I don't know that I did much more than allude to it, but Hooper hurt his knee a few weeks back, and we've been walking on eggshells ever since.

He wiped out chasing a ball in the ballfield, and when he came up he was holding his right hind leg up for several seconds. I started running over to him and he immediately began to "walk it off", in a manner that would have impressed Mr. Tezak, my ninth grade gym teacher. Thinking I'd dodged a bullet, we kept playing but I could see that when he would run around he would "bunny hop" with his hind legs, favoring the injury. Brenda & I backed off of his usual 2 hours a day exercise regimen, but he did not really improve. You could see an oddness to his gait, and every once in a while he'd even be standing there holding his hind leg up like he had when he initially injured himself. So a couple of weeks ago I took Hoop in to see Dr. Adams, and she conducted a thorough exam. She detected some tenderness, and based on my explanation of what had happened at the park that day, as well as all the lameness since, she concluded that he MAY have ruptured his CCL, or cranial cruciate ligament. Kind of the canine version of the football player/ACL injury. Great.

Since soft tissue damage doesn't show up well on an x-ray, Dr. Adams was hesitant to spend my money on radiographs, and instead sent us home with some anti-inflammatories and strict instructions to limit his activity to a couple of walks a day, no longer than five to ten minutes in length; enough to pee and poop, and not much else.

Now, the last two weeks have been hard enough, watching Hooper literally slump when, five minutes into our walk, instead of heading right toward the ballfield--where all the neighborhood dogs are frolicking--we head left back towards home. But on top of Hooper's frustration, I have been rolling the idea of major knee surgery on my dog around in my head. Despite Dr. Adams not wanting to "go there yet", I of course started doing research on Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy, and I was not pleased with what I was seeing. Sure, the four grand the surgery would cost would be a drag, but mostly I was concerned abut the idea that my dog, a week shy of his second birthday, could be cut up and never be the same dog again.

We ran out of anti-inflammatories on Monday, and I got an appointment today for Hoop's follow-up exam. Dr. Adams is on vacation, but I got Hoop in to see Dr. McCormick, the owner of the whole hospital. As has been the case with every single doctor Brenda & I have dealt with at the Alpine Hospital for Animals, Dr. McCormick was very courteous, thorough, interactive and honest. With prompts and treats, we both got Hooper to submit to a full exam of his leg, knee, spine and hips. She brought in a model of the canine knee joint for explanations.

The final explanation: Hooper did not tear his CCL, and is not a candidate for surgery! The fact that I screwed up my ankle so badly last spring really helped me to understand what Hooper did do to himself. He probably pranged his knee pretty good, and that kind of tissue damage just takes a lot of time to mend. So now Hooper has been cleared to go for longer walks, but he's supposed to remain on the leash.

Naturally, we went to the ballfield tonight so he could take a celebratory lap around with his pals. Naturally, again, he immediately rounded up Lanni, Mattie and Jocko and organized them into a chase group while he proceeded to blaze a few laps around the field at what appeared to be close to the speed of sound. Afterward, he wrestled with Mattie, flinging her over on her back more than once (did I mention that Mattie is a 100lb Mastiff?). But I could see two weeks of frustration escaping from his soul, like steam from a manhole cover. What was I supposed to do?

He seems none the worse for the wear, or the land speed record attempt. Right now he's draped across his bed and just stretched, looked at me, and let out a heavy sigh. Life is good.