11 Weeks ago today, Orion flew off the A-Frame with a severe knee injury. My god, this has been a LONG 11 weeks. So much has happened, so many huge life changes all started with that moment in time.
I have learned so much. I learned some new facial expressions that Orion offers when he is in pain, like serious please help me pain. Pupils dilated so his eyes look completely black, facial muscles contorted in a pleading way, body rigid and still, usually ears pressed back, mouth closed tight. I never wanted to see this, I never wanted to learn this but I have. I’m so grateful that he trusts me so much and looks to me when he is hurt, he looks so intently into my eyes with certainty that I will help him, and he is right. I will do anything for him. I’ve learned a lot about canine knees, the anatomy, the angles, how they work mechanically, what x rays of them look like. What surgical options are when they are torn up and how drugs and pain meds work. I’ve learned what Orion is like when he is high, he’s sleepy and glassy and vulnerable. I’ve learned how a dog’s gait looks when knees are compromised, the various ways they can cheat and bear weight on their other 3 limbs if one is injured, especially the forelimbs. How to spot it, even if they are slick about it. I’m still learning about structure, shock absorption, and what to look for in a strong-bodied sport dog, what makes a dog’s body well suited to high impact sporty life. I’m starting to learn in layers about rehab, how to rebuild after injury and surgery, but beyond that how to condition a healthy dog, how to really give them the best fitness possible and how to know what their limits are.
I’ve learned that I love to gather information in a crisis and the more informed I am the better I like it, so I went to multiple surgeons for surgical opinions, multiple specialists for consultations on nutrition, body work, rehab work and pain management. I learned that multiple professionals mean multiple biases, sometimes recommendations that were in harmony and sometimes differing. I had to commit to being the best advocate possible for my dog, when I was super stressed and sad, but my brain stayed on and I sacrificed my well being to make him first priority. I just prioritized him and got to other responsibilities as soon as I could, once he was taken care of. It has finally started to feel okay, 6 weeks post-op.
Then there were the things that I already knew before any of this. I knew Orion could speak clearly to me with his eyes and that he trusts me completely with his whole life. I already knew the awesome responsibility I have, to make choices for him since he is mine. I realized that it is incredibly important in my family to allow my dogs as much choice as possible about everything in their lives, since there are limits to what they have control or influence over, and I think choice is dignity, is joy. I’m not the boss of them but I am responsible for them and that sometimes means I choose for them. I hate it though, sometimes I really hate that they cannot choose. I already knew how much he loves to sing and shout, run and jump, and what a training machine he is. He loves to use his incredible, brilliant mind to problem solve and learn new things. I already knew that he and Loba have a beautiful, very tender relationship and they always have each other’s backs. I already knew that he and I are really tight, and he can rely on me and I can rely on him, we will be a solid team even if things are scary and the stakes are high.
Sometimes people say your bond with your dog will deepen if you go through an injury, surgery and rehab together but it doesn’t feel that way to me. I feel like we have gotten more mileage on the most beautiful and deeply loving relationship ever. I am more sure than ever about him and me, about how well we understand each other, how well we communicate, how deep it goes. It hasn’t increased our bond but it just brought a bright light out and shined it harshly on every aspect of teaming up and doing something awful and painful and life changing together. The result was still the same, we are a team and we love each other beyond how much we can love and then it just continues. This didn’t deepen our bond, it just reaffirmed it. I can’t even believe how awesome it is, I’m so incredibly grateful. So much love for you, small merle giant who fills my heart and life. I fucking love you, little Bro.