Two weeks ago I was mowed down by a 100-lb yellow lab at the dog park. The large pup nailed the outside of my left knee, possibly the worst place I could have been struck. That knee went through an ACL tear back in the early 2000s, then surgery to repair it, followed by another ACL tear two years later. That was depressing, for sure.
Then I did a stupid thing five years ago and hurdled a traffic cone on a snowy street during the Sno-Fun Run in Lake Geneva. The knee swelled badly but then sort of stabilized. Two years later a torn meniscus on the inside front of the left knee began to protrude and I had to have it surgically clipped.
Now this poor knee is going through pain on a low scale as it recovers from the bashing by the fat lab. The inside front of my left knee has a dull ache when I run. I can’t yet tell if it is an ‘outside’ injury with a ligament problem or coming from inside the knee where the meniscus may have suffered another insult. I’ll have to wait and see. I’ve been for four or five runs since the dog incident and things are improving. But this low ache has me worried.
A lefty problem
That side of my body has been through hell in life. My left clavicle is also surgically repaired. An accident due to bike wobble in September of 2012 snapped the collar bone in three places. The x-ray of the bone looked like a cirrus cloud. The surgeon fused it back together with a long metal plate and six screws. It sometimes aches on cold, wet days, or if I sleep on my left side too long.
I’m not alone in this household with injuries. My wife had her shoulder repaired after a bike accident in 2013. The ortho surgeon who fixed her shoulder was the same guy that did my collarbone. He also fixed my meniscus. So both humans have had their share of orthopedic challenges. But there’s more…
There are two more members of the family that have had limbs surgically repaired. Our cat Bennie is a rescue with a back leg fixed by our veterinarian and triathlon friend Jeff Palmer, whose office put the kitty up for adoption.
When my wife Sue saw Bennie, she leapt at the chance to take him in. The vet’s office nicknamed him Bernie because he was a stray that got burned and had a broken leg after climbing up into a warm car engine. Following the surgery, we were told to keep him calm and not let him get too excited. But that indomitable kitty was having none of that. He started jumping up and down from the bed as soon as we brought him home. The surgery left him a tiny bit crooked in that back leg and he has a funny lilt to his walk that we no longer really notice. When there were four cats in our household with Sue’s daughter living with us a few years back, Bennie and his two other buddies tore around the house on a regular basis. Our other cat Wanda passed away last year at the age of sixteen. She was a lovely creature.
Now Bennie contends with our new dog Lucy. At first the chasing was furious but Bennie is resourceful and quick. Lucy really can’t catch him, and she’s no slowpoke. I’ve seen her run down speedy, long-legged pointers at the dog park. She turns into a white bullet with her back hair up and legs reaching out like a greyhound.
And yet she’s got a repaired back leg too. She was picked up from the side of the road in Tennessee and brought up to Illinois for adoption. The vets fixed her leg. The surgery left a colorful spot where the fur doesn’t show.
She fostered with another triathlon friend just south of our neighborhood. We visited Lucy a couple times at their home and met her beagle buddies. Now she’s part of our lives. I took her back over to visit her foster family last week. She nuzzled the beagles and tucked her head into the lap of the man who frankly admitted, “I didn’t want to give her up.” It was a sweet reunion.
Broken and healed
It’s funny how these sometimes seemingly broken pets can fix the lives of human beings. While I’m no militant advocate for animal rights, it does disturb me that people can be so cruel to dogs and cats and other animals. The Michael Vick controversy is bubbling up anew and while I think everyone deserves a second chance, the cruelty behind that story is hard to process. Yet as a competitive person, I admit to feeling a fast and furious reaction when a dog on the trails at our local park tried to attack Lucy this weekend. I know she’s no pushover, because I’ve seen her fend off and also dole out aggression at the park. But those are instincts dog owners are tasked with eliminating through training, not turning it into a sport.
The fact of the matter is that the world is in a constant state of injury and in need of healing. The world’s religions try to funnel that through Jesus or Allah or Buddha, but in the end, it is our choice to learn how to heal. Big problems required a little introspection on all of our parts.
I’m frustrated to be dealing with a possible problem with my knee, but hoping it levels out over time. If not, then something else will need to be done. It’s been a year of injury for me all around. The strange bike crash back in May. The dangerous tooth infection and extraction in August. Then the knee injury two weeks ago. I’ll admit to being frustrated and bit depressed with how the year played out. My plans were radically different.
So there are days when it just feels good to pet the dog and take solace in the moment. One of my good friends always counsels me that we’re never totally in control in this world. It’s best sometimes not to “fight it” when things don’t turn out like you’d planned. Again, some toss that submission into the realm of trusting God, while others find a path to walk down, and wait to see what comes along. And then we ask, what fur?