Every time I hear fireworks on the Fourth of July, I can’t help but remember “Lady,” a dog who nearly met with a tragic end after bolting in fear from fireworks. This is a true story that happened to me when I was a veterinary student many years ago.
I was driving to the large animal hospital at roughly 6:30 a.m. on July 7
when I saw a black dog standing on the edge of the road. This was a four-lane local highway with a great deal of traffic. I was scared the dog was going to get hit by a car, so I pulled over with the intention of catching her and putting her in my car. (By now my husband was used to the fostering of imperiled animals, so I wasn’t too worried about what I would do with her once I caught her!)
I pulled over onto the narrow shoulder and got out of the car, flinching every time a car sped by. The dog looked at me, and when I approached her, she bolted, luckily away from the road, back into the tall weeds beyond the shoulder. I called her softly, afraid she would run into the road if I tried to approach again, but her only response was to shrink deeper into the cover to hide from me. I felt sick to my stomach leaving her behind, but I climbed back into my car, hands shaking. These were the days before cell phones, so I had to drive somewhere to call for help.
I drove up the road to the nearest open business, a small service station. I walked into the little office that smelled of gasoline and coffee, where a large bearded man sat behind a rickety desk. “May I use your phone to call the police? There’s a stray dog on the edge of the highway. You wouldn’t happen to know of anyone who is missing a dog?” I asked nervously. He raised his eyebrow at me, and without saying a word, reached into the trash can
with oil-stained fingers, pulled out a crumpled-up flier and slapped it down on the desk. I picked up the piece of paper and smoothed it out.
On it was a picture of a black dog, and the words “LOST ‘Lady’ – Please call…” Could it be? I asked to use the phone and the man nodded and pushed the phone in my direction. A woman answered and I told her that I thought I may have found her dog, but that it was on the side of the road. I could meet her there in a few minutes.
I drove back to where I had seen the dog, and to my relief she was still crouched in the brush. I waited and a woman pulled up and jumped out of her car. She saw the dog, and cried, “Oh my God, Lady!” The dog’s head lifted and she got to her feet trembling.“Lady, come here girl,” the woman said, patting her leg, and the dog ran to her crying and whimpering, wrapping herself around the woman’s legs.
The woman was crying, Lady was crying and I was crying as cars flew by us on the side of the road. The woman told me the dog had jumped their fence and bolted three nights earlier when their neighbors set off fireworks for the Fourth of July. They had been looking for her ever since.
To this day, every time I hear Independence Day fireworks I still think of Lady and how lucky we all were that morning.