Friday, June 29, 2012

The Big Guy Doesn't Always Win

Years ago, for a brief time, I lived in Mesa, Arizona, I used to walk around the neighborhood, and when I did, always avoided the street where a huge mastiff lived and threatened all who passed by.

One day I was out walking with my little wire-haired Fox Terrier, Teddy, suddenly remembered a forgotten appointment, so was in a hurry, and had to go down the forbidden street. I tried to scurry past the house before the mastiff caught sight of us..

But we didn't make it. This huge canine beast came menacingly down his driveway looking as if he would like to eat Teddy for lunch. I had a moment of real terror. Teddy was about one-eighth the size of the mastiff, and I was sure was no match for him. But Teddy was having no part of my imagined scenario, and took off toward the giant dog, barking so ferociously even I was impressed. My normally loving, docile, friendly little Teddy had turned into a diminutive personification of anger and defiance. The mastiff took one look at that fuzzy bundle of fury, stopped in his tracks, and turned and ran back down the driveway and disappeared into his own backyard.

As soon as Teddy saw he had won the day, he lost all his ferocity and trotted happily back to my side wagging his tail, and became his usual docile self once more. It was as if he had said, "Well, that's how you do that---nothing to it!"  I was dumbfounded.. Teddy was a friendly, loving version of a terrier and had never before ever shown his fiesty side. More than that, I was full of respect. He seemed not to have had even an ounce of fear.

After that, whenever I walked with Teddy, I never hesitated to go down that street. If the mastiff happened to be outside as we approached, as soon as he caught sight of us he would turn tail and run to the safety of his own backyard.

For me, it was a good life lesson. Being huge and strong doesn't alsways win the day, The spirit to stick up for oneself regardless of the odds, often seems to mean more than size, strength, or importance.This is not only true of terriers and mastiffs, but of human beings  as well, as I found out later in life in some confrontations of my own.

Medical Advice I Had to Pass Up

I didn't get to be 93 by submissively accepting everything a doctor ever told me. Far from it. During my first pregnancy, my doctor told me I had "post-traumatic arthritis" (due to a couple of serious falls as a teenager). He said my entire back was involved, that eventually I would be in a wheel chair, and be disabled for the rest of my life.

I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had believed that doctor?

But I didn't believe him, perhaps mostly because I didn't want to. Instead, I went to the library to find out all I could about arthritis. For several days I immersed myself in facts about arthritis, how it affects you, what you can do about it, and what the prognosis might be. The main concept I came away with was that it was important to move whatever hurts or is stiff (or both), and not to give in to the pain and be inactive.

From then on, it became my habit to walk, swim, play tennis or golf, or go bowling-- anything that allowed me to keep moving and have fun at the same time. I did NOT end up in a wheelchair, exceot on the rare occasions I was put in one when I left a hospital after the birth of a baby, or some surgical procedure such as a breast biopsy or hysterectomy. Of course I was able to walk out on my own, but hospitals like to deliver you safely into the custody of your own family, so they will be free from blame or lawsuit in case you fall.

The arthritis in my back was actually never as bothersome as the osteoarthritis that came later on and stiffened my joints without mercy. Yet I have always kept moving, no matter what, and there have been very few things I just couldn't do, except for reaching certain guitar or ukelele chords. That was very disappointing, but far less dramatic that spending my life in a wheel chair.

Over the years I have congratulated myself so many times for not having accepted the doctor's dire prognosis. Thank God I absolutely refused to accept the idea of living a helpless, invalid life!

This was only the first of several disastrous diagnoses I absolutely had to ignore. I'll tell about others in future blogs, and in the mesntime, I encourage everyone never to follow anyone blindly, not even a doctor. It's your life. Ask every question you think of. There are no stupid questions when it comes to your own body and your own life.