Accident no.25

2009

The park is now covered with a glass sheet of ice. Months ago the first snow fell. It lay there week after week as the snowstorms came and went. Gradually the surface becomes harder and glassier till eventually I can no longer walk up the hill to see the view out over Berlin. When I try, I slide backwards like a cartoon.

Carter is confused. When he first encountered freezing snow he tried to keep his paws off the strange substance – choosing three legs to stand on, so the fourth could escape the pain. Mostly though he resents falling over. When we try to play stick his brakes no longer work. He sails past the quarry and slides backwards – clawing the surface in vain.

There is a patch beneath the trees that remains unpolished enough to run on. I throw a stick that is too straight and sharp. Carter scrambles madly in the direction I threw it but there is a sound above him as the stick hits a branch. He stops and looks directly up, just as the stick is dropping vertically down. Without a thought in his dog’s head, he opens his elegant jaws to catch the prey. Half the stick disappears down his throat. In the middle-distance I can see Carter frozen in a ‘howling at the moon’ stance. The stick is held vertically in the air like a sword swallower playing to the crowd. A strange, strangled howl is coming weakly from his throat like no noise a dog has ever made. Running, I reach him. I think I pull the branch out of his throat.

Like something used to stir a pot of paint, the end of the stick is covered in a mucusy, red syrup. I put it down and both of us stare at the object, incredulous. Carter stands still – but gradually recovers from the shock of a stick that fought back. I can’t see any sign of damage in his throat so we walk back to the flat. After a few hours he seems to be back to his old self.

In the morning he seems subdued but I have to go out. When I return later that day something is wrong. For the first time in seven years there is no dog at the door. I search the flat and in the furthest corner I find a breathing hump of hair – unable to raise its head.We find an emergency vet and drive through the snow in panic. The vet uses a strange set of ratchets that locate onto Carter’s canine teeth to prise open his jaws. The vet’s hand disappears down his throat and Carter once more makes the strange, strangled howl. Behind the dog’s tonsils the doctor locates the hole. The length of the vet’s little finger slides inside Carter’s new orifice.