Late one night in the 80s, I was waiting for my friend, Albert, to drop by and visit when I heard Brutus shrieking in pain out front. I burst through the door just as Albert was popping out of his VW in the driveway, shouting, “Omigod! I killed your dog! I ran over Brutus! Both wheels!”
Brutus lay by the curb at the edge of the yard, whining, whimpering and coughing. He snarled at me as I approached, but then let me kneel down to examine him. “I ran right over him,” Albert was saying. “Both sets of wheels — ‘bump-bump’ — and I mean, I ran right OVER him!” Brutus let me check him, and while he was whining and very scared, I found no blood. I felt for broken bones and found none, though he winced a little everywhere I checked.
Albert kept repeating, “Oh, man — I killed your dog! I killed your dog! I can’t believe I killed your dog! I ran him over! Bump-bump! Both wheels!”
Actually, though, I still couldn’t find any external injury on Brutus. He was whimpering softly now, but had started to relax a little. “Albert, I think he’s okay,” I said, and Brutus sat up a little, smiling slightly as he panted and coughed and started to wag his tail a little.
“He can’t be okay — I ran over him, I’m telling you. I ran right over him! He was sleeping in the driveway and I ran right over him! Both wheels!…”
“Yeah, I know — ‘bump-bump‘ — but he seems to be okay,” I tried to assure him.
“We’ve gotta get him to the vet,” Albert insisted urgently, sounding frantic. With Brutus still coughing hard, I hesitantly agreed. I picked Brutus up gingerly and carried him to the VW (which made him a little nervous), and we headed off to the all-night emergency vet.
All the way across town, Albert kept up the steady stream, “I killed him, I know I did. I ran right over him. Man, I’m so sorry…” etc. etc. etc. Meanwhile, Brutus perked up pretty well once he noticed we were going for a ride, standing up to press his nose against the window and wagging his tail between coughs. By the time we got there, Brutus was quite chipper, other than the coughing. The vet took Brutus to the back and left us waiting. Albert wandered out to pace the sidewalk, muttering about broken bones and internal bleeding and how he had killed my dog.
A few minutes later, the vet came out to tell me, “Brutus is fine — x-ray shows no broken bones and no sign of any bleeding. Looks the VW’s wheels probably ran over his body between his hips and shoulders and just compressed the rib cage quickly.” Brutus came out, wagging his tail. “That’s why he’s coughing — a dog’s lungs just kind of hang there between the ribs, and just like any other tissue, they can get bruised. When the car compressed the rib cage, it bruised his lungs.” He reached down to stroke Brutus’ head, saying, “But he’s fine, really.”
“Your friend, on the other hand,” he added, nodding at Albert pacing outside on the sidewalk, “Might need some help.”