The Comforting Pity of Three Dogs

The thing about three-legged dogs is that they never whine about the missing leg. Even those two-legged dogs run around with their little wheels, tongues hanging out, giving you that “what’s up, dude!” expression. I hope to be more like them.

But I am human and fallible, with a long memory studded with grudges, regrets, and small slights for which I pledged but somehow fell short of forgiveness. Plus I somehow made it through 39 years without ever breaking a bone, without ever having a limb encased in a cast, and the novelty of the last week hasn’t quite lost its shine.

This morning on MUNI a man standing next to me offered me a seat when it opened up in front of us. He was the first person to do so in the three crowded rides I’d taken to and from work after getting the cast. Three crowded rides during which I alternated from self-righteous indignation at my fellow commuters’ selfishness and rudeness, to self-castigation at my sense of entitlement. Flip flop, flip flop. I felt sure that, hypothetically, in their place I would have at least offered my seat to a guy in a cast. Even a guy who looked reasonably strong and healthy. But then I am always a better man in hypothetical situations, which are made for acts of disarming (ha) generosity.

In the end I did what I swore I’d do, hypothetically; I smiled and let him take the seat.

But yes, there are things I cannot do, like tie my own shoes. Or cut a bagel in half. Or open a stubborn jar. I cannot get the casually-perfect distribution of pomade on my admittedly short bangs, and really, what’s hurting most is simply my vanity, as my hair refuses to cooperate and my hard-won muscles slowly fade from view. Not to mention the decidedly UNFUNNY things perfect strangers yell from passing cars. Something about walking around in a cast elicits a barrage of unrequested comments. The last one, from a coward in an old pick-up, implied that I’d had an accident with a Shake Weight.

Shut up, it’s not funny.

I don’t know how single dudes and ladies navigate the world with only one arm. I suppose they rely upon a lot of Velcro. But I’m a lucky man, with a devoted Manly Fireplug to call my own, a Fireplug who seems to appreciate helping me take a shower, an ordeal that requires garbage bags, duct tape, and a small plastic footstool.

During this morning’s shower I looked over the Fireplug’s shoulder to see our three dogs sitting in the hallway just outside the bathroom, gazing at our spectacle with an unusual solemnity. The Fireplug was using the hand-held nozzle on me, the same nozzle we use when giving them their baths, and I recognized their plaintive looks as sympathy. “Oh man,” they were thinking, “I wonder what poor Mike rolled in now.”

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