“Move legs. Move, damned legs!”
I was crossing a bridge along the greenway. The morning was gray and cool, like today. Void of humans…full of life though. Small creatures making crunchy sounds as they moved through the leaves that carpet the floor of the woods in late Fall.
My hand rested on the wooden rail of the footbridge that crosses over a small creek. There was a trickle from the hills to the pond just feet away from the path. I couldn’t move. I leaned forward and turned with a swing hoping that gravity and a little momentum might create a step. Nothing. I felt like a salvage diver on sea’s bottom tethered to lead boots. Tybee was on the path ahead of me. He lounged under the shade of a River Oak.
I woke. It was a dream.
For just a moment I couldn’t feel my legs. The Wonder Dog was lying down next to my bed, his tired old body stretched across his orthopedic bed and the shag rug underneath. He smiled up at me as he does every morning. But his eyes looked worried as he seemed to sense that I was out of sorts.
He worked slowly to rise from his slumber and greet me with a nose nudge that is part “good morning” and “Let’s go for our sunrise stroll.”
His front legs extended and his chest worked the lift. His back legs followed like tent poles…straightened and immobile. They collapsed under his eighty-three pounds. He panted a moment and went for a second take. Collapsing again as I got up and tucked my hands under his hips and said, “C’mon pal…need a little lift?” He steadied and his tail wagged in appreciation. I threw on my jeans and grabbed a sweatshirt and said, “Let’s go, little man.”
I walked down to the landing at the bottom of the staircase and looked back up at him. He stood ready and calculated his descent. I waited in a catcher’s position on the landing. He began, slowly at first. Momentum turned a careful walk into a slide by the time he made it to me. I caught him, as I do, and we enjoyed a laugh. It’s a bit of a kooky tradition now. Tybee navigated the two bottom stairs from the landing to the wood floors of the den. He stopped at his water bowl and lapped away as I grabbed my boots and his leash. He stood at the top of the three stairs that lead to the front door. He waits for me to open the door before going down the wooden stairs. That way he can sail right through the entry way and on to the patio.
We are now ready for our morning walk.
He loves to walk. He compensates. His front legs working, at times, in a full canter. His back legs, stiff, but steady now serve more as a rudder.
I am convinced that my dream came to me as a medium of empathy. For just a time, in my unconscious state, I was aware of the nature of a chronic disability. I felt–or didn’t “feel” in this case–what it must be like to live within a body that doesn’t work like we want it to. This wonderful companion of mine shows me that spirit and determination can trump limits of the anatomical kind.
I will be there one day. My body’s Early Warning System offers pings of what will surely be more acute in the days ahead. A pain here, a kink there, a “where did that come from?” moment. I look at my best friend of 17 years and realize that he wants to leave me with his wisdom and inspiration for living through all manner of trials. He climbs the stairs of my three story village town home several times a day. If I go up, he comes with me…despite my encouraging him to stay downstairs. It takes him a while, but he gets there on his time. He comes back down. Gravity does most of the work while he uses his front legs for brakes. Then he finds his place on his deck bed and lounges in the sun near a River Oak.
Thank you, my perfect pal.
I choose to live. I choose to live well. Despite these damned legs.