Being an animal lover can be hard on the nerves at times. In fact, if you're so animal-friendly that you suffer pangs of guilt if you so much as hit a sparrow with your car, sometimes it would be safer just to stay home. Or at the very least, walk.
The names in this story have been changed to protect the innocent.
Actually, I'd rather my name was changed to protect the guilty.
Because that's me... guilty.
Initially I was only guilty of being at work and needing to pop out to take a photograph of some folk for a healthy eating story I was writing.
My photographic victims had agreed to meet me at a roadside vege stall nearby, so I jumped in my Jeep and voomed off to take the photo.
Unbeknownst to me, somewhere in the same town, a workmate was out looking for his missing dog.
Said dog had escaped out a gate that had been left open and was on the run. For the purpose of this story we'll call this dog Patch.
I must stress, I knew nothing of this as I trundled through the traffic heading for my photo opportunity.
Until suddenly - woosh - there was a dog running straight onto the road in front of me. I jumped on the brakes so hard I actually stood up, but to no avail, just before the vehicle stopped I felt an ominous bump.
As I sat, stunned, I heard a loud yell and when I looked up, there, looking in horror at my Jeep, was my workmate...we'll call him Bryan.
"PATCH!" Yelled Bryan.
"BRYAN!" I yelled back.
The dog scrambled from under my vehicle and ran across the road and down a driveway. Bryan ran after it and I, abandoning my Jeep with the motor running and the door open, ran after the pair of them.
Patch ran yelping into the driveway, veered left and ran under a hedge. Bryan followed him, calling out his name and throwing himself down onto all fours to crawl under the hedge as well.
I drew the line at joining them under the hedge so just stood there staring at the soles of Bryan's shoes poking out from the foliage as he tried to coax the dog to him.
I kept asking how the dog was, but couldn't make out the reply from under the hedge. A small crowd was forming.
There was some mumbling and rustling and Bryan reversed out of the foliage with the dog in his arms.
"I need to take him to the vet," he said, reaching into his pocket for his car keys.
They weren't there.
"My keys!" He yelled. "I've dropped my keys!"
He ran to his car in the - what I realised was his own - driveway but sure enough it was locked. He tried the front door of the house but it was locked too.
"My keys - Patch - the vet - my keys!" He yelled and at some point I realised I had the capability to drive the pair to the vet, so long as nobody had pinched my Jeep while we were distracted by the hedge situation.
No one had, so we bundled dog and owner in the back and I drove while he shouted directions to the vet clinic.
I saw my photographic subjects standing at the roadside stall. They looked at me in bewilderment as I shot straight past.
We got to the vet clinic and Bryan rushed in, dog in arms, and explained he had been run over by a 4WD. The vet nurse whizzed him straight to X-ray and I burst into tears.
Bryan kindly attempted to console me, I attempted to apologise and the receptionist assured us "our dog" was in good hands and would we like a glass of water?
I explained that the dog was Bryan's, not mine and she asked if I was a friend.
I told her no, I was the one that had run over the dog.
She looked at me disapprovingly and I never did get that glass of water.
Then I remembered my healthy eating folk, standing on the side of the road waiting to smile for the camera. The camera that was on the passenger seat of my vehicle that was parked at the vet's.
I quickly rang the office and blurted a frantic and garbled plea. Could someone please drive to the roadside stall and take a photo of the four bewildered people standing posing with veges?
Yes, they could, although they couldn't quite understand why and they would catch up with me when I got back to the office...
The vet nurse came out and announced they couldn't find anything obviously wrong with Patch but they would keep him in for observation.
Revived but still shaken and feeling guilty, I dropped Bryan back at his house to continue his search for his car keys, and I slunk back to the office, entering to a chorus of "what have you done and what has it got to do with Bryan?"
I explained. Then explained again as each person that went past was told "ask Rachel what she's done to Bryan's dog!"
About four years later it still comes up.
At a gathering recently I was introduced to Bryan's mother...
"This is Rachel. You know, the one who ran over Patch."