Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Amazing Thing About Three Legged Dogs

The amazing thing about three legged dogs is that, in no time after losing one leg, they’re running around on three as if they never had four. I even knew a dog that got hit by a car and, with one leg gone and another in a cast—both on the same side, no less—she was zooming around the house like nothing had happened within days....

This is, needless to say, very different from the way big brained mammals like myself tend to deal with even minor set-backs. Hell, I broke my hand a few years ago and sat around depressed for two months until the pins came out—not writing anything because typing with one hand was too slow. With something bigger, I’d probably pull myself together eventually, though it might take a while, and, most likely, for a long time, maybe the rest of my life, I’d feel regret for the loss, dreaming in vain of being whole again. In fact, I’ve sometimes felt that way about other losses—incomplete, even if my body remains in one piece.

But the three legged dog is whole. There’s no sense of loss or incompleteness, no regret—just adjustment, as quickly as possible, to a new set of circumstances.

After that, it’s just living.

19 comments:

svasti said...

You're right, this *is* a very cute lil post... my comment is in danger of being longer than your post!

It's always amazed me too... but then, doggies just seem to roll with whatever, don't they?

They have a sense of balance that's not interrupted by physical things, or by internal turmoil, as it can be with us hoomans...

You're probably not up on Aussie music so much but there's a very cool indie band here called "Tex Perkins & the Cruel Sea". Great band. And Tex is hot...

They had an album called "Three Legged Dog" - http://is.gd/ast1 - and the lil guy on the front is owned (I think) by someone in the band or one of their good friends...

And in fact, one of my many homes (in the life of Svasti the gypsy) was around the corner from the Three Legged Dog cafe where the dog (from album cover) used to hang out... and I liked to hang with said dog...

I've managed to break many bones in my body over the years. The first when I was about 7 - apparently I thought nothing of managing to do handstands against the wall at school, still, despite the cast. And I used it to bang annoying boys on the head as well!

The next time I broke a bone I was around 23-ish (my right wrist/thumb) and I was in a cast for 9 weeks. I too, went into a spiralling state of negativity.

What had changed? My awareness of my own suffering perhaps? The importance I placed on all that stuff??

Since, I've learned to roll with my broken body parts coz I've had a few now... but the inner world is a different story.

Before it happened, if you'd told me it would take years to recover from being assaulted on just one night of my life I would've never believed it.

Yet, here I am... trying to adapt but hamstrung by my own intellect fighting against my essential nature perhaps?

Brooks Hall said...

Hey!
This post resonates. Mother Courage and Her Children by Bertolt Brecht comes to mind, in that we keep going no matter what. After all, "it's only a flesh wound" (thank you Monty Python).

More personally, I had to get tooth crowned and I hate it. I didn't realize that my natural tooth had a sensation that I enjoyed--that it was alive! Of course I am blessed to have medical technology accessible to me. I just didn't realize that it would be a loss. --talk about a big-brain problem...

Okay, I can spin it into a lesson about the preciousness of life. Even small losses are here to tell us that embodied life doesn't last forever. The losses are a reminder to enjoy and live life to the fullest while you can. And dogs do seem to understand this better than us. Thank you, dog-teachers!

Me-Me King said...

I onced fostered a small puppy that had one of his rear legs removed. Within days, he was up and about tormenting my 135 lb Akita. Not a care in this world, this puppy was returned to the shelter and adopted the first day. He had a wonderful spirit - great post!

timethief said...

I have likewise known 3 legged dogs. At first they seemed to be very well adjusted but as the years went by they aged. The stress placed on the opposing legs led to arthritis and muscle pain and by the age of 8 both weren't living quality lives. They were in pain and on drugs and they cried even in their sleep. In both cases the owners made the euthanasia decision rather than seeing them suffer any longer. The surgery bought them some time but only part of the time purchased was spent in pain free high quality living.

Claire said...

My mum must be a three legged dog, as she acts in the same way. No matter what surgical procedure she has had to endure, she just carries on. Well not just 'carries on' as that seems an inadequate way of explaining her character, as she does it in such a positive way.


(Your word verification annoys the shit out of me, sorry)

firebird said...

I think this post is going to stay with me for a long time.

You put your finger on how to deal with our human tendency to get depressed--let's do the 3 legged dog mantra...a dance, shall we say?

Lana Gramlich said...

I was forced to consider a similar reality once when one of my ex's bobwhite quail chicks had its entire foot pecked off by the rest of the brood. (Birds are surprisingly bloodthirsty, in reality. Once they see blood, they won't stop.) The wound healed (pardon the pun,) & although the foot never grew back, the bird got on just fine. Made me feel like a wuss for having bemoaned so loudly a teensy scar I got under my chin as a child. Let's face it...humans tend to be pu$$!e$.

(Ironically, my verification word for this comment is "bless." I'll run with that ball. ;)

Ruby Isabella said...

I heard about a three legged dog who competes very well in sheep dog trials. You're right about us dogs, we just get on with it. But you humans do pretty well too.

Kat said...

although I'd love to discuss my experience knowing three legged dogs but I don't have any, and I don't think it's the main point of your post...It is amazing how coping can be a curse or a cure for people.
Sometimes we cope without second thought and other times it's like an impossible task. Hopefully the former is more prevelant than the latter.
Great post

Karin said...

Like many here, I too have admired the 3-legged dog, and many others in the animal kingdom. It's that "in the moment" living thing they do, and the whole non- attachment thing they have down so well. My greatest teacher was probably my dog that survived three rounds of cancer (which nearly cost her a leg, a foot and her brain) before a nasty bug got her, due to the cancer treatment that weakened her immune system - but witnessing her adaptability, and seeming joy in chasing a bird, eating a treat, or curling up with me could just burst my heart right open! It's no wonder dog spelled backwards...

Jerry G Dawg said...

Oh you guys are all so right! Next time you're down about something, just take a look at my tripawd hero friends and you'll definitely change your attitude and be inspired to live in the now. Three legged dogs rule!

roadgurl5 said...

I love this post, drjay, because first of all, as you know, I'm a dog-lover and secondly because I see such a connection between a dog's behavior and the zen way of life, which I admire. I think that dogs live zen lives...they live in the moment, worrying not about the past nor future. They don't participate in one activity while mulling over the next. They don't brood over their misfortunes. They just are. Lucy inspires me---she is always happy and takes life one moment at a time. She just is. :o)

fourth wave said...

I adore three-legged dogs; the few I've known have been as sweet and energetic as can be. They just don't know the difference. (Much like when Fargo's deathly ill and won't eat, but he'll still tear around the yard after squirrels like nothing's wrong!)

That said, a couple months ago Gene Weingarten wrote a column (actually I think it's an excerpt from a book) about old dogs in The Washington Post. While not quite the same thing, his suggestion that dogs don't mythologize/narravitize their lives the way we do really resonates with your post. It's worth a read.

Tara S. Dickherber, M.Ed, CPC said...

We are the only mammals that punish ourselves for a mistake a 1000 times over. Other mammals just move on. As for three legged dogs, Oprah had a two legged greyhound on her show a month or so ago. That's survival!

Leon Basin said...

I want to learn more about Yoga. Any great resources?

Ed T. said...

So very true, why do we find it so hard to embrace change, I know I do anyways, even when it's the best thing for me... Maybe you're right, we're too big-brained.

The Margin Wight said...

Your post parallels my own thoughts on the "doggy mind." Read more if you like: http://marginwight.blogspot.com/search?q=doggy+mind

Thanks,
MW

Echo said...

My sister has a three legged dog, a gift we should all take to heart. I love your last sentance.
"After that, it's just living."

eddie said...

I'm having a three legged sunday morning.
The snow has fallen overnight..
I slipped and spun home from my girlsfriend house in the dark last evening, my belongings jammed in the front seat of the pickup.
I know i'm missing something..but its to pervasive to be isolated into a measure of thought or a tablespoon of words.

It's just missing.

I was going through my favorites
and found the saved link to your blog.I was looking around for something to speak to me.Help me thaw.
I'll take some comfort from this post as I limp into my day.
Thanks for sharing

e