Be as Smart as a Dog

blue soapbox  I need a magic carpet.  A small one, tasteful and well-made—maybe an authentic Tabriz from northwest Persia.  Something I can roll up and put under my arm like a yoga mat once I’ve arrived at my destination.  Better yet, it should disappear with a snap of my fingers, and reappear with another snap when I’m ready to go.

Scooters are wobbly, skateboards terrifying.  And no, I don’t find your suggestion of a broom the slightest bit amusing.

I’ve had my artificial hip for fifteen years now, and I can usually get around fine—sometimes with a genuine bounce in my step.  But when it hurts, just getting in and out of the car can be painful, let alone negotiating grocery aisles and lugging bags up my front stairs.

I have no idea why walking and swimming, widely touted as being joint-gentle, both set me off.  But too much of them—meaning a very easy amount for a healthy person my age—and I start to feel as if I’ve got a pebble lodged inside my hip.  Jogging, aerobics—are you kidding?  My pet rock might take up residency in there.

It’s not as much fun as you’d think to have to ration physical activity.  Say it’s a beautiful fall afternoon, perfect for taking the dog the long way through the park.  But I was planning to swim tomorrow morning; can I afford to do both?

Other common questions:  Do I feel bad enough today to display my disabled placard?  Or would that be wrong, since I successfully braved Target an hour ago?  Do I feel bad enough today to take extra medicine that makes me thirsty and is probably ruining my stomach lining?

When I first recovered from the surgery and for a few years thereafter, I was upset that I wasn’t able to be more active.  The nice thing about having gotten older is that I’ve become more accepting of my limitations and more grateful for what I have—very enjoyable work that’s not physically demanding, good health despite my sedentary lifestyle, no cane anymore, and on most days, no limp.  If I can’t play tennis, so be it (yeah, I couldn’t play it before either, ha ha).

In 1980, I went to see Dr. Murray, a broad-shouldered Kojak look-alike who had helped pioneer hip replacement and drove a white Jaguar with the personalized license plate GR8HIPS.  At the end of my appointment, he told me I was going to need the surgery within a decade or so.  “In the meantime,” he bellowed, “be as smart as a dog.”

“I beg your pardon?”

He looked up at me over thick black glasses.  “A dog doesn’t keep going if it hurts.  He lies down and rests.”

So it is that when I’m tempted to overdo—which is often—I tell myself to aspire to my pet’s I.Q.  And I fantasize about an elegant, if not widely available, mode of transport.

My other car is a Bakhtiari.

Published in The Piedmont Post, May 12, 2010

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5 Responses to “Be as Smart as a Dog”

  1. Margo Says:

    I am so impressed by the positive attitude you’ve developed over the years in dealing with this obstacle. Another funny piece about a serious topic…how do you do it?

  2. estern11 Says:

    Nice, very nice! Especially the vehicles to travel on.

  3. georgia Says:

    ‘Very good. I knew you’d find a way to bring Darj in!

  4. BB Says:

    Thanks for reminding me to appreciate the act of walking without pain which I take for granted.

  5. Michele Says:

    It struck me that readers– unless they ponder the date: 1980– might not fully grasp that you’ve struggled with this handicap since your teens.

    This is a graceful article which didn’t mean to, but does, conjure up the voice of Robin Williams’ Genie, released from the bottle in Disney’s Aladdin, slapping palms with the magic carpet and greeting: “RugMan! Give me some ta-ssle!”

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