Monday, January 17, 2011

It's a Dog's Life

     Four weeks ago Joe ran over one of the rabbit beagles. We had just come home from finishing chores in McDowell and it was already dark. He dropped me at the front gate and then pulled around the side of the house to park the truck out of the way. I had just opened the gate to go inside when I heard a shrill yelp. I ran around to the side of the house and found Cindy Dog lying at an awkward angle in the snow. Joe’s windows were up and so he didn’t even know he had hit her until he walked back up the snowy driveway. The best we could figure is that she slipped on the ice and slid under his back wheel as he drove past.
     I scooped the dog up and carried her gently to the house. She tried to bite me several times, so I knew that she was in a lot of pain. Our neighbor is a retired vet so I called him and he agreed to meet us at his house. Without an x-ray, he couldn’t be sure, but it appeared that she had cracked her pelvis. He said the best thing we could do for her was to keep her in a very small area for six weeks while the pelvis knitted back together.
     When we got home, I prepared a thick pad of papers and old towels for Cindy and set her up in the kitchen. She had to be carried outside several times a day to take care of her doggie business, but other than that she sprawled on the linoleum looking miserable. Then a friend offered a small cage, so we set her up in the shed outside, surrounded by blankets. That worked pretty well, because she could do her business on the dirt floor, so there was less stress to her hip from being toted outside, but I felt bad for the dog. It’s cold outside. I was sure she must be freezing. Within a week I had hauled her back in the kitchen, where she spent her days looking sad and miserable. I assumed it was because of her hip.
     Then, a funny thing happened. Joe set her outside so she could go to the bathroom and when he went back out, fifteen minutes later, Cindy Dog was gone. In spite of the fact that she couldn’t even walk five steps to her water bowl, the dog with the broken hip had smelled a rabbit and with her hunting pal, Sandy Dog, was off on a three-legged adventure.
     I searched frantically all day for my dog, sure that she had fallen and couldn’t get up. I even went out into the dark with my flashlight and scanned all the fields around the house figuring the light would reflect off her eyes. I was right. It did. I found her curled up in her doghouse. I carried my naughty beagle back to the kitchen and placed her on her snug bed. She stared at me with sad eyes asI held the bowl to her tired little lips and worried about the damage a jaunt in the woods must have done to her unhealed hip.
     The next day, when we set her out to go to the bathroom, Cindy disappeared again. And again, I found her at dark, curled in her dog house. The same thing happened each day for the next three days. The pitiful little dog in the kitchen, who spent her days curled in the corner making sorry suffering puppy eyes at us, would disappear as soon as she was set outside.
     Three days ago, we gave up and tied her outside. It turns out that’s what she wanted all along. When I go out to feed her, the dog who could barely wag her tail or stand up to drink from her bowl comes bounding out of her little house balancing on three legs and wagging her tail so hard it throws her sideways. She’s happy to be home. I’ve always felt bad about having to chain my dogs, but I’m seeing it in a new light. Given the choice of a warm bed inside with a view of four walls, or a chain and doghouse outside, this dog chooses the chain and the wide outdoors. I’m sure there’s a lesson in all this. If anybody figures it out, let me know.

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