I’ve spent most of the last 18 months with Cinder wondering if I was insane to have kept her after my health took a sudden dive within weeks of getting her as a small puppy. After all, how fair is it to keep a puppy when your physical limitations will interfere with raising and training a puppy of any kind, but especially a high energy Border Collie that requires a LOT of regular exercise and activities? But, I didn’t really know my health issues were going to be so lingering and long-lasting; I’d thought them fairly temporary until Cinder was nearly a year old. By then, she’d become such a fixture in our lives that I couldn’t possibly let her go.
Despite my limitations and Cinder’s youth, we managed to do a lot more than many people ever do with their dogs when they have the time and good health on their side. Cinder learned all the manners of a good house dog; how to travel in the car; she quickly figured out multiple games with balls and soft Frisbees; she learned to dive and swim like a fish; we managed to get through two training classes; she learned how to treat my elderly mother-in-law with care; and when I had my first surgery, she learned how to be my very best, closest companion and personal service dog.
For the brief couple of months during which I was recovering from my back surgery and became regularly mobile again, we enjoyed regular outings and began another training class. I thought I was going to be able to reclaim my life and we were on the way to being able to start agility this fall. I was wrong. My hip, shoulder, and ankle joints filled with arthritis and deterioration causing serious pain that even narcotic pain meds barely make tolerable; and steroid injections I’d had alleviated about 80% of the pain, but they wore off in under 45 days when they’re supposed to last at least 90 – 180 days. In July, only four months after back surgery, I had a total hip replacement which placed new limits on me - again. Cinder and I were truly mid-way through an advanced obedience class when my doctor told me I’d need the hip replaced and it was done the following week – on the day of our obedience class. I’d informed the trainer and Brian was allowed to complete the class with Cinder in order to keep her on the learning path.
Cinder has risen to the challenge of being stuck at home most days, content to be my best friend, guardian, and daily companion. She’s never far from me and never gets into trouble. In fact, she’s very helpful to both my mind and spirit; and even in getting me up and moving as much as I can. She’s equally content to lounge with me in the recliner, or going outside to run around the yard for a few minutes as long as I’m out there with her. I know she’d love to go on daily outings to romp at the “horse house,” friends’ farms and play at the private dog park, or go swimming every day; but she never seems to care what we do so long as we’re together.
I’ve finally concluded that getting and keeping Cinder was pretty bad and sad with respect to the way my health issues have been. However, Cinder has added new life into our quiet, routine, and busy lives. She’s kept her uncles more active trying to keep up with her and that makes them healthier by being more active and alert. She’s kept Brian and I company while adding immeasurable entertainment, skills, and fun into our lives; and she’s kept me company and actually been quite a helper in ways her uncles aren’t. She has contributed greatly to the happiness and well-being of us all; and she has thrived despite the odds. I can now say, it wasn’t the best idea and timing to get Cinder, a puppy, when we did, but there was no way to see the future; and now, looking back over the last 18 months, I’m not sure how I would’ve stood up to MY challenges without her and she’s certainly risen to meet hers.
Sometimes things don’t work out the way we want or plan them and it’s very frustrating. But, in the end, things usually work out the way they’re supposed to. Whether you believe in God, another “Higher Power,” or you’re agnostic, atheistic, or you’re a believer in some sort of “manifest destiny,” things work the way they’re supposed to even if it’s not the way we think they should. But, I’ve come to realize that Cinder’s a gift and she’s also gifted to be able to somehow comprehend things and adapt to whatever circumstances we seem to find ourselves in. As a Border Collie, a puppy with the ability to adapt, learn, and thrive in the circumstances she’s endured so far is nothing short of amazing. Most Border Collie puppies are so high energy they truly don’t do well in the kind of lifestyle Cinder’s known for her first 18 months of life. Most Border Collie puppies would be too energetic and become destructive or neurotic – or both – without a much more rigorously active lifestyle to expend their energy regularly. Cinder has her moments when her energy gets the better of her and she races through the house, jumping on the furniture and wrestling her uncles until they get aggravated. But overall, she has adapted and shown great sense, maturity, and ability to accept her situation and behave well. She’s also shown an amazing level of nurturing and care. I’m sure she’d be much happier if we could do more fun things and get to romp freely more often, but she seems content with whatever the day brings, including curling up beside me to nap quietly while I rest and pray for the day when we can both do more.
It’s taken me 18 months to see that Cinder is a gifted girl. Her gifts eluded me because I’ve been so blinded by what I WANTED to do with her that I haven’t been (and may never be) able to do with her. I’d had such high hopes to do so many fun things, especially agility, that we haven’t been able to do. NOT doing those things blinded me from seeing what we have done and may yet do. Now, I see that indeed, those things would’ve been great fun and displayed her athletic talents, but she’s perfect if we never do anything differently than we are right now. She’s awesome enough if she doesn’t do anything else. Now, I’m so glad we kept her and she’s part of our family that I certainly don’t want to imagine life without her. Is it fair…has it been fair to Cinder to be stuck with me during my failing health situation and not have the kind of life I wanted for her or the kind of life other Border Collies have on farms? No, but in reality, it doesn’t seem to have hurt her and it’s a far better life than many dogs will ever know. It’s also not fair to ME that my last puppy and I didn’t get to do the things I wanted to do during her puppyhood. But life isn’t fair and I’m trying to roll with the punches and make lemonade of lemons – after all, if Cinder can make the best of things, then I should too.
That’s all I have to share for now. Recovering from my back and hip replacement surgery; and preparing for my shoulder replacement surgery makes for a very dull life. I can tell you this; it would be much duller and even depressing if not for Cinder and her uncles. I think it’s safe to say that most of the time, it’s not the story of raising Cinder as much as it is about Cinder teaching us something along the way. This is just another lesson learned and shared as we continue our daily efforts Raising Cinder.
Be well and be good to yourselves and others!
Chris (aka Cinder’s Hu-mom)