On November 19, 2011, I left the house to go evaluate a dog. As I stepped down from our porch, my right foot wasn’t securely on the sidewalk, and I rolled my ankle badly to the right. It happened as fast as a lightning strike, and before I really knew what had happened, I was on the ground, just sure I had broken my ankle! The loud “pop” was my first clue, and having my round, outside ankle bone touch the ground while I was still standing straight up, was the second clue that something awful had just happened! Thank goodness for cell phones, because I called my family to let them know I was laying in the front yard, unable to get up or walk!
I hadn’t broken my ankle at all, but I did have a very, very bad sprain of the upper and lower ankle that required three months of recovery. My outer ankle had a knot on it that was the size of a tennis ball, and bruising like I’ve never seen before! I was in a cast for three weeks, and on crutches for at least 10 weeks! From there, I was able to graduate to wearing just a lovely boot and walk under my own power. For much of that recovery time, I was simply on the sofa, foot elevated and iced, and bored out of my mind.
Up until this injury, Rugby honestly had never seemed to have any sort of sympathy for anyone’s illness or injury. He just went about his merry little way, completely oblivious to those sorts of things. I wondered how he was going to fare without his regular exercise, because I simply couldn’t negotiate all of the stairs in our home. He was dependent upon Michael coming home and letting him out at noon, but he clearly missed his regular yard running which I had been able to give him before my injury.
Up until this point in time, I had never had a really serious injury like this one, and I think when I first came inside the day I was injured, Rugby knew something serious was going on. He seemed to understand that I was hurt and scared, and I know for sure he had never, ever seen me cry that hard before! While Rugby never seemed to have much empathy for someone who was hurting, he did have a high value for snuggles, and with me sitting/laying on the sofa for hours on end, he was just beside himself to snuggle.
It’s times like this injury that made me very happy that I had trained Rugby to stay off of furniture unless he was invited to come up. My biggest fear was that he was going to take a swan dive onto my ankle and re-injure me or make the injury worse than it already was. And while I was on crutches, I was so afraid of tripping on Rugby because he’s very good about getting right under foot! That would have meant another bad fall. When you’re self employed as a dog trainer, you don’t get paid when you don’t work. And in order to train dogs effectively, you simply have to be able to walk and wrangle dogs on a leash. I had clients who were patiently waiting for me to heal up so that we could resume their training programs. I was honestly afraid that Rugby would somehow find a way to injure me further, so I was trying to stay clear to some extent….just to be able to heal up.
Two weeks after the injury and no improvement led my doctor to put on a hot pink cast. Once the cast was on, my ankle was completely immobile, and Rugby got to snuggle to his little puppy heart’s content! I know I was much more relaxed, because there was really no way that he could seriously hurt me if I was pretty careful, and he was beside himself to snuggle as close as he could get! He made those long boring days so much better. He was quick to kiss and to look at me with those big baby brown chocolate drop eyes, and made me feel as if everything was right with the world while I was recovering.
This injury was a turning point for my little speckled dog. He learned empathy. He learned that humans hurt and need help sometimes. He learned that he can make a difference and ease suffering. And to this day, when anyone is sick, or gasps when they shut a finger in a drawer or something of that nature, Rugby is our first responder, quickly poking his nose in the middle of things, to be sure that he’s available to help if it’s needed.