Aall I wanted to do was get my garden planted, mow my lawn, and basically clean up my yard. I had a lousy week because nothing was going well. School was stressing me out and when the weekend finally arrived, the clouds and the rain did the same.

My garden and yard became mud-pits with the gray and dampness of a New England summer holiday eliminating any enjoyment I was supposed to have doing what were necessary tasks. I was hoping that working out in the mud would reduce some of the stress, or at least take my mind off it. The ground was wet and still very cold. Every plant I pushed into the ground was probably destined to die because of the lack of sun. Great! What I hoped would reduce my stress level was actually increasing it.

As I bent over attempting to drive some bean seeds into a mound of mud I was surrounded by a large red-colored dog that had nothing better to do but run around my garden and kick what was once mounds of soil that once contained the seeds that I had just planted. Knowing that all the work I had just done had to be re-done, I screamed at the dog that just produced the damage. Instead of running away he swaggered over to me in a way that was unfamiliar to me.

Looking down at this monster that just destroyed what was left of my garden I noticed that he or she started to jump around me hoping to entice me into playing. Hell! I just wanted to kick the thing out of my garden, if not out of my neighborhood. As I walked toward it, the dog started to prance around me as though it thought I was playing with it.

The first thing I noticed was that its eyes were remarkably bright and clear. The long swirling coat of fur was bright orange and obviously taken care of. The dog had an extra-ordinary amount of energy and the personality of a young pup. I then noticed something else. This particular pest of my life had only three legs.

I think the dog knew that I finally noticed why it pranced in a weird sort of way because it stopped running around me and proceeded to stare at me in a way that it looked as though it was trying to tell me something. Surprising myself, I asked it a question, not in my mind, but out loud.
“Tell me your secret three-legged dog. Tell me why you look so damned happy even though you only have three legs?
I continued my monologue by explaining to it that: “I have all the arms and legs I was born with so why am I so miserable at this particular moment while you are so damn happy?”

The dog then continued to stare up at me as though he was attempting to answer my question. After finally understanding that everything I was telling my newest nemesis, or should I say friend, I noticed that its eyes were bright as though it looked forward to every minute of every day it was alive. Its bark was clear as a baby’s laugh and what was left of its body stood tall and strong.
I again asked the question, “Tell me your secret three-legged dog. Why do you think you are as good as everybody else?”

A few seconds later the dog flew back on what was left of its hind portion and ran into a neighbor’s yard where they had their dog tied on a long line. It was obvious that they were happy to see each other because they rolled around in the grass and wrestled with each other in a kind of dog game I will never understand. After a few seconds my newfound mentor ran into the road where a couple of other dogs stopped to meet him.

They all ran into the woods that was in back of another neighbor’s yard and played a kind of game in which the trees acted as barriers as they worked their way through the maze attempting not to hit any of the barricades and thus falling behind. It reminded me of the old arcade games of my past where I hit bright shiny balls that were under a thick plate of glass in order to reach the electronic bumpers that promised to increase my score above all the other scores that were made before me.

The three-legged dog was remarkably agile in this respect and surprisingly held the lead. After a few minutes of playing their dog game all four dogs met where the other dog was tied and formed a bit of a circle in order to rest from their competition. I wondered to myself if they were discussing the politics of their world or maybe wondering why a strange man covered in mud was watching them as they played.

All this time I sat on the railroad ties that surrounded my garden finally relaxing a bit from the stresses that I had once thought were impossible to overcome. I then thought to myself that I could never do what this dog did so well. If I was even the slightest bit different I could never run with my friends as though I was as good or that I deserved to be there. Hell! If I were different like him, or her, I would stay home and act like I thought I looked: sort of like I was acting just a few short minutes ago.
“Tell me your secret three-legged dog. How can you love your life like you obviously do?” I found myself staring at the dog as my mind’s mouth asked this question.

The dog then left its group and walked over to me and I now noticed its odd gait. The dog had to hop every time the leg that was lost was supposed to hit the ground. The way the dog walked reminded me of an equine competition where the horses had to prance in front of the judges showing off why they were considered the best of their species. They always looked proud as though they knew they were the best.
As the dog came closer I asked: “Do you know you are the best my three-legged friend?”

The dog then did something that I thought was a bit strange. It walked right up to me and then sat down, next to where I was sitting. We both remained quiet and simply stared at each other. I wondered if it was trying to figure out why I was feeling so sorry for myself. Then for some unknown reason I started to wonder about the same thing.

We sat there for quite a while. My wife later told me that she watched me sit with this dog and wondered why I did so because it was common knowledge that I was far from a dog person, and basically had little use for these high maintenance animals that barked all the time and left little surprises for me to step on every time I had to mow my lawn. I told her that it was teaching me a lesson. Because my wife is remarkably intuitive and we have been together for the past 35 years she knew exactly what I meant.

All I wanted to do was get my garden planted, mow my lawn, and basically clean up my yard. I was now happy in my revelation that I was given time and energy to do just that. It actually started to rain that afternoon but I continued to do what I was lucky enough to be able to do.

I also did this with a smile on my face because I had learned a valuable lesson from a three-legged dog.
The End

Learning a lesson from a three-legged dog by J. G. Fabiano
Jim Fabiano is a teacher and a writer living in York, Maine, USA
e-mail him at: james.fabiano60@gmail.com

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