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COLUMN: Dogs’ tale shows worst, best in us

Tucsonan Lizzie Mead is filled with gratitude this Thanksgiving – even though her dog’s eye popped out.

Even though her other dog had massive internal bleeding and needed his spleen removed.

Even though Mead herself has not fully recovered from the hit-and- run that could have killed all three of them late last month.

“It was totally the best and worst of people all at once, ” said Mead, 35. “The worst of it was that someone could hit me and then run away.”

The best was the way people rushed to assist Mead and her greyhounds, Opal and Rider, through the wreckage.

Mead was heading to a morning dog-park romp when her truck’s camper shell was slammed by a speeding SUV-type vehicle at North Alvernon Way and East Speedway Boulevard.

The crash left Mead bloodied and bruised and her two greyhounds gone with the wind. They ran off in terror when the impact buckled the camper shell open.

“I freaked out,” Mead said. “I became hysterical. I’m a 35-year-old woman with no kids. The dogs are my babies.”

Bystanders promised to look for her dogs as Mead was taken away in an ambulance.

Rider, 5, was found limping around an auto center on the corner while Opal, 4, had scampered more than a mile away.

Folks got them both to Pima Pet Clinic, where they were opened up, stitched back together and Opal’s eye was put back in its socket.

“They lost count,” Mead said when asked how many stitches Rider received. “It was in the range of 800 to 900.”

Mead got X-rays and ankle stitches and still has pain every time she bends one of her elbows.

“Sometimes it hurts just to open a door,” she said. “Lifting something like a jug of milk is not going to happen.”

She makes the jewelry for her Fourth Avenue store Silver Sea, so using her arm is pretty important.

The man who hit her abandoned his vehicle and took off on foot. In a searing coincidence, the vehicle’s owner called to report his truck stolen 20 minutes after the crash.

Rather than focusing on the negative, like the jerk who hit her or the $14,000 vet bill, Mead is playing up the positive.

Like the folks who found her dogs, her vet and Arizona Greyhound Rescue, which helped make sure both dogs ended up at Pima Pet Clinic, and the clinic folks who saved her dogs’ lives.

“The big thing I’m grateful for is that ,after they went through all this, they can go back to being normal, typical greyhounds,” she said. “They will have no residual health issues. But they are a little afraid of cars now.”

Mead said her store’s employee and customers, too, are awesome. The usual part-time employee covered the two weeks Mead couldn’t work. Some customers came in to do Christmas shopping early once they heard about the crash.

Mead’s friends got in on the action by setting up a Greyhound Injury Fund blog that outlines Mead’s story and allows folks to donate online to help with the massive vet bill.

“I am very lucky,” Mead said.

How does she stay so upbeat?

Mead was quick with an answer: “I’m pretty much cheerful all the time. It’s actually something that annoys a lot of people.”

Mead’s story illustrates so many truths.

Happy people are healthier people. Positive folks have been known to recover faster from disaster and stave off ailments and diseases.

Tucsonans have big hearts. This is repeatedly seen when tragedy strikes our two-legged, four-legged and even three-legged friends.

What goes around comes around. Mead has always reached out her own helping hand. She’s volunteered at Arizona Greyhound Rescue, at area schools performing historical re-enactments and has been instrumental in working with kids in her neighborhood.

“I have a lot of street-kid friends,” she says. “I want them to know there is more to life than just being street kids.”

There is. There’s gratitude. There’s love. And there’s always a couple of greyhounds.

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Greyhound Injury Fund blog: http://greyhoundinjuryfund.wordpress.com/

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist and Tucson Citizen reporter who is grateful for dogs, rats, family and friends (not necessarily in that order).

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This column originally appeared in the Nov. 28, 2008, issue of the Tucson Citizen newspaper.

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