They say dogs come into our lives for a reason. Finally, after 18 years of yearning for a dog, it was Toby who found the wormhole to enter our lives. He had to be extra special, I thought, and I was eager to learn what the Universe had in store for us.
There were many possibilities~We could get involved in agility work where the dogs race through a series of jumps, weave through poles, tiptoe along raised ramps at speed. Maybe a little tracking when he was old enough. There was basic, intermediate and advanced obedience work. We could earn his Companion Dog certificate and move him on to becoming a Therapy dog and volunteer in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, libraries. There is “Rally,” a fun, competitive event that incorporates a little bit of everything. The more you train, the more your dog can do, and the more your dog can do, the more you can enjoy your dog. I found Toby to be smart and willing. Perfect.
But early on, we noticed he was limping off and on. It was barely there, just a quick gimp and then gone, so fast we were not sure whether we had seen it or not. But then it kept happening, especially after playing with the tennis ball with all that running and spinning around corners.
X-rays revealed bilateral subluxation. Hip dysplasia. Toby is only 11 months old.
The vet recommended glucosamine/chondroitin, the same stuff people take for arthritic conditions. No more tennis balls or wild runs on the long line at the park, nothing to encourage him to dig in and push off those hips. After 6 weeks, he was not much better so it has been on to Adequan, an injectible form of glucosamine. Sticking Toby with a needle twice a week is not my favorite thing, but I’m doing it. It’s been a couple of weeks now and as I continue to see him still intermittently limping, my hope diminishes.
When I realized the other day his increasing reluctance to do the “automatic sit” was not out of arrogance but discomfort, I adapted the auto sit to an “auto stand” but this will not fly in the process for any obedience or therapy dog certification. Even Greyhounds, whose skeletal designs make it anatomically difficult to sit, must do so to pass the tests.
I tell myself it doesn’t matter; we don’t need no stinkin’ certifications. Sweep all those plans off the table. But I can’t say this out loud yet without getting something in my eye that make them tear up.
There is an iron determination at my core to do Toby right, even though I feel a little gypped through no one’s fault, especially not his. I have decreased the amount of food he gets so there is less weight to carry on those hips. We go for long, slow walks on the leash every day, which is good for me too. I brought home some “dead” basketballs from work so he can attack and push them around in his run and then pick them up and shake them. We play with learning tricks and signs and work on what he CAN do.
To be honest, I smell God in this. Don’t ask me where or why. (That’s why they call it faith). Perhaps it is my maternal instinct kicking in. Just because I don’t have children doesn’t mean I don’t have the instincts for it.
This is a different life than I expected to have with a young dog. And Toby…well, Toby had no expectations at all, not even for living a life without pain. As far as he is concerned, experiencing pain is just part of a normal day among other normal days filled with good food, a warm, soft bed, loving hands, kind hearts, walks in the sun, an occasional treat and Rimadyl.
Perhaps the problem is the expectation, not the gift of this little life. The expectation, which is mine alone, is what is really broken. The lesson here is to accept what is, and love it all the more.