There’s never been a better time to be a crippled dog than right now. I’ve been coming across more and more three-leggers, whose missing limbs always make me think there’s some sort of camera trick going on.
On my most recent trip to L.A., I met a dog in Roxbury Park with a spinal injury. Its normal-sized torso was grossly disproportionate to its atrophied rear. The mutt wore what looked like a doggie corset that seemed to keep it from splitting down the middle.
I made small talk with the owner, who assured me (and himself), “She’s doing well.”
I couldn’t help but think: Don’t we put dogs to sleep anymore?
Or has something changed? Do human beings now look to their crippled dogs for a type of inspiration they can leash and pick up after?
“You know, anytime life throws me a curveball, I just look down at my hobbling best friend right here. She ain’t complaining. No—she’s living. Taking the cards she’s been dealt—and going all in.”
When my father was growing up in Argentina, my paternal grandmother would never let a dog around the house. She’d hit them with sticks or even punch them. Dogs knew not to fuck with Mama Laura.
But later in life, towards the end, she became friendly with a street dog she named Perucho. Street dogs are common in my father’s hometown of Tucumán. You’ll see these roving packs of some of the cutest canines you can imagine, tramps of all shapes and sizes. They fight, and they shit, and they fuck. And they get hit by cars.
Perucho was no exception. A car had struck him on the street, right in front of my grandmother’s house. But this time—this dog—she decided to help.
Perucho recovered fully, except for one of his hind legs. The dead limb bounced all over the place whenever he’d chase after something. He was a cute dog and a tough son of a bitch.
One day he was in a street brawl and received a huge gash behind his ear. I was there days later when the veterinarian came to my grandmother’s house to remove the maggots that were eating up the dead flesh inside Perucho’s wound. I wasn’t there to see if it had ever healed fully.
I didn’t realize it then—and it’s taken me years and a lot of crippled dogs to see how important it is to be able to love something broken.
See, when my grandmother befriended the street dog, she was deep in the clutches of Alzheimer’s disease. She was broken. And maybe that’s what it took for her to love that crippled dog. She was broken enough to love.