By Bill Sells
Skipper rose from his pad in the living room and limped across the dining room rug to the kitchen where Jack was filling his water bottle.
“Good morning, fella,” said Jack. “Big day.”
Skipper wagged his tail and huffed waiting for his breakfast. Quarter to six was a little early, but he had gone outside at five-thirty, and breakfast always came immediately after going out in the morning. He begged and begged but Jack didn’t go toward the food counter. Much to Skipper’s chagrin, Jack went to the bathroom.
“No, fella, no food.”
“I know you’re hungry but today is the big day. You don’t want to have surgery with a belly full of food, do you?”
Skipper did want to have a belly full of food during surgery and grunted and ‘row-rowed’ his disapproval. He was a ‘talker’ and a ‘smiler’ both rarities in the canine world, but something his seldom-recognized Black-Cur Hound breed was known to do. He wasn’t smiling today and every word he muttered was tinged with pain.
“I’m real sorry, Skipper,” Jack said through the door. “I’ll make it up to you after the surgery. I promise.”
Skipper hobbled to the door and waited. As soon as Jack emerged, he rubbed against his leg and wagged his tail. Loud yawns with high-pitched releases and low-rumbling gurgles sounded his hunger alarm, but Jack kept moving. Skipper moved with him, gingerly favouring his left wrist, but he hadn’t always limped.
Skipper’s aggressive ‘pet-me, notice me, pet me, love me’ attitude endeared and frustrated those he came in contact with, especially smaller dogs and their owners. He was mid-sized but all muscle. There’s nothing like a solid paw upside the head to make your day, and Skipper was always ready with all four. He was about to have only three. With cancer in the wrist and such pain, it brought Jack to tears many times as he held him in his arms.
“He was born with it,” his mother said. “You never know the history of rescue dogs and what runs in their families, but he’s with us now, and he’s going to be himself in no time.”
A week after surgery, Skipper was bounding – pain-free and happy. He was not at all concerned he would never play the violin (again), in fact, he didn’t think anything had changed. Rabbits still needed spotting and they certainly required exercise; birds and cars made for steady entertainment, and his necessity to refuel and release came at their regular intervals.
However, there was a brief adjustment period, where several normal activities needed to be practiced. He ran in circles the first few trips, bolting in one direction and heading in another – always to the right. Jack helped Skipper by slowing him down and leading him left. Skipper picked it up quickly, mainly due to the pain he had before the surgery. The pain forced him to rely on his right, so when it came time to move with only three, he already had the strength.
But running with only three legs, especially when you have muscle weight, can be tiring. Hotter or colder days can make it worse and wet, slippery conditions can be hazardous. Jack learned to give Skipper breaks, and Skipper learned what a ‘break’ meant. It was the first time Skipper had ever taken one and Jack could see the appreciation in his eyes, as he rolled in the grass to let Jack gently touch him around his stitches. It made Skipper smile.
When Skipper had his first bathroom break, he obviously had difficulty maintaining his balance. He tottered forward and backward and side to side, sometimes having to change his footing to keep things where they needed to go. Jack worried Skipper might step backwards, but he didn’t.
“Oh, you’re a smart, smart fella,” Jack said, tying a knot into the bag. “Give me five.”
Jack could only bow his head in shame, hoping none of the neighbours saw Skipper nearly falling over trying to give his paw.
“I’m sorry, Skipper,” Jack said with a hug. Everyone had to learn new tricks.
He hobbled at first, but it wasn’t long before he was trying to get into everyone’s business again. Of course, the whole neighbourhood had to come out to see him. They marvelled at how he could get around and at his energy. He smiled and howled and snortled with delight at each and everyone’s attention. He was so happy they were happy to see him.
Jack was amazed to see the outpouring of love in the community. Skipper got every kind of dog biscuit, bone, and chew treat you can imagine. He got a black and white fuzzy cat, a spiky hedgehog, a three-foot-long Clifford the Dog and diarrhoea from all the excitement and new foods. But nothing could spoil the delight in seeing Skipper so happy – just to know people (and their pets) could come out like that and show their love and concern. It was an experience Jack was sure to take with him for the rest of his life.
Skipper’s fur grew back eventually, well, mostly. He still looks like a lawnmower had a wonky blade – one brown side of fur an inch higher than the other on either side of a long white strip with the stitches running down it. He sometimes looks like a very large football.
Skipper doesn’t care about his look. Jack sees him looking at himself in the mirror when Jack sits next to him and pets him and tells him how beautiful he is. Jack is sure Skipper sees himself in the mirror. He sees them both smiling.
That’s the thing about three-legged dogs, or for anyone who has ever had their pain in view. Missing something on the outside doesn’t change anything about what’s happening to them on the inside. They only need to be in a place where they feel like they can be themselves.- Total nr. of readings: 647 Copyright © The author  All Rights Reserved. This story may not be reproduced without the express written permission of the author except for personal use.
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