On Friday of the first week of winter quarter, they met at their favorite coffee shop to compare notes. Not only had they all been able to make progress on their contact lists since the end of vacation, but they continued to have the same experience where parents wanted to be involved once they learned what was going on. Roger had his laptop and they started compiling updated contact information. They quickly determined that while they’d made contact with lots of patients, they had to complete calling everyone on their lists, and they now had enough former patients that were supportive that it was time to start visiting them to get their signatures on the petitions.
Only Matt and Jerrod had vehicles, and they realized that a shortage of vehicles would be a challenge. Eric said that he’d kept his parents aware of what they were working on and was sure they’d let him use the family mini van a few times a week to get signatures. Kim grinned at him and said, “You mean the one you saved my ass in?”
Erin smiled back and said, “Yeah. That’s the one, the one that got me a boyfriend!” Nate then added that he’d ask his mom if he could use her station wagon too. They agreed to stay in touch and meet back up the next Friday when they could start compiling the petitions.
A week later the surprise development wasn’t how many patient signatures they had gotten on all the different petitions, but the number of parents that didn’t just support the cause but who had suggested a parent’s petition.
That evening when they discussed the new development with David and Jackson, both were positive and supportive, but made it clear that they thought it was too much to add to the patient petition drive.
“Here’s what I suggest,” David said. “You two talk to those first parents who made that suggestion and explain to them that you’re in college and doing dog therapy work at Doernbecher and only able to do so much. Then you proposition them to work the parent’s petitions.”
“Really? You think that’d work,” Jerrod asked?
“It’ll certainly test their commitment, and that’s what you want,” Jackson responded. “If they’re serious they’ve got to step up and help out. If you guys have those initial calls with the parents, tell them I’ll coordinate with them from there, so you don’t have to deal with all the questions and minor issues that come up. I’ll take the parents, you take the patients. You guys have a lot on your plates already.” He paused and then added with a grin, “You guys are all about to learn about how the 80/20 rule applies to philanthropic undertakings.”
Jerrod looked at his suspiciously. “What does that mean?”
“Well, originally it was known as the Pareto Principle, and that principle states that roughly 80% of outcomes result from 20% of causes. In business it usually means things like eighty percent of a company’s profits come from 20% of its customers or 20% of its products. In sports its like eighty percent of the points are scored by twenty percent of the players.”
“Okay,” Jerrod said, “but what does that have to do with this?”
“It applies to nonprofits as well,” Jackson replied, “mainly meaning that twenty percent of the people do eighty percent of the work.”
“Or, more likely from my experience,” David added, “ninety percent of the results comes from ten percent of the people.”
“Oh, I get it,” Roger chimed in. “We’re the ten percent doing the ninety percent of the work?”
“Right! That’s why you need a couple of sets of parents to pick up that part of the load, and I’ll coordinate with them.”
“You’d do that?”
“For you guys and the dogs and the patients? Sure.”
By the middle of the following week Jackson was working with four sets of parents who each had the patient contact list and were now speaking to the network of other parents to get signatures. Jackson kept in touch with them a couple times a week, and both petition drives seemed to be making great progress.
On the last Wednesday of the month a status check meeting was planned at David and Jackson’s house and two of the parent couples were there. Jackson introduced everyone and they sat around the large dining room table. By this time the teens had made contact with all the patients on their respective lists, and each had been able to make the time to get petitions to over half of them for signature.
One of the parents by the name of Warren commented on how much had been accomplished in just over a month.
“Well, it’s kind of important, don’t you think?” Jerrod replied.
“Absolutely! I’m complimenting you and noticing how committed and efficient you all have been. Us old folks are just getting going and haven’t been nearly as productive as you young people. We’re going to have to up our game.”
There was a round of laughter, and then Warren asked what they were doing about fund raising.
Jerrod looked at Roger and then the rest of his friends and then back at Warren. “Sorry, but what do you mean about the fund-raising part?”
“Well, Jerrod, don’t be surprised by the challenges that are ahead and that are going to come up sooner or later. You guys are building a lot of what’s called ‘grass roots momentum,’ but If Administration didn’t think it was important enough to include a replacement pavilion in the project plans, they didn’t plan on a re-build, did they?”
Jerrod began to feel set up. “Well, no. I guess not.”
Warren smiled at him, “I don’t work for a hospital, but I do work for a large business here in town. You may have heard of them… we make running shoes. Anyway, construction projects like a remodel don’t just include project plans, but project budgets. And if the pavilion is not in the plans, then there’s no budget for it either. So, even if we convince the hospital leadership it has to be replaced, their default response will be ‘It’s not budgeted,’ meaning there’s no funds and that gives them an out.”
He paused waiting for Jerrod to catch up. Jerrod shot a look at Jackson, who was grinning, but politely not jumping into the conversation.
“So, you’re saying we’re hosed?”
Warren smiled knowingly. “No, I’m saying that it’s an obstacle that should be anticipated because it will come up.”
“So, we should get contributions to pay for the pavilion?”
“Absolutely! The odds are we won’t be able to raise enough through contributions to pay for it all, but we should have a large enough sum to make the case that this is important, and they can’t ignore it.”
Jerrod was nodding his head and looked at Jackson, who added, “Having a good portion of the costs, even if it’s just a down payment, would go a long way toward making the case. Also, as Warren says, it makes it difficult for Administration to ignore it. Add that money to patient and parent petitions, and the case becomes more compelling. I think what Warren is suggesting is that we pursue a strategy that has multiple fronts so they have almost nothing they can say no to.”
Jerrod quickly understood the logic. “Won’t they be able to say, nice try but too bad. You only have part of the money?”
Jackson grinned back at him. “They could, and that’s where Team Kaiser comes in. You all get together and organize some kind of fund raiser. That will raise more money on top of the contributions, and it will be a public event. We’ll get as much publicity about it as we can, and that will put even more pressure on hospital administration to do the right thing.” He turned to Warren and his wife. ‘Do you agree?”
“I also think timing is important,” Jackson went on. “You don’t want this to go public until you’ve reached the point you have as many petition signatures as you think you can get. That’ll give you the time to plan the fund raiser. I’m thinking during spring break. I have to think that going to Admin with a whole package, like we have patient petitions and parent petitions, we have this much money and we have this big fund raiser planned with all this publicity, which will get their attention.”
Jerrod looked at Roger and then Eric and Kim, and then on to Matt and Nate. Matt had been silent so far, but all of them had positive looks on their faces. “How do we put together a fund raiser in six weeks?” Eric asked. “We’re halfway through the quarter, Spring break isn’t that far away, and we haven’t even started.”
Kim said that should be plenty of time to plan something, though Eric didn’t look so certain. Nate was equally positive and then Jerrod looked at Matt. “What do you think?”
“I think what Warren said is right on, and I agree with Jackson’s suggestions. I’m guessing that a fund raiser like selling cookies or something like that isn’t going to cut it. Here’s another idea, though. Jessica couldn’t be here tonight, but remember her mom used to head up the volunteer organization at Legacy Hospital? Well, that includes organizing their annual fundraiser, so she has experience. How about I talk to her and fill her in on all this and see what she suggests?”
Everyone present nodded in agreement, and Matt went on, “I’ll fill Jessica in tomorrow, and then go over early on Friday before our date and get her mom up to speed on the situation. I’m betting she’ll have some good ideas. She’s kind of a mover and a shaker at the hospital. I’ve got another idea I’m thinking about, but I’ve got some work to do on it.”
Mover and shaker indeed! On Saturday, Jessica’s mom called in the morning and asked when they could meet. It turned into David and Jackson inviting them over for dinner, so that night it was dinner for eight, including Matt, Jessica, and her parents. Jessica’s mom, who’s name was Alice made clear at the outset that she wasn’t trying to tell anyone what to do, but that if they intended to execute a successful fundraiser, and they only had six weeks to plan, then they very quickly had to decide what kind of event, how it would work, and get busy on the details. There was general agreement and the details got discussed in detail over dinner.
They quickly dismissed the obvious things, just as Matt had predicted, like bake sales and the like. “You’re trying to raise some significant funds, so we have to set bigger goals. What kind of event is the fundraiser going to built around?”
She looked appraisingly at the teenagers, who didn’t have an answer. She went on, “The need is funding for a dog pavilion, right?”
Everyone nodded agreement. “Again, I’m not trying to tell you what to do, but I’ll suggest right off that the dogs should be a central theme. Everyone loves dogs and that where the need comes from.” She paused and saw she had agreement from the teenagers. “But what do we do with the dogs?”
She paused again, and the teenagers were looking at each other, caught off guard by the sudden question. A smile went across Alice’s face, and she said, “I’ve been thinking, and I have a couple of suggestions, if I may.”
Before anyone could say anything, Jessica jumped in. “Mom won’t tell you what to do, but trust me, she’s organized enough of these kinds of things that she doesn’t just have ideas, she’s got a plan. Right, Mom?”
Alice smiled, “I have been thinking about it, as you and Matt asked me to, but I’m here to help… not to tell you young people what to do.”
“Okay, Alice,” Jerrod said, “What’s the plan? Or, rather what do you advise… or suggest, if you’d prefer.”
“Well, the central need is replacing the dog pavilion. That puts the dogs in the center of it, correct? I have a cousin who drives a school bus. What about a therapy dog rodeo?”
She smiled innocently while all the young people looked at her with total incomprehension.
“Mom, help us out. First, what’s a dog rodeo and how does that connect?”
“Well, you know Marlene, and you may recall that she used to drive a school bus. However, you probably don’t recall that back when you were young, she was the school bus rodeo champion a couple of years in a row.”
Jessica looked blank, and Roger said, “We know something about rodeos from last summer, but what’s a school bus rodeo?”
“It’s essentially a fun way to organize a competition to test skills. In this case driving skills. As in the drivers had to complete a slalom course with cones driving a school bus. They had to back up in straight lines with a school bus, they had to reverse around obstacles in parking lots driving a school bus. Things like that. Calling it a rodeo made it a fun event instead of a skills test.”
Jerrod and Roger were grinning. “So, you’re suggesting we organize a therapy dog skills rodeo kind of thing?”
“Precisely, for the patients and their parents, what would be more important and fun than that. They all had experiences with therapy dogs, those dogs helped them through some of the worst times of their lives, and they probably haven’t been around them since. Of course, they’d be interested in the dogs and their skills.”
Roger looked at Jerrod. “It won’t be hard. It’ll be kind of like the skills test we had to go through with Kaiser the day we went to Doernbecher to see if we could do therapy dog work.” He grinned. “It could be a lot of fun too.”
Jerrod was nodding and smiling, and then said, “That’s totally cool about the dogs. But what about the patients? You’re right, Alice, the dogs are central in terms of the pavilion, but without the patients there wouldn’t be any dogs.”
Not missing a beat, Jessica jumped in. “Great thought. So, let’s organize some kind of event for patients. I’m thinking current patients… but not the really sick ones. Maybe we can put something together for them too.”
“I like it,” Jerrod said. He looked at Roger and Matt, and they nodded their heads. David and Jackson had stayed quiet, realizing there was a new and tremendously positive dynamic going on.
Jerrod looked back at Alice and then said, “Both ideas sound great, but how do they make any money?”
Alice chuckled and restated the question. “How do they make any money? That’s
easy, Jerrod. First, the events themselves don’t actually make much money. I mean,
we’ll sell tickets but that won’t result in a lot of money raised. What we’ll
then do is solicit donations of items from various businesses that we will auction off, and
that’s where we’ll make the money?”
“What?” Jerrod looked at Jessica for a sanity check. She was grinning at him.
“I happen to have a good friend who is a first-class auctioneer, and he’s helped us out at Legacy a few times on things like this. All we need is a number of desirable items, and then just two people who want each of those items, and when you add in the auctioneer’s magic, you’ll be surprised how much money can be raised… for a good cause, of course!”
“What kind of items? Where do they come from?”
“Good quality items that are donated for the cause. For instance, we get the local hardware store to contribute a power hedge trimmer, or a car dealership to contribute a free tune up. One of our better one’s is always when some supporter had a beach house or vacation home and they’re willing to donate a weekend. One year we had one of the travel agencies donate a pair of tickets for a trip to Hawaii. You’ll be amazed what can be contributed for a good cause like this because it’s a write off for the business and generates good will in the community. You’ll also be amazed how much money can be raised.”
Jerrod looked at Jackson and David for confirmation. They both nodded, and Jackson said, “We’ve both seen it happen. Remember I still sing in the Portland Gay Men’s Choir? They’ve done things like this a few times. I think Alice has given you a formula for success.” He turned to David. “Do you agree?”
“Absolutely. I also will say that you’ll be amazed what you can get donated if you ask for it. We’ll work with you to help, and clearly Alice has a wealth of experience in this area too.”
Over the course of the next week Jerrod and Roger met with the therapy dog program manager and outlined the therapy dog rodeo plan, about which she was ecstatic, because it put the dogs front and center and the goal was a new pavilion. She immediately agreed to assist in developing a fun set of skill tests, and to help convince the handlers to participate.
They then had a mid-week meeting at the coffee shop to talk about the patient part of the program. A number of ideas were thrown out and discussed, but none seemed to work. Finally, Jessica said, “Look, how about this approach. We agree that we like the therapy dog rodeo, and everyone is going to like seeing the therapy dogs work and compete. On the patient side it needs to be something that people can watch and get excited about, right? What I said before was existing patients, but now that seems pretty unworkable. Most aren’t in a medical condition to do it, meaning they’re inpatients or recently released. The ones that are in condition are outpatients like Sean who are still getting therapy at Doernbecher and there probably aren’t that many of them.” She looked at Nate, “A year ago you would have qualified. Well, you would have qualified once you got that frigging cast off and got through most of your PT!”
That got a good chuckle, and then Jessica continued, “So, we’ll have to recruit some recent former patients as well, but that shouldn’t be too hard. We still haven’t decided where we’re going to hold this fundraiser. So, here’s my suggestion. There’s a big gymnasium at the main YMCA which is down the hill from the hospital. It has a full size, meaning regulation size basketball court. If we can get permission to hold the fund raiser there, there’ll be plenty of room for the dog rodeo. Way more room than at any place up at the hospital, right?”
Jerrod nodded in agreement. “Yeah, there’s no place big enough for what we’re talking about at the hospital. I mean a place to have an event and spectators… and then there’s the parking problem.”
“And on top of that,” Matt added, “it would happen on site at the hospital and we’re trying to raise money to force them to do something they seem not to want to do.”
“Okay, then,” Roger said to Jessica, “go on.”
“Well, if we can get permission to hold it at the Y, then the event is indoors, we’ve got plenty of room, there’s plenty of parking, and we could also have some kind of exhibition basketball game. I mean, it’s a full-size basketball court. We do the dog rodeo in one half, and then the basketball game as a half court thing in the other half.”
“And after the two events,” Roger added getting excited, “there’s plenty of room for the auction and everyone will be there on the bleachers and pumped up and excited. It sounds great to me.” He looked at Jerrod and Eric and Kim, and they nodded back. When he glanced at Nate, the reply was, “I’m a former patient, but I never played basketball outside of gym class at school, remember? I played baseball. I’ll help recruit the teams, though.”
All eyes turned to Matt. “I think it’s a great idea. It’ll be Spring break, but we can’t count on good weather, so inside at the Y is a good thing. Like you guys said, lots of room and parking. I’m betting that if we go down there with Alice and Jackson, we can talk the Y into letting us hold it there… I mean it’s for a good reason, right?”
The tasks then got delegated. They’d have to go back through their patient lists and make calls to find out what former patients were playing basketball at their schools and start to put together two teams. They realized the meeting with the Y management had to happen really soon so that they knew they had a location.
“We’ve also got to get started on donated items for an auction,” Roger said. He looked around at his friends with a widening smile. “Anyone know a travel agent?”
The next day Jerrod and Roger loaded the dogs into the Cherokee after they’d gotten home from class. It had been a dry week, one of a short spell in late January with little rain and a modest amount of sun. Sean and his mom were waiting for them and after greeting one another, Roger got Sean going throwing the ball for Kaiser while Jerrod walked Chloe off for some individual training. As he walked back with her ten minutes later, he was watching Kaiser catch the ball on the bounce and turn to begin his return to Roger and Sean when he saw the dog stumble. It was brief and Kaiser almost immediately regained his balance and ran back to drop the ball. When Jerrod and Chloe got there, Roger was kneeling next to Kaiser, running his hands over his legs and then flexing them to see if there was any pain.
Roger looked at him and said, “Did you see what happened?”
“Yeah, I saw him stumble. It looked like a mole hole or something, but he recovered right away. Is he tender, could you feel anything?”
Sean had tuned in to the concern Roger and Jerrod were showing and quietly asked, ‘What’s wrong? Is Kaiser hurt?”
“We don’t know, Sean, but we don’t think so,” Roger said. “He doesn’t flinch in his leg joints or when his legs are stretched, so he seems alright. I think we should give him a rest now, though, okay?”
Sean was stroking Kaiser’s head and nodded.
Jerrod grinned at him. “Chloe’s gotten pretty good at retrieving, but you can’t throw the ball as far, okay?”
Sean grinned back and they walked off a few feet to being working Chloe.
Sean’s mom stepped next to Roger and quietly said, “Do you think he’s alright? Did he injure himself?”
“We’re not sure, but we don’t think so, at least from what we can tell. Usually, you get a reaction if they strain something in their leg. They flinch when you flex the joint that’s injured, and he didn’t at all, and seems fine. Let’s just hope it was a bad stumble from that mole hole and he got his balance back quickly enough there was no problem.”
When they were done, Jerrod dropped Roger off at his house, and when he and the dogs got home to David and Jackson’s he wiped both dogs down on the back porch before walking into the kitchen where he found David at work on dinner. “Yum! Smells good. Let me feed these guys and I’ll help with whatever you’re preparing.”
A few minutes later he went to work chopping onions next to David and they prepared dinner together. It was almost ready when Jackson came home, and over dinner they caught up on their day and Jerrod described what had happened with Kaiser. Jackson rolled his eyes and said, “Let’s hope he’s athletic and lucky and nothing happened.”
“Do you think I should take him to the vet?”
“Are there any symptoms? Is he lame at all?”
“No. It was his right front leg, and he wasn’t sore at all right after. We couldn’t get him to flinch by flexing his leg joints. He wasn’t sore when we got home and I fed them.”
“Then I’d say no need. Keep a close eye on him when you take them out before bedtime. Likewise in the morning. If he’s not lame at all, there’s nothing for the vet to see.”
Jerrod felt more positive after seeing no lameness later that night, and was very relieved when he saw nothing the next morning either. He’d called Roger after dinner to let him know, and now texted him before he headed off to pick up Eric and head to campus. Roger replied he’d have Matt drop him off after school.
“Will you have your stuff?” Jerrod texted back.”You’re staying here this weekend.”
“No, but I figure you can run me home in the Cherokee. Let’s take the dogs down to Oaks Bottom Park.”
“Cool. Sounds like a plan. I’ll be here where you get here.”
Roger walked in about four o’clock and dropped his pack by the back door just as Jerrod came into the kitchen from the hall followed by two dogs. His face broke into a beaming smile. “Hi, you guys. How are my three favorite people in the world?”
He dropped to his knees and pulled both dogs close to his chest, so their heads rested on his shoulders, then he looked up and Jerrod and blew him a kiss. When he stood up a minute later, Jerrod stepped forward and said, “Now it’s my turn.”
“Yes, liebling, now it’s your turn.” Roger pulled his boyfriend in for a hug followed by a passionate kiss.
“It that a taste of things to come this weekend?”
Roger smiled back in response, tossing his longish blonde hair back. “Do you mean things to cum or things to come?”
Jerrod smiled back and then nuzzled his lips against Roger’s ear. “Is there a difference? I can’t tell the way you said the words.”
“I guess we’ll have to go speak to your English teacher at Lewis & Clark, then,” Roger said softly. “It appears you need some remedial English work.”
“The only remedial work I need started when you kissed me,” Jerrod whispered and then dropped his face so he could work his tongue into the little indentation on Roger’s neck below his ear. Roger groaned softly and then shivered. “Careful liebling. You know what that does to me.”
“Yeah, I do,” Jerrod wheezed back to him between soft licks. “I don’t think I’ve been giving this spot the attention it deserves lately. Seems to me it brings you to life in a whole new way.” He kept licking softly and then reached for Roger’s groin, “Oh yeah! Coming to life right here,” he whispered. “It’s early and I’m betting David won’t be home for a while. I’m thinking we should get naked, let me slowly expose the head on your cock and see how long it takes you to get hard, and then we have a nice and soft and slow sixty-nine. Wouldn’t that be a great way to say goodbye to the school week and hello to the weekend?”
“No argument from me. Then we walk the dogs.”
Both boys were still flushed half an hour later as they walked back into the kitchen and roused the dogs from their beds. It was only a ten-minute walk to the park, and they were all happy with the continued dry weather and commented on how Kaiser wasn’t showing any sign of lameness. They walked along the path that followed the Willamette River, keeping the dogs on leashes, and when they got to the north end where the open grassy areas were they let them off leash.
Both dogs stood waiting for their owners to do something, so they walked on a ways with the dogs following. They stopped and called the dogs to their side for a sit/stay, and Roger looked at Chloe and said, “Attention,” while Jerrod said “Stay” to Kaiser. When Roger threw the ball a moderate distance, both dogs watched it fly and tracked it’s bounce, then when Roger said, “Chloe, go get it,” she was off as Kaiser watched.
Chloe came trotting back with her tail wagging expectantly, and Roger praised her and made her sit/stay next to him and tossed the ball to Jerrod who glanced at Kaiser. He was sitting expectantly, his eyebrows up and ears forward, ready to go.
Kaiser sat up straight, turned facing forward, and Jerrod threw the ball the same short distance as Roger had for Chloe. On the first bounce he said, “Kaiser, Go get it,” and the dog was off. Jerrod watched closely as he ran away from them, and something caught his attention, but he wasn’t sure what it was. “Did you see that, Roger?”
“Nothing unusual. What?”
“I don’t know. Something didn’t look right.” They watched Kaiser pick up the ball and turn to return with it. After a few strides Jerrod said, “See, something’s off. It’s like he’s not doing a full extension with his front legs.”
“Yeah, that’s weird.” They watched Kaiser approach and slow to a trot a few paces away from them. He seemed to hesitate, then continued. “There, did you see that,” Jerrod asked?
“Yeah, there was like a hitch when he changed gaits. That is weird.”
“Take this.” Jerrod took the ball from Kaiser and handed it to Roger. “I’m going to trot him out and back on the leash. Tell me what you see.”
Jerrod trotted Kaiser out about twenty-five feet and back, and said, “Well?”
“Not sure. That was a pretty slow trot. Do it again, faster, okay?”
Jerrod did, and when he and Kaiser returned, he looked at his boyfriend expectantly.
“Something’s going on at the fast trot. It’s as if he’s not fully weighting his right front and he’s definitely not fully extending it. Let’s call the vet for an appointment when we get home.”
It being Friday, they were lucky that they got through to the vet before the office closed and were able to make an appointment for Monday after school. David and Jackson were taking them to dinner at the Sellwood Grill, and over their meal they discussed what had happened to Kaiser and how subtle is seemed.
“I’m no vet, you know that,” Jackson said, “but you’re seeing something, so I’d just say take it easy over the weekend. Are you working on Sunday?”
Both boys nodded and agreed that they’d be doing walks on the leash the next couple of days. “It’s just odd that we couldn’t make him wince when we flexed his leg joints. The program manager at the hospital told us the most common injury from stepping into mole holes is kind of like a sprained ankle, and that dogs almost always respond to that when you flex the joint.”
“Well, you made the point with what you did at a fast trot and that it only shows up then and changing gaits,” David replied, “so keep him quiet and let’s hope the vet can figure it out. He does lots of work with show dogs and dogs that do agility work, so he should be the right person for the job.”
The result was a quiet weekend, and a day full of anticipation on Monday. Jerrod was waiting at home when Matt dropped Roger off, and they headed off to the veterinary clinic.
The vet was the same one who’d first checked out Kaiser when they found him and had now become a kind of close family friend. He was also a big fan of Chloe, but she’d been left in the Cherokee. “We figured that she’d be a distraction while you try and figure out what’s going on,” Jerrod said. They then described in detail what had happened and what they’d sussed out on their own.
The vet smiled and said, “Let’s start with a basic exam.” He knelt down in front of Kaiser and the dog stepped forward and licked his neck a couple of times while the vet stroked his back. Then he went to work on each leg, carefully feeling and flexing each joint. When he was done, he sat back and said, “You boys are right. There’s no specific joint sensitivity. Let’s take him to the walkway out back and you show me what you saw at the fast trot and when he changes gaits.” After a couple of trots out and back Jerrod and Kaiser stopped in front of him and said, “Well? Did you see anything?”
“Yes, in fact. I saw the same kind of thing you described. It’s subtle, not apparently acute, and it doesn’t seem to cause him a lot of pain, just general discomfort. That says to me that it’s a mild to moderate injury, at least at this point. Let’s go back inside and get him up on the exam table.”
When they had Kaiser sitting on the exam table the vet went to work flexing both front legs through the entire range of motion, and feeling up onto his chest and deep into the front of his shoulder. Once or twice he saw a twinge of pain on the right side. He turned to Jerrod and Roger and said, “Did you see that? It’s in his shoulder and not really acute, but it’s there.”
“What does that mean?” Jerrod looked both concerned and relieved.
“It means we’re getting close to figuring it out. Next, we’ll do an x-ray of both shoulders. I’m pretty certain it’s a soft tissue injury, so we’ll rule out any damage in the upper front legs and shoulder sockets, and go from there. It’s going to take ten or fifteen minutes, so why don’t you guys go take Chloe for a little walk, and then we’ll pick up when you get back.”
They only sat in the waiting room for a minute or two on their return before the vet came out with Kaiser and waved them to follow him to the exam room. When they’d settled, he said, “The x-rays were clear for his shoulder sockets, where the head of the humerus meets the scapula to form the socket, and that confirms it’s a soft tissue injury. What we saw before tells us it’s in his right shoulder. What do you two know about dog anatomy?”
“Not a lot, I guess. We’ve been learning since we got Kaiser,” Roger said.
The vet grinned. “Well, shoulder injuries are not uncommon, especially in larger breeds like retrievers, labs and collies. The bad ones happen as a result of a bad fall or colliding with other dogs, and those can result in damage up in the shoulder socket.” He reached both hands up to the base of his own neck and tapped his fingers against his collar bone. “Do you know what this is?”
The boys looked confused. “This is the clavicle or collar bone,” the vet continued. “Humans have flat chests, and it runs between the two shoulders, and muscles connect to it with tendons and ligaments. Dogs have narrow chests and don’t have a clavicle. That means they don’t have the added strength and stability that comes with a clavicle like we have. That also means the stability and function of the shoulder is dependent on ligaments, tendons and muscles. My read is that when he stepped into that mole hole it was a forward momentum thing, rather than a twist or lateral turn like a sprain in his knee or ankle. The result was an injury in his right shoulder.”
“How bad is that?”
“Well, it’s an injury, but on the scale of what could have happened, it’s not too bad. Here’s the deal. Imaging soft tissue is difficult. X-rays don’t do it. I could send him out for an MRI of his shoulder, but I don’t think it would tell us much more than we already know… it would just cost more money. For sure, even if it told us it was this muscle or that tendon, the treatment would be the same.”
“And what’s that,” asked Roger?
“It’s basically three things. First, he’s not in pain unless he’s working, so he goes on limited exercise for at least a month, probably two. Second, I’ll give you a course of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pills to reduce any swelling and manage the pain. Third, he’s going to wear a shoulder brace made just for dogs?”
“Yeah. It’s basically a six-inch-wide band that goes over his shoulder and has two sleeves that ride high up on each front leg, and a strap across the front to keep it all snug.”
“What does that do,” Jerrod asked?
“Basically, it limits the range of motion so that he can’t extend out where the injury causes pain. Maybe most importantly it’s like insurance. If he gets excited by a squirrel or spooked by something and jumps or takes off, he won’t be able to hurt himself again. I’ll have my vet tech bring one in and fit him. You can pick up the pills on the way out and I want to see him again in a month, okay? In the meantime, if anything changes or he shows any other symptoms, I want to know right away.”
Jerrod and Roger nodded, and the vet patted Kaiser’s head. He looked up at the boys, “It’s a mild injury, but it could get worse, so it’s up to you to limit the activity and make sure he doesn’t do it again and make it worse. He’s still young enough he should have no trouble healing in a couple of months. Just don’t let him injure it again.”
The vet tech fitted the vest onto Kaiser and showed Jerrod and Roger how to take it on and off, and how to adjust it so as to limit the forward and lateral range of motion. The vest was black with red trim around the edges. On the drive home both dogs were curled up next to each other in the rear of the Cherokee, as if they had no worries. Jerrod glanced at Roger. “What do you think?”
“That compared to how bad it could be, he got off lucky. It’s still going to be a bummer with limited activity and wearing that shoulder brace.”
“Yeah, that’ll be a drag, but he’ll get used to it. It’s worth it if it works, right?”
Roger nodded. “But,” Jerrod went on, “it pretty well means he’s spending the next couple of months on a leash and he’s not going to be doing anything in the therapy dog rodeo for the fundraiser.”
Roger rolled his eyes. “I hadn’t thought of that yet. You’re right, though, he won’t be able to be in that event.” He turned in his seat and reached back to stroke Kaiser’s head. The dog looked up and licked his hand. “Too bad, Kaiser. No rodeo for you. You’re going to have to be the emeritus training dog, right?” He giggled at his own silliness and added for Kaiser’s benefit, “We’ve got to get you better, man.”
“I guess it’s going to be Chloe’s show, right?”
“Yeah. We’ll have to do some extra work with her to be sure she’s ready.” Roger reached over and squeezed Jerrod’s neck. “We got out lucky though. If it’s mild and heals in a couple of months, then everything will be great.”