Last Friday night I was out riding my mountain bike with my dog Mufasa. We normally do this twice a day once in the morning and once in the evening. We regularly do a loop around a college campus by our house. On our way home I went to cross the street from the college parking lot and saw a car coming. It seemed to be slowing down to enter the college parking lot. It was too dark to see the driver’s face however, as I entered the lane to cross the street I realized he wasn’t going to slow down at all! I quickly tried to pull Mufasa out of the way. Mufasa is a 90lb boxer and he resisted a little. He probably didn’t understand why I would change direction when we were on our normal route home. I wasn’t able to get us out of the way. I guess the driver never saw us because there was no sound nor screech, however I’ll never forget the sound of the collision. He hit Mufasa first, sending him about 150 feet. Then he hit me….. It stunned me. I could see the headlights right above my head. I was hurting all over but all I could think about was my dog. Oddly enough, my cell phone rang but I ignored it. I couldn’t see Mufasa and spotted him down the road trying to get up…. but he fell. My heart broke. How could have this happened? I immediately got up to run to him but fell to the ground. I had a fractured leg. I then started to crawl. I just kept saying “my dog, my dog.” The man who hit me got out of the car and told me to stop moving and that I could be hurt. I just kept saying “my dog, my dog.” I asked him to help me up, which he did, and with his help I hopped down the street. When I reached Mufasa I fell to the ground and started to speak to him and pet him. He was alive but freaked out. His eyes wide open and panting heavily he made no sound. No whimper or whine, he just stared at me. This all occurred within one minute. I reached into my jacket pocket and called my girlfriend Stephanie. I was lucky; she normally doesn’t answer her phone. I told her what happened and hoped she would come soon. The paramedics were first to arrive. My hands were stinging, my shoulder and right leg were hurting, but it was my left leg that was killing me. It was huge and had a big dent in it. The paramedics wanted to put a neck brace on me but I wouldn’t be able to see Mufasa so I signed a document denying a neck brace. They placed me on a gurney but kindly left it low enough so I could keep talking and touching Mufasa. Luckily, Stephanie arrived with her Mother and helped with Mufasa. My leg felt like it was going to blow up, but all I cared about was Mufasa.
Mufasa was just over four years old. He was with me every day. He went to work with me, bike races, haircut, bike shop……. wherever I went, Mufasa went with me. He’s been to Utah, Nevada, Arizona and all over California. When I won Nationals, he was there. When I slept in my van at Onyx Summit for altitude training he was there. When I got hypothermia at last year’s Callville Classic bicycle race it was Mufasa who kept me warm in the van after the race. If it wasn’t for Mufasa I wouldn’t know any of my neighbors, the mechanics at the local gas station and most importantly, my wonderful girlfriend who was now at our side. My blood pressure was descending and the pain was getting worse and worse. The fire department and the sheriffs were at the site. One of the sheriffs asked the paramedic why my bike was so far away…….
My pain was increasing. We had to go. I asked Stephanie to take Mufasa to the pet emergency and to call me with whatever was needed. We headed out and in about two minutes my blood pressure dropped to 70/30! They hit the siren and in about four minutes I was being rolled into the emergency entrance of the hospital. The paramedics, Justin and Lindsay were compassionate, caring and gentle. I was very fortunate to have them. This kind of emergency had never happened to me before. A stove once blew up in my face but I didn’t go to an emergency. As they wheel you in, a whole bunch of people start asking you questions. A doctor asked why I wasn’t in a neck brace. I told him my neck was fine. He basically told me to shut up and let him do his job and I got a neck brace. Then the trauma surgeon came in. He introduced himself, asked a bunch of questions and began to check my trunk and pelvis first, then my extremities. My phone started ringing. I thought it might be Stephanie but it was my sister in Florida. Don’t know why she was calling at 11:00pm her time but with everything going on around me I couldn’t answer. I was going into shock. I started to shake and I was getting really cold. The phone rang again but it wasn’t Stephanie so I didn’t answer. I was embarrassed that my phone kept ringing while all these people were trying to attend to me. I had to keep it on in case Stephanie called. When she did, it wasn’t good. A fireman had helped carry Mufasa to the back seat of her car while she carried his head. A student from the college offered to drive her car while her Mother sat in the front seat. Another student put my bike and her car and followed them to the pet emergency. Mufasa’s heart had stopped in the car. As they arrived, Stephanie started screaming that his heart had stopped so they probably began a similar process that was occurring with me. Stephanie then asked me for permission for the vet to do open-heart surgery to save Mufasa. I told her they could do whatever was needed; I didn’t care how much it cost. They wheeled me down for a CAT scan but I was shaking so bad they couldn’t do it. After they covered me with three or four really warm blankets I was able to stop shaking enough so they could do the scan.
Back to the emergency room where I lay alone with my neck brace on. “Please don’t die, please don’t die, please don’t die,” I repeated over and over. My phone rang again. I called for someone to please hand it to me. It was Stephanie but she couldn’t speak. A voice came on the phone; it was the vet. Mufasa had passed. His spine had been fractured in two places and with all the internal bleeding he died. I just started to cry. It was the worst feeling I’ve ever had. I had lost my Grandmother and my Father but they were both older, had lived long lives and were unhealthy. This dog wasn’t even five years old yet. He was the sweetest, friendliest, innocent, living creature I had ever known. Because of him I had met all of my neighbors and my girlfriend. He taught me how to be responsible for another living thing. He taught me the meaning of loyalty and unconditional love and friendship. If he hadn’t been hit first, the man might have run me right over. Mufasa saved my life. I feel so guilty. He was better than me. He didn’t deserve this. He was in my care and I put him in harm’s way. He was just following his master like he always did; trusting in me. A wise older woman said that when horrific events like this happen we always tend to blame ourselves. What if I had just waited another 20 seconds? What if I’d gone a different way? What if I hadn’t been in such a hurry to get home? I go over those few seconds over and over in my head and it doesn’t do me any good. I can’t sleep and often just cry. A buddy of mine put it in perspective “you’ve done that same thing over a thousand times, it was an accident.”
Stephanie’s younger brother John surprised me and was the first person I knew to arrive at the emergency. He just held my hand. I was so sad. It was kind of him to come. Eventually, Stephanie came to get me and we went to see Mufasa. He looked like he was sleeping; no blood— no scrapes. All I could do was cry in the nape of his neck where I could smell him. Over and over I told him I was sorry, I loved him and would miss him. I wanted to take back those few minutes. My friend Debra who always watched him when I travelled by plane came and said goodbye as well. I couldn’t leave. I didn’t want to leave him there. My body was killing me. My leg felt like it was going to explode. I cried and cried. Each step towards the exit felt like a mile. I felt like I would die of a hole in my heart.
I find myself wanting to sleep, because when I sleep I imagine he’s alive. I can see his head at the foot of my bed waiting for me to wake, then following me into the bathroom where he patiently waits. He then studies me to see what footwear I’m putting on. As we go down the hall he happily scurries in front of me eagerly anticipating the day’s adventures. If I go to my computer, he knows that will take a few minutes so he mozies up on to his chair where he settles in until I close the computer and grab my briefcase. As I exit the kitchen door to the garage, he curiously gives me that look “am I coming?” All I have to do is nod and he’s out the garage door where he again patiently waits on the driveway for my cue. “Are we going for the ride, a walk or the van?” His greatest desire is to just be with me, no matter what, no matter where and no matter how long. It’s hard to wake from such a beautiful dream. If it wasn’t for Mufasa I might not be able to dream at all.
I love you Mufasa. I’m sorry. I will never forget you.