Amanda Koster

thoughts and experiences of an international documentarian

feeling a heart stop beating

with 8 comments

driving home on MLK blvd in seattle last night (busy street) i saw something odd. there was a cone in the median, a small orange blob next to it and a group of people looking at it from the side of the road. as i drove closer i saw the orange blob was a dog.  this little guy had been hit by a car and people were watching.

i pulled over ran into the median and asked the crowd ‘is this anyone’s dog?’ everyone shook their head mumbled, looked shocked, sad confused, overwhelmed, paralyzed.

i crouched down, threw my coat to the side and pet the little guy. he was still alive and breathing strangely. occasionally and mechanically it looked like he was trying to vomit, release something very painful from inside. i pet him, stroked his soft sweet orange fur and called 911. they told me to call some animal hot line number. i called the number, went though about 7 automated prompt numbers, listening for an option for an emergency. all i heard was  how to pay for a license… how to turn in a stray dog… not dial 8 for ‘how to save one’. tried to override by pressing 0, back to ‘for licensing dial 1’ (something like that).

i called 911 back again. ‘ please help me.’ i told her do not tell me to call that number.

‘this dog is dying and i think we can save him if we just knew where to go.’

i was put on hold, she came back ‘are you still there?’

my hand was on his heart, i felt it beating but slowly. he was is shock and i guessed going into a coma.

‘yes i am still here, the dogs heart is till beating but slowly’…

‘hold on… ‘ back on hold.

i was petting the dog telling him its ok. someone else came by and covered him with a sweatshirt to keep him warm.  i was telling the doggie  ‘it’s ok.’ i tried.. i tried so hard to concentrate, breath deeply and send life energy into this little critter. i tried so hard… ‘it’s ok to die’….

‘are you still there?’

‘the dogs heart just stopped beating. he just died…  now, can you help me. now what do i do with this dead dog?’

her voice became very soft and slow. ‘take him to the side of the road.’

‘i can’t just leave a dog on the side of the road. where do i take this dog? what do i do with this dead dog?’

‘take him to the side of the road.’

‘ok. thank you.’

i know she was trying to help. how frustrating. this little guy. now dead. i have never felt a heart stop beating before. just naturally watch and feel life leave a body and go somewhere else. leaving this shell, this body behind. leaving behind memories, soft sweet orange fur, cute little paws, a fresh, deep gash across his head, sadness and then stillness. i was so glad he was warm and receiving love from me and a guy that also stopped to help. at least this cute little amber furball wasn’t alone when he died. (ozzie, we found out his name. the owners roommate came out when the police finally showed up, the roommate saw the flashing police lights).

stopping to help. seeing something is wrong, stopping what one is doing and trying to help. I was not able to save ozzie’s life. He didn’t have any dog tags, was hit by a car and injured badly, ready to to.  It breaks me heart that whoever hit him didn’t stop to help. it breaks my heart that a crowd of people just watched… on cell phones (who were they calling?), not calling the 911 (i asked) just unable to act. it’s not a blame thing or a wrong thing, its a collective conscious thing. why, when i called the animal-whatever-number given to me by 911 was there no option for emergency, just options to collect money for pet license, ways to report and turn in stray dogs, bureaucracy and logistics. no service for this animal, this situation. why couldn’t there be an option for an emergency? maybe ozzie’s heart would still be beating.

why as a culture don’t more  people stop and help? why are people afraid to get involved? was is the fear? how did that start? why do we separate ourselves from life itself? where does it come from? I was about the 12th person on the scene, so 11 people were watching in disbelieve, sad, scared, but not doing anything. not calling the police. why?

feeling a heart stop beating is something one does not forget. it is startling, very sad and a wake up call once again for me, of how precious and fragile life is. How it is a gift and totally interdependent. I tried to help him and i realized halfway though this experience that all i could do was be with ozzie. be with him as he died. hold him, pet him, tell him it’s ok. it’s ok to die. all i could do was love this beautiful precious little creature and help him realize that he is not alone. none of us are alone, and we really do need each other to help… and be… with us.


intersection where ozzie was hit by a car, the driver took off and the dog, ozzie died.

intersection where ozzie was hit by a car, the driver took off and the dog, ozzie died.

Written by amandakoster

May 15, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

8 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Sad and uplifting simultaneously.

    Thanks for stopping.

    Thanks for sharing.


    May 15, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    • Coincidentally I was talking about you last night to a photographer friend, Val, saying you two would connect really well. I was telling him how amazing you are and this is just one more thing that proves it. What you did last night not only affected Ozzie’s last moments, but you likely affected those paralyzed bystanders as well. Maybe you gave them what they needed to make a difference if/when they encounter something similar. Who know… you may have saved a life indirectly through one of them, in the future.

      I was holding my father when he passed. It is something I’ll never forget. It gave me hope actually, that we do move on, it didn’t feel like the end, it felt like his life energy just left to go elsewhere. You’ll always hold that precious moment with you.

      Thanks for never ceasing to impress me. You’re a good soul, Amanda Koster, and the world is a better place with you in it.


      May 16, 2009 at 5:21 pm

  2. I lost a dog last year.

    He’d taught me numerous times he liked to run off. But this time, shortly after I took him someplace very familiar, he panicked and ran off. Ran home. Ran straight back along the same streets I’d taken him 90-minutes before on our walk to that familiar place. But I wasn’t at home; he couldn’t get in. Neighbors, strangers, the mailman, all tried to catch him. THE MAILMAN CHASED MY DOG. It’s supposed to be the other way around, dogs chasing mailmen (and mailwomen, I presume). But he panicked and kept running.

    He made a heroic journey through the city at mid-day, my little 9-pound sprinter, covering almost 2 miles before going under a moving car. I’m ever grateful to the driver who stopped, called, and stayed with him until he passed.

    He was returned to the same shelter from which we’d adopted him 4 years before. When I brought him home this time, in a box instead of my lap, I sobbed the whole way.

    Dogs teach us so much about ourselves, self-lessly, and yet don’t get nearly the honor they should for it.

    Thanks for being someone who stopped for one during their final lesson.

    All the best,



    May 15, 2009 at 11:47 pm

  3. I’m so happy that Ozzie was with you when he passed. We should all be so lucky to have someone around when we go…


    June 10, 2009 at 9:40 pm

  4. schmutzie

    June 12, 2009 at 6:35 pm

  5. this was my dog 😦 I cant even explain to you how much it hurt when i came home and he wasnt there. I guess im glad he at least had you to keep him warm and tell him it was ok… i miss him so much 😥


    October 17, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: