the most surprising thing is that they ever live through it. HBC is a frequent abbreviation in our medical records.
Think of two football players in full pads, weighing about 300 pounds each, ramming into one another. They occasionally have injuries. Now imagine that you have substituted a little dog for one of them, and a three ton truck for the other. It is amazing that the dog isn’t vaporized when this collision occurs. Of course, there are certainly many times when they wind up pretty badly mangled. What surprises me is how often then survive it, and how many times the injuries are quite minor.
Most of the HBCs I see are not my regular clients. Why is that? Well, for one thing, most of my regular clients are people who see their pet as a family member. They are not the kind of people who answer, "Duh…?" when they see that "Do you know where your children are?" public service announcement. People who really care for their pets keep them out of harm’s way. Certainly accidents happen and escapes occur, but I rarely see a regular client whose animal has been shot, poisoned, been in a fight or hit by a car.
Another reason is that I’m the only guy in town who answers the phone after five o’clock. Irresponsible pet-owners get home from work and turn the dog loose. He’s been cooped up and now he’s free, free as the wind. He’s not watching for cars as he blasts off to freedom. The weary commuters on their way home at the same time are thinking about getting home and kicking back, not about watching for unwary dogs. Lots of inattentive drivers combined with inattentive dogs equals prime-time for HBC. If you think you’re doing your dog some kind of a favor by turning him out to run, why not wait until after rush hour?
I love the rationalizations these folks make to avoid taking responsibility for this situation. "That guy was going so fast, and he didn’t even stop to see what happened." First, mass times acceleration equals force. Three tons doesn’t have to be going very fast to squash you into a pancake. They can lower a truck ever so slowly down on to your body, and you’ll still be mush. And what if the driver had stopped? Are you hoping to get run over by a faith healer?
If the pet’s injuries are fixable (like the one broken leg on the little Dachshund I saw tonight), they are likely to say, "I bet he’ll stay out of the road from now on". Hey, I’ll take that bet, unless you mean you’re going to fence the yard or use a leash. If you think that the animal has learned from the experience and is now "street-wise", you’ve got another think coming.
Well do I remember old Snow. His owner had a fenced yard, but the fence was only three feet high. Snow jumped out and roamed whenever he got the notion. Fortunately for him, he generally stayed home with his pen-mate, Ethel Mae, who was too fat to jump out. He may not have gotten hit every time he escaped, but he suffered a broken leg on five different occasions. He broke every leg once, and one of them twice (and no, I don’t remember which one; it was twenty years ago — give me a break).
Now you might be saying that old Snow was just an exceptionally slow learner. While I can hardly disagree with that, think about what’s happening here. The dog (or cat, or child for that matter) has his attention on something across the road. He is looking at that, not looking both ways for cars. Therefore, he doesn’t see the car coming. When he stops tumbling after the impact and his eyes uncross, the car is gone, so he doesn’t see it then either. Is he thinking, "Man, I’ve got to look both ways for cars next time?" Nah. He’s thinking, "Man, that is one bad place to cross the road. I think the air done solidified on me. I’m gonna cross way over there next time…LOOK! A chicken!"
If you want to let your pet roam free, that’s your business. Just don’t act surprised when the inevitable trauma occurs. Don’t act surprised when you get charged the emergency fee, either.