hurt or has died because of a car. She perhaps does the best she can, loves on the animals, loves on the owners. Just a thought. I know her heart is completely shattered into a million pieces. I know her life will never be the same. Pray for her, healing, peace, and thanks for the wonderful angel that was sent to help her on that tragic night.

  14. My heart aches for you and also for those precious dogs and their owner. I am not tolerant of people that think their dogs should be able to run free. I have a neighbor that does that. I spoke to them about the situation several times. It didn’t seem to help so I then reported them as the dog is not licensed and runs out in the street after people and other dogs. The denied they had a dog and so goes it. I also know an individual that works for a vet and lost two dogs in a home fire. This person went out and bought pup. Since he let the other dogs run loose when he was out with them he did the same with the pup and of course it didn’t come when he called and ended up being hit by a car and died. Because the dogs were the same breed as my heart dog (which I lost prior to his first two being in the fire) I cried my eyes out for all three of these dogs. Some people just never get it.

  15. The above comments say it all. It would make me physically ill to hit any animal.

    The only consolation here for me is the fact that the two dogs died instantly.

    Thank you Dr. Kay for venting. Sadly I know of folks who have had more than one dog killed on a busy two-lane road after dark and yet they don’t keep their pets secure. I guess the figure they can “always get another one”. Just makes me furious. Sorry.

  16. Dr. Kay,

    I am very disappointed (but somehow not surprised) at the attitude of the police officer. It was dark and foggy. You were driving slow and able to avoid hitting the dogs. The “serve and protect officer of the law” was most likely speeding because he was running late for work. Then he left three citizens to contend with the aftermath of his accident, in unsafe conditions no less? He couldn’t have called his supervisor to let him/her know why he would be delayed?

    I am sorry for the dogs. Sorry for the owner of the dogs. Sorry you had to experience this scenario as well. But disheartened at the attitude of the police officer. Shouldn’t his conduct be called into question here?

  17. Thank-you, Nancy, for caring for these two dogs and getting them back home again. What a lovely deed in tragic circumstances.

  18. With tears streaming I can’t help but think of the inhumane attitude of the cop, especially after just reading an article reporting in Merced CA it is regular practice to take found, injured animals to the local firing range for target practice! Something is really lacking in our men in blue, EVERYWHERE!
    GOD Bless you for being there and trying your best to help …

  19. A very powerful post. Thank you for sharing it. “Equally remarkable for me is the not so gentle reminder about our own vulnerability and how our lives can be irrevocably changed by one moment in time.”

  20. As a husky (houdinis, all) owner and rescuer, I check my fences daily…although I have fostered dogs who could jump an 8 foot fence in a single leap! All my gates are double gated, locked when I am not home (I live at the end of a dead end road), and if my dogs bark, I go outside to see why. (They go in and out as they please). When I was young and stupid, I used to let my first dog run free. When she was 6 months old, she was hit by a car while I was at work. Some good samaritans saw the accident, pulled her off the road, and called my vet, whose rabies tag was on her (I was too stupid to have my own tag). That dear man drove over and picked her up at 8PM when he got the call, treated her for shock, and stabilized her. These were the days before answering machines. I spent most of the night searching, walking and calling for her. I was up at first light the next morning to resume my search, and had just gotten dressed when my phone rang: it was my vet, calling to tell me what had happened. I was at his office when he arrived, and he allowed me to make payments on her surgery. Because of that good man, I got to have 12 years with the best teacher and friend any person ever had. She died almost 30 years ago; but I still think of and bless Dr. Winthrop G. Dale of Incline Village, Nevada. He passed away over a decade ago; but my love and gratitude will never die. I never learned the names of the people who saved her life, but I send them blessings almost evey day.
    Since then, I never go past a loose dog. I always do my best to catch them, and almost always can. If they have an address, I take them home; if a phone #, I call and connect; if nothing, I have them checked for a microchip; if none, I bring them home and notify the local pounds that I have the dog in case the owner comes looking…and if for some reason I cannot bring them to my home (like the female pibble in heat, who did not like my females), I reluctantly take them to AC, and keep tabs on them. I thank doG that I have not found any dead dogs; I cannot imagine how I would feel if I ever hit one.
    And I pray that you reported that cop: his actions were criminal; and his superiors should know that he actively put people in harm’s way (you know, the kind he swore to protect?). I once had some car trouble at night. the CHP who stopped would not help me get home, and threatened to arrest me if I tried to hitch a ride…so he left an elderly, disabled woman on the highway at night. (I was later helped by a good samaritan).
    And, Dr. Kay, you DID mend and heal: not the bodies, but the souls of the dogs and their human. Vets work on many levels in addition to the physical one.

  21. I am so very sad about this. At the same time, please forgive me, but it makes me very angry at the same time. I am always upset when I see roaming dogs….I’ve heard, “he’s a real houdini”, and a smile on so many owners faces during the conversation…often succeeded by, “but he always comes home!”. Your story illustrates the fact that this is not always the case.

  22. I am so sorry that happened to you. And glad that you vented – because maybe it will cause someone to doublecheck that his or her pet is safe and the gate is closed.

    I highly recommend the novel Unsaid by Neal Abramson. It deals with many animal issues, but quite specifically of euthanasia and the very special responsibility and burden that vets bear. In fact, the opening scene of the book reminded me very much of this story.

    Take care! Vent when you need to. You do yourself and the animals a service.

  23. I live in an area where there are many two lane roads and not a lot of fenced yards; I suppose due to lot size??. It is common practice for people to turn their dogs loose to roam. On my way to work this morning I saw the car in front of me slow down then drive on. I faintly saw something in the middle of the road and slowed down as well. A miniature dachshund of all things. Just standing in the middle of the road. I saw a car approaching so I started flashing my bright lights to alert them and they stopped as well. The dog never moved, never really paid me any attention until I opened my door to try to retreive him. He took off like a shot barking and I hope running for home. He was so small, could have been mistaken for just trash in the road. I would like to think he escaped from the back yard but something tells me that’s not how he got into the middle of road. I’ve tried to reason with a couple of folks in the area to no avail so I call animal control every chance I get. I can’t bear to think of how terrible it would be to kill someone’s beloved pet because they allowed them to roam.

  24. Gosh Nancy-Big breath and tears for this. Sooo sad. I am glad that you posted this, painful as it is.

    Along with checking fences and gates, I urge people who use those “invisible fence” dog collar things to regularly replace the batteries in the collar transmitters. I have found, picked up and luckily reunited with its owner a dog who escaped his home because his collar batteries had worn out.

    Blessings to our beloved dogs of the past, present and future! May we humans do all we can to protect them as they live with us in domesticity!

  25. My first thoughts were that the cop probably hit them on purpose. It seems that the men in these positions are becoming less and less concerned or whatever the word would be about the welfare of pets today regardless of where they have come upon them or for whatever circumstance.

    It saddens me greatly to know that the value of a dogs life has become equal to that of a toad in the road.. There are countless stories about any one of these officers coming upon some ones pet and never taking into consideration the fact that the dog is loved and well cared for and they take every opportunity to pull out their pistol and just shoot the dog and even if they have met the dog is in its own backyard.
    Its sickens me to know that the loss of the lives of dogs means nothing to these men any more.
    What is the reason for all of this.
    I was so glad to read that you turned around and went back to see about those two beloved dogs. I pray that it happened quickly and without much pain…
    Thank you for this act of kindness Dr Kay. And for allowing me to vent a little bit.

  26. What a blessing that you were there for these dogs and their owner at such a horrible time, Nancy, and you knew exactly what to do. Thank you for being the special soul that you are. ?

  27. Our husky mix was an escape artist and knew how to open gate latches, dig under the fence, and even unravel the chain link. We had to really Houdini proof the fence and gates. After reading Sonya Fitzpatrick’s newest book, “There Are No Sad Dogs In Heaven”, those dogs will still be near their humans in spirit.

  28. What is with all the dogs being let out of fenced yards. I do believe, it is time to put the lights on, cameras on and lock and load. My pupps are my family. Enter and open my gate on property at your own risk and we know YOU will not recieve justice………

  29. I am glad you turned around after nearly hitting the dogs to check on them. YOU did the right thing. The cop on the other hand, was callous as well as putting civilians in danger and should be punished accordingly. Is there any way for you to report this guy?
    Although the dogs’ guardian loved them, their tags were not up to date or illegible, something I see often. No tags, old tags or illegible tags.
    I am also happy that the dogs were happy until that last moment. Thanks for your compassion. You did everything right in a painful situation.

  30. KUDOS Dr. Kay for providing consolement to the owner, helping these 2 “free spirits” find their way to their owner.

  31. As an animal control officer, I have to relate sad news to folks quite often. Nothing makes my heart sink faster that hearing a description of a beloved pet that I just picked up dead from the side of the road.
    I agree with Dr. Kay that people forget to check their fences and gates. Even dogs with spacious yards cannot resist the chance to take a “freedom run”. Very few dogs have “street savvy senses” and know not to run in the middle of the road.
    On the other hand, a few years ago, I heard the sad news of someone trying to help an injured (hit by car) dog in the middle of the road at night and became a victim herself. She did not live. Fog and darkness are the most dangerous conditions for rescue…especially if you do not have the proper emergency lights and flares.
    Keep your animals safe folks! Take the time to walk your fences and pull on gates….it can save a ton of heart aches….

  32. So many things can go wrong when dogs are outdoors unsupervised. Padlocks on the gates, and a human who goes out WITH the dogs for any yard playtime provides the best level of security.

  33. This was just to sad on so many levels. I am sorry this happened to you, Dr. Kay, but it seems there was a reason that you were on that road at that particular time. If not for you, the unfortunate owner may not have ever found out what happened to her dogs. In the small N. Carolina town where we reside, there are always wandering dogs, and not by accident. Their owners just do not care enough to protect them. I just ordered blaze orange, reflective collars from a great company called Spiffy Dog (, so they can be seen by hunters and at night. These are light weight, quality collars from a great company I have used many times over the years. Some protection just in case . . .

  34. I run a small kennel/boarding facility. I am constantly repairing and replacing fencing- as a direct result to my OCD type behavior of checking the fence twice a month! I can only hope those two indeed didn’t feel a thing. I know they are having a blast romping and playing at the bridge. Having had a dog hit and left to die by a drunken neighbor who when confronted was still too drunk not to giggle… I am doubly worried about the fence lines. ( they have a right of way through our property- darn it) To that officer- may Karma be creative. And To you —the author VENT AWAY!

  35. I’m so very sorry for every being concerned. You’ve described my worst nightmare–regardless of which role in the drama I had.

  36. How upsetting this was (for all involved).

    People also need to check the tags for legibility. Blue, black and red hold up best for this I think. Silver is pretty worthless after a couple of days.

    I like two different tags: One just says “Reward” and what numbers to call. No one needs to know the name of my dog unless you plan to keep it. The other tag says “Take me to I can wait here for Mom”. Make it as easy as possible for someone to bring my dogs to the one place where they know me, know the dogs and will keep them while they contact me.

    I like the idea of checking fences on a regular basis. I keep my gates locked unless I have a specific purpose for one to be open. In that case, the dogs are inside and crated.

  37. Thank you and the good sams for stopping to help these dogs. I am so sorry this happened, but am glad you were able to witness their last joyful romp and let their owner know that they died happy and instantly. Just as you avoided hitting these dogs, that police officer could have avoided them by driving at a safer speed in the fog. I am appalled that he drove away from the scene of an accident on the road that he caused, leaving 3 civilians on the side of the road under unsafe foggy conditions to clean up his mess. I wonder how fast he was going that he managed to kill two dogs on impact and knock them clear across the road? I hope he gets in trouble for damaging his patrol car! I hope he will lose some sleep over this (if he even has a conscious). While extremely traumatic and tragic, I’m glad for the family that you were on the scene to provide them with closure. It would have been way worse for their bodies to have remained on the side of the road. My sincerest condolences to the family.

  38. Thank you! At least those dogs were loved, and not dogs dumped by a callous owner to fend for themselves. There are many of those, too.

    My dogs are black and they wouldn’t stand a chance in the dark. One has a jeweled collar that I hope will reflect, but the other has a blue one. I think I’ll replace it with a reflective collar, just in case.

    Fortunately I live in near a very well-lit road, but the reason it’s well lit is that it’s heavily traveled. I do check my fences!