I have always been a mildly superstitious person. With a casual air, I will walk around rather than under an open ladder and I never wear opals since they are not my birthstone. I will happily pet a purring black cat then shiver when it runs across my path, and when I break a mirror my heart sinks. I remember watching the Rachel Ray show one day and saw her toss a pinch of salt over her left shoulder after spilling some of it—and I thought, “I am not alone.” I tend to look at everyday occurrences as omens, good or bad. And in my effort to impose some sense of justice in this crazy world, I believe in karma. I try to stock up on the good stuff.
Today my 88 year old father had a left total hip replacement. I had tried to talk him out of it for months, since he had only just had his aortic valve replaced in March. He has been living independently again, and has actually been seeing a wonderful woman at the senior community where he lives. With my mother’s dementia, he had not realized how much he had missed having someone to talk to, to confide in. My sister and I were against him going in for elective surgery. But as the months rolled on, he became more limited, and for the last month it has been obvious that he was in constant pain, and that surgery was inevitable. My husband drove him to the hospital this morning, and stayed there while I worked today. He called me at 3:30 to say that the surgery had gone very well, and had been done via an anterior approach under epidural anesthesia. Ninety minutes, start to finish, and Dad was awake, oriented and moving all four extremities.
I left work at 5:30 to go over to the hospital. I stopped for gas before getting on the freeway, and as I stood at the pump, ready to disengage, I saw a tiny black dog dart across the busy street, collar and tags on with a six foot leash trailing behind him. He ran quickly across the parking lot and I reflexively locked my car, glanced over my shoulder to see if there was an owner in pursuit, and seeing none, I took off after the dog, walking slowly, non-threatening, calling “Puppy, puppy, puppy” in my sweetest voice, the one I rarely use. I was quickly joined by a man who had pulled into the station in an extended cab pick-up truck, his entire family in the car. He jumped out of his car, said, “I saw the dog, I will help” and came with me.
The little dog, clearly terrified, ran to the far end of the lot where two teenaged girls saw what was going on and unfortunately, immediately gave chase down an alleyway between a garage and a guitar shop. A man covered in mechanic’s grease joined the rescue efforts, adding to the chaos of concern. And then the tiny dog ran right into a side street, directly into the path of an oncoming car. By the time we reached the lifeless body, the woman who had been driving the car was sitting in the middle of the road, sobbing uncontrollably, and putting herself in imminent danger. The man with me picked up the dog, a well-cared for black and tan Chihuahua, still sporting his collar and lead, and we checked him. His eyes were open but he was gone. The small entourage carried him across the street to an open veterinary clinic, so that the owner could be notified, and would not have to search the empty streets tonight. If you are a dog loving reader, and have never found yourself in that sad situation, you have been very fortunate.
I got to the hospital with a sense of impending doom, and was quite surprised to see Dad sitting up in bed, entertaining his nurse who was improbably named Evangeline. She was catering to his every need; he was in fine spirits and his pain was well controlled. I know he isn’t out of the woods yet, but I was relieved and grateful. Instead of superstition, I should have had faith—faith in the doctors and nurses taking care of Dad, faith in the human beings who rushed to try to help that little black dog, and faith that there is a purpose and meaning in the events of the day. But somewhere a family is grieving tonight, and I am wondering why.