Dogs With Purpose

Last updated: September 2021

As I have been walking this summer, I have encountered two great new friends, and while neither of them has arthritis (at least that I know of), they provide some life lessons we might learn from.

I met two special dogs on my walks. I think even if you do not like dogs, you would like these two. Their names are Zoey and Jet, and they are both missing one leg. What I love about these dogs is that they do not let it slow them down one bit. These dogs have taught me a lot about living with ankylosing spondylitis (AS).

Jetson

Jet (Jetson) loves to chase rabbits, and even with only three legs, his owner tells me he gets close to capturing them. He has a unique technique. He ignores the rabbits until they get to that distance (only he knows what it is), and boom, he is off like a rocket chasing them.

Jetson lost his front leg in an auto accident many years ago. His owner tells me he liked to chase cars and his exploits caused an accident. The vet had to take his leg, but he assured his owner that he would be mostly fine, if not a little slower. He is aging now and seems to ignore cars these days, but his instinct is firmly intact. So, these days, he focuses on patrolling his yard for rabbits.

I love Jet’s name because, as a boy, I watched the Jetsons every chance I got. Every time I see him, I think of the theme song:

“Meet George Jetson.
His Boy Elroy.
Daughter Judy.
Jane, his wife.”

What I love most about Jetson is his determination to be what he is. He does not function as if he is missing a leg. I cannot imagine how fast he might be with the fourth leg. Instead of almost missing rabbits, I think he might get them. His owner says she roots for the rabbits, so the fact that he near misses as he chases rabbits seems to suit everyone involved. Indeed, the rabbits are grateful he is missing a leg, his owner is happy as she roots for the rabbits, and to some degree, Jetson must be pleased that his owner lets him chase the rabbits knowing he will not capture them. If he could get them, he might be penned up to protect the rabbits.

Let’s face it, we all have limitations. Jetson is not worried about his lost leg; there are too many rabbits and toys to chase. He cannot let something like a lost leg wreck his life. That determination serves as a life lesson for me.

Zoey

The other dog’s name is Zoey. I do not know her back story. I only know what the neighbor tells me. While walking his dog one day, I asked this neighbor about the three-legged dog at the end of the driveway. He said her name is Zoey and what the gentleman knows is that she sits at the end of the driveway and barks until you give her treats. The person I talked to (his dog is named Pearl) said that Zoey is a notorious mooch. If you give her a treat, she stops barking and warms up immediately. But if you do not have a treat next time, she will go off and pout.

The gentleman told me one other thing about three-legged Zoey. She loves to dig. He said watching Zoey dig holes using three legs is a miracle of balance and determination. He said she can dig a hole the size of her body in no time flat.

You may ask, does Zoey seem to be slowed down by her missing front leg? Not in the least. She protects her yard with the noise of her barking better than any dog on my walk. She lives on a court, and as I approach, she will take notice, but she will not bark until just the right moment when she explodes. She will bark and howl with all she has until I pass that other magical place as I walk away. When that happens, she quiets and lays down. She has once again protected her driveway, and she scared off the threat. She has done her job.

I wonder if she wants to tell her owner about the threat she scared off. I can imagine her side of the conversation; yes, you should have seen this scary man with these poles come by. He did not have a treat, so I scared him off. It was a narrow escape, but I got rid of him.

If Zoe knows the futility of her job, she never seems hurt and she never slows down. She repeats this each morning as I walk by, and each morning she is content that she protected her driveway. She never chases or barks needlessly. She barks only to defend her driveway.

Our aspirations

Of course, humans have greater aspirations than protecting the driveway or chasing rabbits. But Jetson and Zoey have taught me that humans can still be content. We need not worry no matter if we are missing a full ¼ of your most precious assets. It is possible even if we have AS.

I like thinking of AS as a club no one wants to join, and you can never really quit. I know what you are thinking, that is a club I can do without. Still, I am a member. Since we are members, we need to make the club as good as we can.

It is much like the club Zoey and Jetson joined. They did not want to join, and like us, they cannot leave. Yet, they still have a purpose, and like my friends, we can fulfill that purpose. It might be a little different, but we can fulfill it, nonetheless.

I resolved this year is to be more like my friends Jetson and Zoey. Oh, and to be clear, those rabbits are welcome in my yard. But chipmunks? I chase chipmunks, and like Jetson, my effort is futile. But it is always worth a try to run them off. Call that Jetson/Zoey spirit.

What is your Jetson/Zoe spirit task?

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