The Cooler King

It is not that I am a hypochondriac as such, it is more that as a patient, I am really impatient.

I knew when I went in for knee surgery, that it was not to treat the arthritis, but to cut away a loose bit of cartilage.

I knew that it was not going to be instantly better and I would be off work a week.

I knew that there was no way of determining whether the pain in my knee was caused by the tear in the meniscus or the arthritis, but the only way to make sure was to eliminate the flappy cartilage.

I also knew, even though they did not tell me, that a tourniquet would be tied around my leg during the procedure.

Still nearly three weeks after surgery, although the swelling has gone down a lot, there was still pain. Not the same pain as pre-surgery, but a whole new palette of pains, from aching to shooting up the thigh ones. I was still limping heavily and sporting a massive bruise on my thigh. I addition to this, my kneecap had developed an alarming and sometimes painful ‘click’ when I changed from sitting to standing.

I emailed my surgeon to ask if this was normal and he asked me to drop in for a chat so he could check my concerns.

What I am saying is that it wasn’t all my fault. I had a lot on my mind as I left to walk the dogs.

I took them into the garage. Normally I just open the car and they hop in, except this time, I did not do that. Busy with preparing my argument, I went to hit the light switch so I could get the dogs in the car. Except I didn’t hit the light switch, I turned to a completely different wall and hit the switch which operates the garage door.

Archie was sitting near the door and before I had a chance to do anything, I already knew what was going to happen. With a long grinding of gears, the door raised itself, creating first a chink, then a window of light as it opened onto a world which Archie knows very well, but through which he is never allowed to travel unless attached to a lead.

In the same way that a greyhound reacts when the trap is opened, Archie was off like a bullet and up the driveway towards the very busy road.

Vainly I called, first using my strict voice, then as if it was a game and finally, pleadingly. It was no use. Archie was off. Ready for his big adventure and to live off the fat of the land for as long as it took. I had no idea how far he would go. There was no time to back the car out. I set off limping furiously at speed with Lucy at my side.

He did what I expected at first, turning hard left at the gate and shooting off down the main road and across the nearest side street. I hobbled like some ghastly pirate after him, calling desperately. He is difficult enough to round up when I have two legs, but with only one, this was going to be tough.

Lucy skipped along beside me, enjoying the game. I could see him further down the road. He had stopped for a sniff and I wondered, hoping beyond hope that he might decide that he had made his point and come back to me. I had run from the house and left the garage door open, the doors to the house unlocked. I had to round him up, or at some point cut back to the house to get the car, and redirect the neighborhood thieves to someone else’s place.

‘Archie!’ I called, ‘Come on boy. What’s this?’ I held a dog treat up so he could see it.

He squinted at me, paused briefly to assess the situation: one treat against a world of oysters. His four legs against my one. No contest: he took off again at speed.

He rounded a corner and disappeared briefly from view. He was either going to go straight ahead, or up another side street.

PLEASE be UP the SIDE street. PLEASE be UP the SIDE street. The chant in my head followed my limp. I was trapped by my injury and could move no faster.

I turned the corner. There was no sign of him.

I looked into the first garden. No Archie. This was as far as he got two years ago when he had broken free. There was no sign of him. He might be further up the side street, or he might have continued in a straight line along the very busy road. A road along which sooner of later, he was going to run into a cyclist.

‘Oh Christ,’ I said to Lucy, ‘I’ve lost him.’

I called out one last time and amazingly, he appeared about ten yards up the road. I did not move, but held the treat out. I had one last chance.

‘Come on Archie, what’s this?’ ‘Come on boy!’ I crouched down as best I could with one working leg.

He looked at me, thinking about it for a few seconds. It was a long few seconds.

Then, miraculously he started trotting towards me, or rather towards the snack. Apparently living off the fat of the land is hungry work.

I clipped on his lead and together the three of us walked slowly back up the hill towards home.

As I walked, I readjusted the questions I had to ask the surgeon to include one about the wisdom of pounding my knee for half a kilometre in hot pursuit of a dog.

I don’t thing Archie has ever seen The Great Escape, but I have seen it many times and The Cooler King was back, in dog form. I now just have to get him a baseball mitt for Xmas.

Come to think of it, I may just get one for myself as well – until my knee heals and I too can run free once more.


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