When What You Expect to Happen Doesn’t

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.

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6 Responses to When What You Expect to Happen Doesn’t

  1. Ah — but the true gift is yet to be uncovered. Raising children is a lot like that, I have found. You get what comes in a little package without any instruction book, mind you! And while you might have your hopes and expectations, ultimately your job is to love who they become and hopefully your loving and steady hand has made a difference in bringing out in them what God placed there before they were even born. So, yes, God's hand is in this with you and you are doing a stellar job at playing your role as Toby's Angel looking out for him. Your original hopes for him might be taking a back seat, but you have learned much, Grasshopper!

  2. I'm so sorry to hear about Toby. Sometimes things don't work out as planned but there are so many other ways you can enjoy each others company. Toby is a young dog and there are new discoveries everyday in veterinarian medicine, a cure or easier management may be just a step away. I hope so. Hang in there and try not to be too disappointed. I know you love him and want the best for him and I know he is going to get the best care available. Give him a pet and hug from me.

  3. Further thought: apparently your story has moved me deeply because this is response #2.

    I am thinking about the 'dead basketball' and focusing on what Toby CAN do. In that sentence alone is a jewel of opportunity: finding ways…perhaps new and creative ways to help an animal in Toby's situation live a fulfilling life.

    Agility training? How can that be adapted? Therapy dog? What other ways can his personality shine and bring healing?

    There has been so much work done in adaptive sports for people who are handicapped in some way. Why not explore that same idea for poochies who are happy to live life to the fullest regardless of physical restrictions!His body might have restrictions but his mind and spirit are certainly alive and well!

    Hang in there, Sis — you are doing a wonderful job — and perhaps we can build an entire section around this learning in our book.

    Love, cc

  4. Toby is so lucky that he has you in his life. My sweet Pepper popped her knee cap when she was only two years old. After surgery on that knee, she popped the other one and we faced another expensive surgery. Six thousand dollars later, she still wasn't ever able to chase a tennis ball – But you know what? It didn't matter to us or to Pepper. She was truly an angel and for 14 years, she limped – we carried her everywhere towards the end- and she spread more love than anyone I know. We still miss her every day and she's been gone for almost three years. So, I know that Toby will bring you joy that you never expected. And that you will find a way, through supplements, diet, perhaps surgery, to make him comfortable. I can just tell from that photo of him that he's got a big heart and that he loves you. Happy Valentine's Day to you and your sweet puppy!

  5. Jan says:

    How fortunate for Toby that he landed with someone who can manage her expectations. Not all dogs are so lucky as I'm sure you know. The magic is in the small moments. Peace be the journey.♥

  6. dlg says:

    Your story gave me goosebumps. Animals and children have the power to teach us things that are often impossible to learn from anyone or anything else. But even they can't show us a thing unless we are open to receiving the lesson.

    Letting go of our hopes and dreams is incredibly difficult. But accepting reality and choosing to make the most of what is? I think that's the hardest thing of all. It takes strength and wisdom and grace and humility. And fortunately–for you and for Toby– you possess them all!

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