Monday, April 18, 2011
Bear’s "new" knees
My feet crunch over mushy ice pellets of melting snow still spread out beneath the trees like a white blanket. Beside me Bear skips and twirls and for the first time in over a year and a half I wince instead of cringe and I don’t yell, “Stop! Slow down! Relax!”
She marches almost sideways through the snow as she turns her head towards me, her velvet brown eyes stare into mine from beneath a midnight black forehead wrinkled with the weight of one very important question. “Can you throw me a stick?”
My aerobatic Bear has been grounded for so long, great excursions clipped to gentle meanders through the trees, stair climbing completely out of the question, necessitating that she bunk in with Murdoch in the entryway – the ultimate insult. Adventurer Bear has been on strict bed rest after suffering cruciate injuries to both back legs. We were devastated when she damaged that ligament in her left knee, and completely crushed a year later when, on the mend, she injured the other one.
We opted for rest and physio instead of the very expensive and oftentimes unsuccessful surgery, but it also meant long difficult months of leaving behind my constant companion when I headed down the road for epic walks with Murdoch.
But now, as we walk through the snow together, Bear hardly limps and I can relax a bit with each of her knees wrapped securely in a brace. From behind it looks like she’s wearing a pair of red pants with a belt looped over her hips, the harness that goes around her chest to help hold the braces in place is almost invisible against her black fur. Morgan and I sigh with relief to see her legs stronger again, propelling her forward with purpose.
I imagine it has been a kind of torture for Bear to lay about and heal while there are squirrels that need chasing and sticks that need catching. This is a dog who can boast to having swam in every one of the five Great Lakes, as well as the Atlantic Ocean and a handful of major river systems. She’s camped halfway across Canada on pine needle beds, sandy beaches and rocky outcroppings from the outskirts of cities to the middle of nowhere. She has skipped the length of beaches most people have never laid eyes on and shot rapids alongside Morgan and I in our canoes. I’m sure if she has to hear “Bear, on your bed,” one more time, she just might explode.
So, we walk on the snow beneath the trees, Bear and I, and I glance sideways at her, smiling. That’s all she needs and she bounds ahead, pounces forward and buries first her front paws and then her nose in the snow. She comes up snorting and snuffling with a stick clamped triumphantly between her teeth and parades back to me to spit it out at my feet.
The braces do not make her invincible, so I hold the stick up in front of her widening eyes and throw it gently to her so she can catch it without having to run. She looks thrilled at the satisfying crunch of wood fibers as she snatches the stick from the air, then turns and marches off again. I follow, and catch glimpses of her freedom returning.