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Globe & Mail - Facts and Arguments #1

... - Number 2

Close calls, dogs and horseshoes
Published in the Globe and Mail, Wednesday, March 7, 2001

The temperature was near freezing (or melting depending on your perspective) and the sidewalk snow plow had spent the afternoon in my neighbourhood clearing walkways that home owners neglected to shovel.

The city had been covered in a thick blanket of snow that had arrived steadily over several days. City staff were working hard to get caught up with removal duties but sidewalks were a lower priority than streets. Up to this point, walking had been challenging and down right dangerous in places so my foot travel had been restricted to required trips rather than pleasure jaunts.

My dog Stew had found this difficult to swallow. Daily walks were an integral part of Stew's balanced life prescription.

With nothing pressing to accomplish and freshly cleared sidewalks, I leashed Stew and we headed out the front door. The air was fresh and clear and everything looked beautiful thanks to the glimmering white camouflage and stunning blue sky. I could feel a gentle warmth on my face from the sun. This was a winter day that was hard to resist.

We walked and walked and walked. Stew sniffed every post, shrub, tire and tree while marking our trail with her bright yellow signature. Gleefully she buried her face in the fluffy white snow. The ³part husky² of her loved winter and today, she was in her glory. I found her enthusiasm contagious so extended our walk down less familiar streets, enjoying the new turf and having a wonderful afternoon with my canine friend.

When the winter sun began loosing its heat, I started to weave us back home. My route brought us to a busy artery street at the end of my block, mid way between traffic lights. Rush hour was just cranking up. The stream of cars plus the fading sun was all it took to replace my afternoon calm with a sense of urgency. My thoughts skipped ahead with questions. What would we have for dinner? Would the kids be home from school yet? Was Ian getting the car emissions test today? Suddenly, I had things to do, people to see and time was ticking. I decided that rather than walk the two blocks in either direction for a controlled intersection, I would save time by crossing right where I was.

I have read statistics that claim most traffic accidents happen within one kilometer of a persons home. Familiar territory has a tendency to lull one into a false sense of security and people forget the importance of what they are doing and start planning ahead. It would seem that I had fallen into that category.

The heavy, end of day traffic slowed and eventually stopped for the red light farther down the street. Before stepping off the sidewalk, I spotted the car I wanted to cross in front of and made direct eye contact with the driver of the car . I cinched Stew closer to my right side and started moving so that I could get a clear view of on coming traffic. The next several seconds are permanently etched in my mind.

I had forgotten about the second lane of traffic. As I looked right, another car came zooming towards the intersection from my left. Someone honked their horn in warning and I instinctually leaned back just in time for the car to brush my coat and narrowly miss my feet. Stew was not so lucky. Her head was sticking out past my legs and with a whack that sounded like a baseball being struck, her nose met the bumper of the car.

My horrified reaction was instant. I pulled her to the sidewalk and dropped to my knees. Blood was dripping from her nostrils and a large bump was forming on the left side of her nose. She was licking furiously, shaking all over, her eyes wild with fear. I checked her mouth and teeth then I gathered some snow and lay it on her face. She leaned against me and I held her close. The Whack! sound of bumper meeting dog nose rang in my ears. I shuddered to think..... A single second and a couple of centimeters seemed the only separation between what happened and what might have happened.

After my heart rate lowered and with extreme caution we continued down our street, stopping every few meters to rest. I examined Stew further and found no additional injury. The serene beauty that I had basked in earlier in the afternoon had vanished and Stewıs joyousness had ceased. My mind was blank except for a the single though of getting us home.

To my knowledge, I have never come that close to the edge of life. I was not on a life threatening quest that afternoon. No skydiving for this girl. My near life ending act was one that I had successfully performed hundreds of times in the past. I guess, I was successful on this occasion too, only just.

When I got home, Ian asked me never to leave the house again. This was a funny idea and one that felt perfectly reasonable for the time being. I wanted to wrap myself in a blanket and crawl up on his lap. I had the urge to cry but I never found any tears.

The following morning, Stewıs nose was cold and wet as she sat happily on her porch chair, surveying the streetscape and snoozing the morning away. With the exception of the bump, she seemed unscathed.

For me, something had shifted. I felt a pulsing heat in my body core that was quite unlike my typical winter state. I was alert to the point of bursting with excitement, energy and a desire to do something marvelous, something that Iıve been putting off, something new and meaningful.

They say that close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades but perhaps close counts in brushes with death too.

NOTE: This "drama in real life" happened in mid January 2001. Two days later, the Breast of Canada idea was conceived.

Contact Sue Richards at [email protected]

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