Nearly four months after the accident, the fractures had more than healed, the pins and screws were removed, but the nerve damage lingered. Even after all the physical therapy I'd done with him, trying different braces, difference exercises, etc, he still dragged his back right paw. But nerve damage is tricky....sometimes function can return late in the game. Was I going to amputate this young dog's leg? What if he just needed more time? More therapy? [After much thought and consultation with OBG], I decided to take Bailey in for surgery. Turns out his entire right leg was dead. The vet said she'd never seen anything like it before—all of the muscles in the right leg were white and gray. Amputating ended up being the best decision after all.
The night I brought Bailey home from that surgery he wept like a person before finally falling asleep. He slept through most of the next day, and in the late afternoon when he awoke, I wasn't sure what to expect. I took him outside to go potty and, tugging at the leash, he begged to run. So we ran. One day after losing his leg, we ran together.
|Bailey during a 12-mile hike near Charlottesville, VA.|
Seeing him then, I thought there was no way he'd ever look normal again. His entire back right hindquarter was shaved bald and where his leg used to be, it looked like a drunk person had stapled his gaping skin back together. For months after the surgery, people stopped...stared....asked questions...pointed. I thought, well, I'd stuck through it with this little guy, but there was no way he'd be the outdoor buddy I'd originally wanted him to be.
Oh, how wrong I was! Bailey has since gone hiking, running, and swimming to his heart's content. I figure if I can somehow teach him to ride a bike, we can do triathlons together! ;)
Fast forward nearly two and a half years later...[recently] what was supposed to be a hey-lets-just-check-out-this-trail trip at Alum Creek State Park in Delaware, OH, turned into a Bailey-led 6 mile single track all terrain run and swim. Bailey is not content to walk idly through the forest—he wants to RUN!!! :) To see this three-legged cocker spaniel pulling as hard as he can at the leash, running as fast as he can over hilly trails, with what looks like an actual smile on his face, I am INSPIRED by the purity of his zest for life. He is in the moment; he is happy; he is active and alive, and he has no concept of feeling sorry for himself.
Bailey teaches me to appreciate the little things in life. He teaches me patience. He makes me smile when I don't feel like smiling, or run when I don't feel like running. He can be the perfect cuddle buddy on the couch, or, once outdoors, the adventure animal he was born to be, running alongside me while I mountain bike, leading me on a trail run, jumping into lakes to chase ducks, or even attempting to play soccer from time to time by running after the ball and pouncing on top of it. He shows me that unexpected setbacks can't keep you from pursuing what you love.
A haiku from Bailey's mom explains him perfectly:
A three-legged dog
The world is his to explore
He knows no limits
|Enjoying the world.|
Thanks for being such a wonderful inspiration, Bailey!