Dixie Safe!

Buckle Up!

Hi, my name is Mary and like so many others, I never thought I would have a traffic accident. I have had dogs since I was born and they were never restrained or confined when riding in vehicles.

My pets have always been a beloved member of my family (just like your children). I was searching for a Yorkie companion for my older Yorkie, Raider. Raider had lost his brother, Zip, and buddy, Bogie, and seemed lonely. Then I spotted sweet Dixie on Petfinder.com belonging to Pet Pals. A year ago, after giving us such joy for seven years, my sweet girl has now gone over the Rainbow Bridge. It is in her memory that I want to tell you how Dixie and I would have died in October 2002, if we had not been wearing "restraints" while traveling in my Jeep.

After Linda York of Pet Pals did her screening and I was allowed to bring Dixie into my heart/home, I complied with her "rule" that Dixie be restrained in a vehicle at all times. I had bought her a delightful car seat that was held in place with the seat belt - she sat high enough to see out the window; it had a strap to hold her in and she had her little suitcase beneath her.

It was Halloween of that year that Raider's health took a turn for the worse. The local veterinarian couldn't do anything more and suggested I take him to CSU Veterinary Hospital in Fort Collins. It was cold and the roads were snow covered but the sun was shining and I knew we could make Fort Collins before dark. I bundled Dixie in her car seat and put Raider in his bed on the front passenger seat and we were off on a six hour drive.

Everything was fine until we were delayed by an accident on I-80 and rerouted and didn't get to Laramie until dark. I stopped and let the dogs eat, drink and walk for a bit, then since it was a clear night, I decided to go on and head for CSU since the doctors were waiting for Raider.

Shortly after leaving Laramie, we were in blizzard conditions. I couldn't see well enough to turn back to Laramie so continued on following some tail lights ahead of me. We were traveling very slowly and I was using the "rumble strip" on the shoulder to keep myself in my lane - visibility was that bad and there was a lot of oncoming traffic. I had no idea how much further we needed to go, but I was following those tail lights wherever he was going. All of a sudden I lost sight of the tail lights, there was something blocking them from my view, but I didn't realize for a minute or two that it was a vehicle coming at us sideways in our lane. I tried braking the car but started to slide so I started to release and apply the brakes to slow down and I kept moving further to the right until my left tire was on the "rumble strip".

As I realized we were going to collide with the side of this vehicle, Raider jumped into the back seat. I was going less than 15 mph so I didn't think the impact would be too bad. Boy was I wrong, the other vehicle was traveling a lot faster and when we collided, the sound was horrendous, and then silence. I was unconscious for awhile, I guess. Then someone was talking to me, but when I tried to talk it was difficult because my chest had been crushed and I was having difficulty breathing.

I finally was able to ask about Raider and the man gently told me that my beloved Raider was dead. I turned and saw Dixie out of the corner of my eye and she was sitting up in her car seat. He told me he had checked her and she seemed ok. I started sobbing over Raider and was told I passed out again. I came around again while they were using the "jaws of life" to extricate me from the car and I begged them to take Raider and Dixie into CSU because I didn't think I was going to make it (I had heard someone telling the fireman that).

That 'Good Samaritan" was Tim and he promised me he would take care of both my "kids" and give his name and number to the EMT. As they were lifting me out of the car, I briefly passed out again. I came around as they were loading me into the ambulance and I told them I refused to be transported until my dogs were taken care of, the EMT reminded me that Tim was taking my "kids" to his home in Laramie and he would contact CSU. They would be safe and he had Tim's name and number for me.

Two days later when I began to come around in ICU, my husband, Bob, was there and told me he had picked up Raider and Dixie. He said Raider was probably killed on impact after talking to Tim. I was sobbing so hard they sedated me again.

I was in the ICU for 2 weeks, I had a head injury; broke all my ribs, had a broken shoulder and sternum and my leg had been shattered when the front end of the car had come in on me. Once I was in my surgical room at Poudre Valley Hospital, their wonderful personnel let Bob bring Dixie in to see me. She cuddled right in with me and we were happy. She was allowed to come for several visits while I was hospitalized. That hospital was awesome!!

After my release from the hospital, I was bed bound for six months and Dixie laid next to me most of the time. I had a lot of time to think. Why hadn't I forced Raider into a car seat or at least some kind of restraint? How stupid was I?

Since that horrifying night, we've gotten four more Yorkie pups and NO one rides in our vehicles unless they are in car seats or wearing seat belt restraint harnessing (I'm using the third row seating in my Explorer for the first time!).

I have been on a one woman mission in my area telling everyone about the dangers and heartbreaks of not having your pet restrained in your vehicle. Just having a leash or one of the car seats that doesn't have the strap to attach to your pet (always a harness), which isn't securely attached to the seat with the seat belt system, isn't good enough.

If you can't afford a car seat so they "have a view", please put them in a crate or use a proper dog restraint harness. Even a harness sold at Wal-Mart properly fitted will work as long as your pet can't slide or be thrown out of it. It REALLY is a matter of life and death for your beloved pet and will save you heartbreak!

(Note from Linda York of Pet Pals, Inc.: The article was very hard for Mary to write. PLEASE take heed.

It was because of a rescued dog named Bentley, who died in a car wreck and now Rader that I insist on pets being restrained while traveling. Five of our rescued pets have now been involved in car wrecks. Luckily, none have died. Thank you, Mary!)

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