Ellie in 2009, she came into the living room while I was playing with Scout to let me know she was available for hedgehogging, a minute later she was making music with her favorite toy, then a minute later was ready for a snooze. She’d sometimes have soft little snores, sometimes she’d make little whoops as her legs made running motions.
Ellie waits for me to kick the ball in the fall of 2013. We spent countless hours playing in our backyard in Portland, either with one of her balls or one of her many hedgehogs. I’d either throw or kick them and she’d chase them down and bring them back and toss them at my feet. Over and over and over. She had a big black spot on her tongue, when her tongue was hanging out far enough to clearly see it I knew she was getting pretty gassed and it was time to call it quits. I think she would have kept playing until her legs fell off.
When we first adopted Ellie a few years ago, it seemed pretty clear she hadn’t been in an urban environment before as she wasn’t particularly good on her leash and she was much worse when off it, at least in open areas. Inside the house, or in a fenced backyard, she was in top form, no worries there.
In the hopes of one day being able to let her off leash at the nearby dog park, I began working with her in the backyard on learning to heel & stay & come, even when excited, and eventually she got the hang of it. I got brave enough to try her in the dog park and she did well, but we also started a little game where I would sprint from one side of the park to the other and, if she stayed by my side the whole time, she got a treat.
We still run wind sprints together whenever possible, even though she has long outgrown the need for the training, because she just loves it. But the other day as she caught me from behind she bumped into my legs and sent me sprawling face first into the mud. I had been running pretty fast so I hit hard and as I tried to sit up, found it hard to breathe. It was hard to tell exactly where the pain was coming from, I suppose that must have been the adrenaline kicking in, useful for when you’re trying to escape a lion but not so much when you’ve been attacked by a giant goofball and only want to know what is broken. I forced a few deep breaths and was relieved there were no sharp pains in my chest.
I was also relieved when I could stand and put weight on both my legs without shooting pain, so my streak of never having broken a bone stays alive. Once I got home and a little time had passed, a bruise the size of a dollar bill appeared on my thigh with a matching silver dollar bruise on my knee. All from an accidental bump.
Although word around the house is that it may not have been so accidental but payback for having had to smell ribs cooking all day and then I didn’t even share one bite with her during dinner.
Lately she’s been sidelined not by my leg but by hers, she somehow hurt it so she’s been on bed rest but I think we’ll start up short walks tomorrow, because boy howdy is she ready. I lost count of how many times she pelted me with hedgehogs today. Here she is curled up with one of her favorites (as you can tell from the stuffing that is escaping) on the dog bed in my office.
I needed new hiking shoes and when I saw that The North Face had a model named Hedgehogs, I took this as a sign from God. The problem with signs, though, is how to interpret them. Was this a sign that they would bring me as much happiness as Ellie’s hedgehogs bring her? Or a sign that she would chew my Hedgehogs as mercilessly as she chews hers?
Ever the optimist I gambled on the former and so far, so good. I’m still breaking them in, REI didn’t have them in my normal size of 9.5 but half a size larger seems to be working OK. I wore them outside for the first time today on our evening walk, I’ll probably give them more of a workout in the Gorge this weekend to see how they do on hills. Plus I need to ease my body back into hiking if I’m going to take a big hiking trip late this month as I usually do.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to dogs who can hedgehog again.”
Luke 2:13-14, more or less
Where were you this morning? Did you see the heavens open? Did you hear the angels rejoice?
I know one dog who did.
Ellie had her final visit to the surgeon today and Dr. Munjar said the x-rays showed a nice boring joint, meaning she had healed nicely and we can start easing her back into her normal routine. Ellie and I celebrated with a few hedeghog throws in the backyard before I had to head in to work.
If you’re in the Portland area and need surgery for your pet, I highly recommend Dr. Munjar and the Veterinary Surgical Center of Portland. Dr. Munjar has a great (doggy) bedside manner and explained everything very clearly and did great work. He provided detailed instructions for her post-op recovery and everything proceeded just like he said. From the moment we met him we felt we had made the right decision. The staff is friendly and knowledgable and took good care of us.
If I ever need surgery I can only hope to be in such good hands!
One nice thing about how well Ellie is healing is that she can now join me in the backyard like before, minus the running and jumping. That even means the return of baby hedgehog to outside time as long as she doesn’t get too rambunctious. She had tossed it to me here, wanting to play like in days of old, but we’re not ready for that yet. I’ve adapted baby hedgehog play since she first got her surgery, matching it to her allowed activity level. We started off with a game where she didn’t need to move anything but her head, to now where she can be more mobile but doesn’t need to run and jump.