Falling in old age

I fell down at 6:25 a.m. today when my foot skidded on — to put it as delicately as I can — a deposit left on the tile floor by our elderly Jack Russell, who is roughly 107 in human years. My left leg, the bad one, kicked out and then crumpled beneath me on the tile floor and I made what I thought was a three point landing in the dark but turned out to be four when the inventory of injury later became plain. Falling is every old person’s fear (I’m 75) for reasons that I think are obvious. A broken hip — curtains, usually. Stella is her name and we love her dearly. We dug deep in the warm puppy heap because I had read somewhere that you found the hardiest at the bottom. She was the only female and holding her own against the males. The breeders were Mennonites who had moved from Ohio to Montana where our teenage son had a strong urge to own a puppy. The other dog he had selected in California, a Yellow Lab, was still young but Montana is the kind of place where a lot of dogs is a good thing. And Stella was a good thing.  She was smart and bossy, very quickly establishing dominance over Ollie the Lab. She roamed free there and I noticed she had a pattern like a foreman on a factory floor, checking on this, looking at that. Magpies are an aggressive form of crows you see in the northern states. I looked out the window once and saw an angry one actually stalking Stella, flying from tree to tree and stepping after her on the ground. Stella seemed amused by this — I could almost see her laughing. “Go ahead, fool, take your best shot.” On a walk once she darted into a thicket after a porcupine. She came back with her tongue full of quills. She wanted help but didn’t seem in great pain. I tried pulling a few out and she submitted to my clumsy attempts without anger.  Then we took her to a vet where he put her under and removed them. Imagine quills in your tongue. We and Ollie had many an adventure afterword, walking the fence line in blizzards. So in the years that have passed after our move to Arkansas she has been with us, a comrade. She chased squirrels until that got to be too much for her. Now, deaf and nearly blind, she sleeps in a basket with a small heater below and wakes only to eat. I suppose she has dementia and should be put down, but I put Ollie down and it was one of the hardest things I’ve done. So we’ll keep her going as long as is merciful and I’ll watch my step. My injuries? Only a twisted knee and pulled hamstring, shoulder pain and sprained wrist. Tylanol works.

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