-- by Mike Murray
As I was regaining consciousness, I struggled to figure out what the heck was going on. Where was I? And what in the world was I was doing there?
As the fog slowly lifted, I realized that I was flat on my back, outside in the cold. A dark shape loomed in front of me. It was my companion, Janna. Seeing that I was coming to, she leaned over and eagerly licked my face. The events of the previous several minutes were coming back to me.
I had slipped on ice that was hidden by a thin covering of snow, and had slammed down hard on my back. The area of my shoulder blades had hit first. Unable to stop the momentum quickly enough, my head smacked the sidewalk a millisecond later.
Then I passed out.
I'm guessing that I was unconscious for only a moment or two. I'd been knocked cold several times before in my life (a fact that goes a long way, my friends say, toward explaining my behavior). In each of the previous cases, the lights had only gone out for a short time, according to observers. A check of my watch in this instance confirmed that not much time could have elapsed.
When I awoke, I was a mess. My back and neck hurt, and I had the sensation that I couldn't breathe very deeply. And, although it was the back of my head that had struck the ground, it was the front of my face and forehead that ached. I felt nauseous. I couldn't move very well, and thought it best that I just stay put for a minute or two.
I contemplated trying to get to an emergency room, though I wasn't quite sure how to go about it. (In my mental state, I'd completely forgotten about the cell phone in my pocket.) But then I remembered that my wife was out-of-town visiting her folks, and I became concerned about what a trip to the hospital would mean for my pooch. Who would look after Janna if I were admitted? No, I decided, I'd just stay put. Gather my strength. Everything would be fine in a few minutes.
Janna now turned to face outward and backed up against me, in a kind of sentry position. It seemed to me that she was guarding me, and it gave me a sense of calm. My mind turned to a memory of my previous mutt, Maggie. Though extremely afraid of electricity, she nevertheless routinely put my safety above concern for her own. She would invariably attempt, for example, to place her body between me and anything electrical. It made completing home-wiring projects challenging. But it was deeply touching, nonetheless.
Dogs are like that.
Janna was doing the same thing: she was putting herself between me and potential harm. She was trying to make sure that my vulnerability would not be exploited. As I lay there, a man approached. Janna gave warning barks in order to keep him at bay. The man asked if I was okay, and so I felt I should make an effort to get up.
Though I felt like I'd been run over by a truck, I managed to regain my feet. "Yeah, I'm okay" I said. (That's what men do. We say we're alright when we're not. Probably explains why women outlive us.) Anyway, I was grateful that the man had stopped to check on me, and I wanted Janna to see that he was a good sort. So I spoke to the man in friendly tones and gingerly walked her over to greet him.
The man explained that he'd been jogging in the park and that he, too, had taken a spill earlier that morning. I was groggy and dizzy as I related some of my own falls while running in the park on icy paths in years past. In my semi-delirious state, I think I recounted the story more than once.
I thanked the man and said I'd be fine. Thus assured, he continued on his way.
Janna and I carefully completed our walk. I wasn't sure I'd be able to take her out for her evening stroll later that day. I wasn't sure of much of anything at that point.
But I did know that, if there were any way at all that I could take her out for her second walk, I would. Because if there is one thing about which I was absolutely certain, it was this: if the roles were reversed, she'd do it for me.
Copyright © 2003 Michael F. Murray -- All rights reserved.