My beautiful spotted and four legged dalmatian friend, Chester, is 12 years old. Not long after his birthday he started to struggle staying upright. His hind legs just didn't seem to work properly anymore. He would wobble and stumble, and sometimes fall. Two weekends ago, it got worse. He started falling over more; his back end collapsing under him as he walked. He could no longer climb up on to the sofa and his feet would drag along behind him. A few vet visits later, including a consult with a canine neurologist, he was diagnosed with intervertebral disc disease. Basically, he has a number of herniated discs, one of which is causing him some pain and weakness in his hind legs. Surgery to fix the problem is full of risk, and would be hard on his body. Bed rest has therefore been prescribed. Our full of beans dog must stay inactive for at least 4 weeks so that the discs can heal.
Despite the stress of this situation, I am constantly amazed at Chester's tenacity and resilience. He has not lost his sparkle. He is as happy, go lucky as he has ever been. His light still shines extraordinarily brightly. Prior to his mandated bed rest, Chester bounced around the house despite the fact his body didn't really allow him to do so. He tried to get up on the sofa, even though he didn't have the strength. He will not be deterred. He falls over, but gets right back up again. He wobbles, but keeps moving forward. He has just adapted, or maybe just accepted, that his mobility is what it is, and it isn't going to stop him from being a dog. His exuberance is unbounded and it's humbling to see.
His energy and love for life doesn't allow him to accept limits. This is, of course, good and bad, especially when inactivity is critical for his healing. His worldview is not shaped by his new limits and he is just refusing to be different. He has every reason to be sad, or frustrated about this sudden change in mobility, but he just isn't. We have much to learn from our black and white spotted tail wagger.
Around the same time as Chester's illness, I developed another running related injury - a possible stress fracture in the lateral malleolus. I am currently in a boot and there is no running for me. I like to think, however inconvenient the timing, it is a sympathetic injuryexperienced in solidarity with my best pal. However, I have responded differently to it than Chester has to his change in ability. My issue is temporary, Chester's may not be. And yet, he continues unfazed. I, on the other hand, feel down that I can't run and had to miss a race.
I want to be like Chester; I want to adapt and continue onwards. I have a new set of circumstances, and that is just the way it is until it isn't anymore. So be it. I think we all have much to learn from our canine friends, and this is probably not new information for the dog lovers out there. Resilience for, and management of, change can be taken in stride if we allow ourselves to respond that way. As runners and triathletes, we can get so hung up on our goals that any impediment or barrier we face can derail our spirit completely. Instead, we should embrace the new circumstance and develop a solution that keeps us moving forward. There is a lesson for me in Chester's response to his new circumstance, and I am trying hard to internalize it. I think we would all be better if we could channel some of Chester's energy right now; keep moving forward and fighting, in spite of the challenges presented.
Chester investigating my new ankle brace/boot