August 27, 2016
When I was a young teenager I had a yearling Chesapeake Bay retriever named Sam who was very rambunctious. He liked to follow me on my bicycle when I rode the short distance to the post office in Westport. One evening Sam was delayed by something along the way, then came blazing down the middle of Spring Street to catch up, still looking back over his shoulder at whatever it was that had distracted him. He didn’t notice Mrs. Murray in her Volkswagen Beetle, headlights on, stopped in the middle of the street as he approached. He hit the Beetle head-on, landed running on the sidewalk, knocked over my neighbour Chris on the corner, and hid in his kennel at home. Finally something had gotten Sam’s attention.
My parents paid for the broken windshield wiper on the car, and Sam seemed no worse for the wear. Chris Murphy, a lad about my age and used to a few knocks from sports, was more bemused than hurt by the encounter with the fleeing Chesapeake.
But for years afterward on hot days, half-way through his run in the woods with me, Sam’s hind legs would quit, and I’d have to carry him home. This was a challenge, lugging the large dog, shotgun, and knapsack the half-mile or so back to his kennel. Once he had rested for a bit, his legs would go back to normal.
Sam had the pain tolerance of a cement block, but he didn’t seem to be hurting when his legs went out, just a bit bewildered.
This was before the days of veterinarians, so I don’t know what the diagnosis would have been, but I rather suspect the back problem was a result of the collision with Mrs. Murray’s VW.