Op/Ed

Jessie Raymond: Our new family hobby: hobbling

Here on the homestead, there’s a whole lotta limping going on.
It started with me. In July, my left hip began to ache. The pain isn’t constant, but if I’ve been sitting for too long, I need a good 20 paces to reach my normal cruising speed. And I get pangs in my hip when, for instance, I attempt to carry a full laundry basket up the stairs.
I’ve tried everything — movement, rest, stretching, complaining — and so far the only thing that has helped is not doing laundry.
Then there’s one of our pet turkeys. The four babies, who are about half-grown now, think I’m their mother and follow me all over the yard. But about a month ago, one started limping. 
At first I thought he was just mocking me, the way teenagers do. But his right foot actually was swollen, though I could see no external injury. Maybe he had been horsing around with his buddies and fallen off the roost. Maybe he had gotten drunk and twisted his ankle running from the cops. (I obviously have no idea what juvenile turkeys do for fun. Or if they even have ankles.)
He still keeps up with the other birds; he just looks like he needs his timing belt changed. 
I’m not sure what to do, as far as veterinary care goes. Turkeys are not typically raised as pets, so most small-animal vets won’t see them. And large-animal vets often don’t deal with poultry.
Most people with turkeys wouldn’t call a vet; they’d call a butcher. But because we have a different relationship with these birds than the ones we’ve raised for Thanksgiving dinner, drastic measures are not on the table, so to speak.
Then there’s our little dog, Thor. He’s a six-year-old rescue mutt of poodly-terrierish origins. A few weeks ago, he began intermittently limping on his back right leg. Like me, he seemed to be most stiff upon waking up. This is where the comparison ends, as he takes at least twice as many naps as I do (and I rarely sleep on the back of the couch). 
When he stopped putting any weight on his leg, we took him to the vet, who explained that his breed, whatever that is, often suffers from “floating kneecaps” and associated problems.
It’s likely that he has a torn ligament and will need ACL surgery. This sounds like a super-athletic humble-brag, but the condition probably occurred gradually — not as the result of any chivalric effort to, say, haul laundry up the stairs for me — and was exacerbated by his weight.
He’s fat.
He had been heavy at his last vet appointment, which I attributed mostly to his going to work with me and soliciting dog treats from each of my coworkers multiple times a day. When I started working from home in March, in fact, he slimmed right down and, for a while, looked downright svelte.
But as pandemic conditions have dragged on, we’ve grown lax about portion control (his and ours, frankly). And now, the vet informed me, Thor has surpassed his previous max weight by three pounds.
I felt judged, and I deserved it.
Sometimes he limps around the house, angling for sympathy pats, and sometimes, when he thinks we’re not watching, he walks normally. We’ve cut his rations, so he spends a lot of time looking meaningfully at his supper dish, and then at us.
We treat him like Cleopatra, or at least Mariah Carey. While we don’t carry him on a litter, we do lift him onto the bed or couch so he doesn’t further damage whatever joint might be floating at any given time. 
And last, there’s Mark. He came home the other day favoring one leg. This happens now and then; a lifetime of physical work has ravaged his joints, and eight hours spent climbing up and down metal staging had triggered his bad knee.
Groaning, he hobbled upstairs for a hot bath while I googled where to buy canes in bulk. 
I know it’s just a coincidence that so many of us are having leg trouble at the same time. Still, I feel like there’s an opportunity for some humor in there, like “We’re all ‘limping’ through 2020, am I right?”
Then again, when it comes to having difficulties with walking, I probably shouldn’t even try to be funny.
Nobody likes lame jokes.

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