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Listening For His Footsteps

It is now 3 days since I accidentally killed my beloved dog.  It is 2:50 a.m. and I can't sleep.  I keep getting images of how I found him in the car.  It is the details and the imagined experience of what he went through as he frantically tried to escape from the superheated back area of our SUV on that hot day, as we sat inside unknowing just 30 feet away.  Godalmighty! 

I took him for our morning run at 7:30 a.m.  I was preoccupied a bit as I am working on a deadline.  Even as we ran I found that I was not giving him as much time as he would have liked to sniff, pee, and then go through his whole ritual of scratching the earth with front and back paws.  Once before, years ago, I had accidentally left him in the car, he got through that, but that was far from my mind as I was intent on getting back to work at home.  You can't see the far back of our SUV where he usually rides for short trips.  I got home, and zipped into the house and started to work.  It was not till 6 hours later that I went out to the car, to make a trip to Kinkos.  I opened the car door and felt the heat come out of the black car, and then I noticed the smell... I recognized the animal smell from the time before.  I screamed "oh no!" and ran to the back.  I opened up the back hatch and saw him lying there on his side, already stiff with eyes glazed.  I cried out and ran him to the little fountain in our front area and called my son... Hoping against my knowing that he was dead, I submerged his body in the cool water and looked for any signs of movement.  My son came out and I started yelling "No!"  "oh God!"  as I gave him to my son and started to wail as I walked through the house, around and around. I called my wife and sobbed that I had killed _______. 

My work has helped me but my mind keeps going back to what I saw and what I imagine.  He had a piece of rope, from the back car area, jammed in his clamped jaws and he had bit through his protruding tongue.  I can only guess that he went into convulsions towards the end.  There was tattered pieces of cardboard as, I am guessing, he scrabbled for anything in his panic.  Not one to bark, he initially waited patiently for his trusted master, then went into a frenzy as the heat started to cook him.  Oh my god, his pain and confusion and panic!  Oh my good boy did not deserve this!  Help me.  My family does not blame me but I know it was my negligence that caused this horror.  I can't get the pictures out of my mind, along side his trusting and loving countenance.

I keep looking for him, at the window, in his bed by the window of our bedroom, at the front door... listening for his stirring and snoring during the night.  He was a good boy.  We had found him in the canyon by our house and put up signs but no one came forward to claim him.  So we kept him.  That was over 9 years ago.  He was part of the family. Always game, always happy to see us.  And so adorable and wacky. 

My best path forward will involve working for the prevention of cruelty to animals.  Though I did not mean to, I caused him great pain and an untimely death.  I will work to help other animals who are at risk.  I am sorry.  And we are afraid to tell people how he really died for fear of their judgement.  I am sorry.  He is buried in our back now.  I need to wait to put up pictures of him because it feels too bad still.  I am sorry, my good boy, you deserved better and more.


ASPCA ASPCA 56-60 6 Responses Aug 17, 2011

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ASPCA, I did the same thing. I'm cryingn so hard right now I cannot see the words on the screen. I left my 7 year old Golden Retriever in the back of my SUV for 7 hours - it was 102 that day. He rides with my every day to take my kids to school and then he goes with me again in the afternoon to pick them up. Just like one thousand times before he went with me in the morning for drop off, but instead of going around the back of the car to open the hatch and let him out I was pre-occupided and went straight into the house and sat down at my computer to work. It wasn't until I shook the keys to let him know it was time to pick up the kids after school that the shock and horror hit me of what I had done. I ran out to the car screaming "no, no, please don't be in there." But he was and I found the same exact terrible scene that you did. He was already so stiff and bloated. I collapsed to the ground screaming "no, no". Then I vomited. I can hardly breath right now as I'm typing this. I wish I could talk to you. I don't know why. Its like no one can understand what I'm feeling except for someone who has done what I did. I know that every single person on earth witll experience the loss of a loved one, death is inevitable. But when you kill something you love, there is no measure for the greif and hearache.

this happened to me yesterday and i dont know how to cope, but reading your stories is helping. My kids are comforting me telling me it's ok. I just feel like a total loser and am so afraid of telling people. We took her everywhere. The kids go to a very small school and I used to bring her to play with all the kids on the playground one day a week and everyone knew her and loved her. I am ashamed of myself as a person. I don't know how to relate to people. I don't ever want to get a dog again. I went out of my way to ensure that my last dog had a peaceful death and his death story is beautiful, but her death story is awful and shameful. I don't know who I am. If I didn't have kids I would run away.

Sadie,
I am so so very sorry to hear about your accident. I know it is very little comfort but I want you to know that I understand COMPLETELY EXACTLY how you are feeling. The shame and grief is overwhelming. I know. You are very brave and courageous in that your told your kids what happened. I am so ashamed that I lied to my kids and told them he died peacefully on the kitchen floor. I have only told 5 people ( people who I trusted not to judge me) what I did and its been two years now. I understand your shame and I know it won't do any good for me to tell you that you shouldn't feel that way because it was an accident. I do suggest that you try to keep it contained as far as who you tell because there are legal/criminal repercussions and then it will become very public.

Sadie you will not believe me right now, but it does get better, it doesn't go away, but slowly over time you will be able to enjoy the good memories without the agony that you have right now.

Again I am so sorry that you are suffering. It is an agony that most people will never know. Sadie, it's ok to be sad right now. Its ok to cry a lot, it's ok to feel like lost and doubt your every move. Go ahead and feel your grief. Your grief is directly proportionate to how much you loved your dog.

thank you so so much for the part where you said "I understand completely exactly how you are feeling." that, in itself, felt like a hug. I am so scared about people finding out. Everyone that I know knows how much I loved her; I took her everywhere. I could never get another dog. My husband says he wants to get one, but it will be his thing. I, myself, am a changed person. Typing at the computer feels the most calming, but my kids need me and I have to be with them. Knowing that someone out there in the world can understand this immense pain is a balm for my heart.

A hot room in the summer time can have the same effect not just a car, That is how my Auroura died. I took her to the doctor but it was to late. I know how you feel truly.

Oh my god...I am so so sorry. I'm balling, have been since yesterday when my mom had a similar situation with her kitten. She didn't know he was in the dryer when she turned it on, and like you, completely blames herself for his death. I cannot convince her otherwise, and also cannot get the images of that poor little kitty out of my mind. You are not alone, you are a human being. It could have happened to anyone and you can't blame yourself. He wouldn't want that.

Oh wow this almost made me cry. I have a dog of my own and i could never forgive myself if i were responsible for her death. Im very protective over her and i would never leave her alone anywhere. When im not home i put her in the bench, which is a safe envoirement for a small breed dog like her. She has her food,water,toys and blankets in there and i'm sure she is safe till im back. Call me overprotective but when i walk my dog she is always on the leesh so i know she doesn't get hit by a car or something. She is only a year and a half tho.<br />
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I'm sure yoru dog loved you till the very end and knows you didn't do it on purpose. I hope you are going to be oke and hang in there.

This made me cry i can feel how sorry you are through your words. I would feel awful to if i let this happen its tragic. I am pictuing my dog cooking in the back of a car with nobody to help and it makes me so sad to think if that ever happened. You cant beat youself up over it forever alls you can do is never let it happen again :/ so sorry for your loss and my prayers go out to you...

I read your story earlier today. I have been thinking of you today. I am so sorry this happened. The grief and heartache is unimaginable. I found myself wandering these pages out of guilt. I hit a kitty on my way home from work last night. I took him to an emergency vet, but he didnt make it. The guilt and sadness brings back the same guilt and sadness i felt 5 months ago when my puppy passed from distemper. I just wanted to offer you my condolences. I believe that someday we will be reunited with the beloved pets we have lost, and when you are reunited with your sweet boy he will be there wagging his tail, ready to run and play. Because thats why we love dogs so much, they forgive us for everything and love us despite the mistakes we make. You dog loves you and he forgives you, and he would want you to forgive yourself. My puppy Briggs will take good care of him up there.