Sun 14 Jun 2009
The advertising manager of The West Marin Citizen, Linda Petersen, 61, of Inverness, suffered major injuries last night around midnight when her car hit a utility pole just west of Motel Inverness.
Her tiny Havanese dog Sebastian was killed in the crash, causing much sadness around Point Reyes Station.
Linda took him everywhere she went, and when The Citizen opened its office in Point Reyes Station more than a year ago, Sebastian soon became a much-beloved dog about town.
A gentle animal with long, silky hair and almost sad eyes, Sebastian charmed most people. Adults, as well as children, regularly stopped by The Citizen office just to see him.
As it happened, I had taken care of Sebastian all afternoon and evening yesterday while Linda helped with a caterer’s event in Stinson Beach.
On her way home to Inverness, Linda stopped by my cabin about 11:30 p.m. to pick up Sebastian but didn’t stick around long, explaining that she was sleepy and needed to get to bed. Unfortunately, her concern proved to be all too valid.
Sebastian among my daffodils.
Just after she drove through Inverness Park, she fell asleep at the wheel, ran off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, and hit a utility pole. A sheriff’s deputy noted that although the car’s front end was crushed, the utility pole received virtually no damage.
Photographer Jasper Sanidad caught Linda’s and Sebastian’s affection for each other being echoed by a couple behind them in the garden of Café Reyes.
Paramedics transported Linda to Marin General Hospital, where she underwent surgery today for multiple broken bones and a collapsed lung.
Linda’s daughter Saskia van der Wal places roses on a small cairn above Sebastian’s grave.
This afternoon, Linda’s daughter Saskia and I picked up Sebastian’s body at the Marin Humane Society, where Animal Control had taken him. Returning to Point Reyes Station from Novato, we stopped near Nicasio Reservoir’s dam where a roadsign warns of falling rocks and gathered a trunk-full of rocks. She and I then buried Sebastian under a persimmon tree in my front yard and used the rocks to erect a cairn over his grave.
The mound of rocks is intended to serve both as a memorial to Sebastian and as a barrier to critters that might want to dig him up.
Linda was my houseguest for a year in 2007-08, and she and I have remained close friends.
I’m still in shock over what has happened to her, but I’m confident her spirit will be what saves her. When I talked with Linda at Marin General today, she was determined to get through this ordeal and resume her normal life.
As for Sebastian, during the year he and Linda lived in my cabin, we became buddies. (In this photo by Linda, I’m sheltering him from a cold wind.) When Linda was away, Sebastian slept beside me on my bed at night. In recent months I had looked after him several afternoons a week.
However, at 16 Sebastian was virtually deaf, legally blind, and (for the last few months) hobbled by an untreatable tumor on a rear leg. He didn’t have that much longer to live, but I still haven’t come to terms with the finality of his death. I probably won’t for some time.
As an old dog, Sebastian was too blind to notice the deer close behind him, and the doe quickly realized he was no threat.
Sebastian came from San Juan, Puerto Rico, where Linda lived for more than 20 years. Saskia had found him running in the streets of a working-class neighborhood, filthy, and eating garbage.
He nonetheless was such a sweet dog that Saskia tracked down his owners and asked if she could have him. Embarrassed by his condition, they gave him to her. In short, even as a young dog Sebastian was so good-natured he saved himself from a street dog’s life and enjoyed 11 good years instead. He was that charming.