It is now five weeks since Trooper's surgery for a broken leg at the jaws of a big dog, and everything seems to be going well. We've just returned to Evanston from Christmas in Arlington, Va., with our elder son and his posse.
Trooper behaved like a pro on the train (Amtrak's Capitol Limited), sleeping quietly on his mat and detraining for familiar pit stops at South Bend (Ind.) and Pittsburgh (Pa.) on the way out, Cumberland (Md.) and Toledo (O.) on the way back. He now seems to have absorbed the idea that when we get off the train, his first job is to find—and quickly—a good place to transact his business.
His startle reflex at perceived threats was fortunately at a minimum, except in the first class lounge at Washington Union Station. There a pretty young redcap zoomed around a blind corner and dashed up to drive us in her cart to the train, and Trooper took her sudden appearance as a violation of his territorial integrity. He issued a loud keep-away warning, causing the station boss to bark in turn, "Control your dog!" I swear she scared the onlookers more than Trooper did.
Of course, service dogs should be calm and laid-back, but no working dog is perfect. Trooper always barks when startled, like the terrier he is. We're working on the problem, however, attempting to minimize potentially dicey situations. Next time we're at that first-class lounge, we'll choose seats where he can watch everything that goes on instead of hiding ourselves in an alcove. No more surprises.
Trooper's nimble on his paws despite carrying his left hind leg in a wrapped splint. He'll walk normally on all fours and run on three legs, holding the splinted limb behind him out of the way.
Next Tuesday he goes back to the surgical vet for an X-ray and, if the bone has knitted sufficiently, permanent removal of the splint. He's expected to limp and favor the surgical leg for a while until it has regained muscle strength.
It'll be another two months, however, before he's able to resume his official duties as a hearing service dog. The vet says four months of recovery after surgery is required for that.
Right now we also have to minimize the jobs he tries to do. If he's in the room, he'll jump up and paw me to let me know when the phone's ringing. He'll also run to my office to let me know that Debby has come home.
Debby of course isn't doing the name call, but if she lets "Henry" slip out while talking to me, Trooper will react.
All this suggests he won't lose much of his training, and if he does forget some, we'll be able to get it back quickly.
One more thing about that Christmas visit. We could not take Trooper to my son Colin's home. They have two rambunctious dogs, and Trooper reacts with unbridled joy in their presence. Their play together is just too vigorous for Trooper to be entrusted to it until a few healing months have passed.
So on Christmas Eve either Debby or I had to stay at our hotel in Shirlington with Trooper while the other visited Colin and Melody and our grandchildren Will and Ellie at their home.
But we had dinner together Christmas Day. Melody prepared turkey and all the trimmings, and she and Colin put everything together in paper plates and brought the sumptuous meal to the hotel, where we dined in style at a table in an alcove off the lobby.
All in all, a good holiday for us—and for Trooper.