What about traffic brings out the worst in people? There is some potent mix of anxiety, frustration, and the protection of each person from another with glass and steel. Those barriers and pressures stoke many drivers’ capacities for anger - or at least selfishness. But some things unite commuters as much as buying the world a Coke does.
On I-20 near Six Flags last week, drivers saw this firsthand.
A German Shepherd got loose on the West Freeway last Monday morning and it was a sporty beast. Displaying the typical high energy of a dog of that breed, this full-grown pooch kept police officers and Good Samaritans at bay - and again…and again.
After making a morning appearance and drawing a bevy of attention, the Shepherd appeared again in PM drive. The dog’s propensity for running in and out of traffic made hearts skip beats. Not only were drivers taken aback witnessing the risk-taking hound, but so, too, were listeners of the play-by-play reports on 95.5 WSB.
Smilin’ Mark McKay flew over the scene in the WSB Skycopter, as the rest of the Traffic Team watched on the WSB Jam Cams below. Despite officers’ best efforts, the dog kept them at bay.
Then the Shepherd reappeared on Monday afternoon. It darted in and out of traffic, even going all the way to the left shoulder and then drifting through lanes and to the right hand side. Horrified and convicted passersby began pulling over and trying to coax this obviously scared animal to safety. The more attention drawn, the more driven to run the dog became. Any dog owner who has had their dog get away has experienced that.
Big rig drivers blocked lanes to allow the dog to the right. Other drivers stopped in travel lanes to avoid hitting it. Several drivers pulled to the right shoulder, as the dog stopped, panting heavily, and sat in the shade in a ditch. No one could get close to him. A passerby told me the dog had tags.
Just as they had tried to that morning, police gave their best shots in trying to apprehend a dog that resembled the K-9s they worked alongside. No luck. As I flew overhead Monday afternoon, we saw a squad car running its lights and seemingly trying to use its sirens to scare the dog back over to the safer right side guardrail.
The brown and black Shepherd appeared again Tuesday morning, but to less fanfare. He again scampered away from goodhearted rescuers.
I called Cobb County dispatch Tuesday afternoon, as our Traffic Team does each hour to check any road problems. I also asked them about the dog. Had anyone seen it since that morning or had he, in fact, been rescued? 911 had not gotten a report since that morning.
I reached out to Cobb PD on Wednesday to check on the dog’s status, but still have not heard back.
And that is how this weave ends. As of this writing and as far as we know, the mysterious and energetic Six Flags Shepherd may still be on the loose. Hopefully they stay out of traffic or better - got reunited with their humans.
Watching this scary situation play out did conjure a question: what should drivers do when they see a stray animal, particularly a dog, that is in danger in traffic?
A driver that is not familiar with handling animals, especially rambunctious ones like the Six Flags Shepherd, should simply call 911. Or they should call animal control, if they are pulled over safely. No one should try and handle an animal with which they are not comfortable.
If the animal is acting very strange, they could be rabid. Only animal control should handle that.
Those that are more adept with handling dogs or cats should do their best to pull out of travel lanes, especially if they see a stray on a freeway. If the animal is in travel lanes, drivers should do their best to ease to a stop, not screech to one, so the trailing cars have a better chance of not hitting them. Then those drivers should try and blow their horns to scare the animal over to the shoulder. If they can successfully get other motorists’ attention, they should also try to get them to slow down and create a blockage before actually exiting the vehicle to help the pet.
As we have often covered, exiting a car in traffic is extremely dangerous. This should only happen, if absolutely necessary. Keeping a stray, scared dog safe does rank high on the list.
The events on I-20 in Cobb County serve as another reminder to always expect the unexpected behind the wheel. I-20 traffic became very unpredictable early last week. Not only was a dog darting in and out of travel lanes, but people were slowing and stopping left and right to try and help. And they were exiting their vehicles.
Fortunately. this mission became a uniting force for West Freeway commuters. And those that didn’t stop to help at least paid enough attention to not mow down these heroic, big hearted drivers and responders.
Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. Download the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App to hear reports from the WSB Traffic Team automatically when you drive near trouble spots. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com.
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