So, Friday night I got out of my recliner at 11 o’clock to take the dog out for one last walk before bed. I have a fenced yard, and I usually just open the back door for this purpose, but my dog has an affinity for mud puddles, and on this particular Friday night puddles were abundant. Bruno, a nine-month-old German shepherd doesn’t drink out of puddles, or step daintily over, around, or even in them. He digs until they are as thickly muddy as possible, then he pounces, paddles, slaps, and jumps in the puddle until he has sandy, icky mud dripping from his muzzle, underbelly, tail, and most of his body. The very top of his back, MAY be a mud-free zone, but the rest of his hairy carcass bears more resemblance to the back yard, than to a dog.
Ergo, the leash walks when it is or has recently been raining. I put on the leash, grabbed the umbrella, slid my feet into flip flops and stepped out into the downpour. With the second step, my left foot went flying down the steps along with the umbrella, while the right foot, the leash, and the dog tried to stay put. I landed sitting at the bottom of the steps with the umbrella in the yard and the rain beating on my head. I stayed there, stunned, for a few moments then realized the right foot had followed, though more slowly and forcefully, and was resting two steps above with the leg twisted back at an angle it hasn’t seen in 40 years. The dog, however, had not moved and seemed confused by this new mode of exit.
My first thought was, “Now what?” and my second was to reflect with kindness and a hint of longing on the Life Alert commercials. I could send Bruno for help, but even if he could be counted on to run the mile to my sister’s house, bark at the door, then announce, “Timmy’s in the Well,” he couldn’t unlatch my back gate. So, with adrenaline and willpower, I got up and back into the house, where I took off the leash –the potty walk forgotten –and kind of thump-drag, thump-dragged my way back to the recliner. Bruno, seeing this unusual ambulation, decided it was some kind of new chase game and he was ready to play. I made it to the chair, punctuating my slow progress with, “No, Bruno, leave it. Stop, Bruno, I am not playing. Lie down, Bruno.” Once I plunked back in the chair, Bruno seemed to grasp the gravity of the situation and exerted amazing bladder –and everything else—control and lay quietly on the floor while I pondered my situation.
My injuries did not warrant a 911 call, and as it was 11:30 by now and still raining heavily, I didn’t want to ask family or friends to get out in the night, plus I was hoping I had gotten away with abrasions and contusions (sounds more impressive that scrapes and bruises). My foot was red and mottled, my ankle hurt all the way around, my leg hurt all the way up to my knee and my knee wouldn’t bend without prohibitive pain. I thought about using an icepack, but where to begin? So, I just sat there until I mustered up the courage to put Bruno in his crate and Hashimotoed (or Igored –yes, master) down the hall to bed.
I awoke at 4:30 Saturday morning and quickly gave up on the idea of a simple sprain, thump-dragged to the kitchen and made coffee, then, fortified, took a shower and got dressed. Then I sat down to wait until a decent hour to call someone to take me to Thomas Hospital for X-rays. My sister, Wanda, was the first one to answer so we went to the ER, where I was told I had broken the fibula, the smaller leg bone. With a morphine shot under my belt and a bottle of hydrocodon at hand, I settled into a recliner at Wanda’s and tried to watch television. I am not sure of the programming, but the commercials penetrated my fog and a plethora of attorneys kept asking if I had had an accident and urging me to call quickly to get the compensation I deserved. I agreed I was injured, but I couldn’t figure out what compensation I deserved or from whom I deserved it.
I fell out the back steps, so maybe I should sue the lumber mill that produced the materials the steps were made with, or the carpenter who built them, or the contractor – maybe even the people for whom the house was built. But then I realized that the wooden steps were not an issue in and of themselves. It was the rain. I thought about calling the Weather Channel to task, but realized that forecasting the weather was not really causative. I didn’t think anything good could come of suing God, so I moved on. It was the dog’s fault I went out the wooden steps in the rain, but Bruno didn’t own anything but kibble and a squeaky toy. Thinking further, I realized that Bruno would have been thrilled to go out in the rain—and mud—without me, so that brought me to the breeder. Aha! She bred – and sold to me – a dog with an affinity for mud puddles, laying the groundwork for this whole fiasco.
Dog breeding is not a lucrative profession, so what could I hope to gain? Punitive damages? You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip, they say. At best I might come out with turnip juice–a litter of eight or ten more mud-happy little furballs who would want to go out in the rain. Still the televised attorneys pleaded with me to get what I deserved. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, I watched both Perry Mason andMatlock to observe procedure. I looked up voir dire and habeus corpus and, just in case it came up in court, accident.
I read the definition of accident: “an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally; an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause. Unintentional, not deliberate. Sanity returned –maybe the morphine wore off. What compensation did I deserve for flying out the back door on a flip flop? None. So I turned off the television and tried reading. Even with no lawsuit looming, Bruno did offer a settlement. He brought me his squeaky toy.