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Splayed Out Charlie

Once in a while when he’s running thru the house, we’ll hear Charlie wipe out.

There will be the galloping sound of his feet on the flooring, a sliding sound, and then a crashing/wipe-out sound. It vaguely sounds like he took a corner too fast, except that often there is no corner involved. Sometimes he just collapses — his hind end legs just give up, splaying out perpendicular to his body as he tries to keep moving forward.

There’s nothing in his expressions when this happens to suggest that he hurts. He just stands up and goes on.

I was at the vet with him a couple weeks ago, for a different problem. They took an X-ray of his knee. The diagnosis was a luxated patella, something that Miss Izzy had when she was young.

“But you know,” the doctor said, and then she stopped for a moment. “You know, his back hips are both out of socket.”

My eyes went wide.

We adopted Charlie as a senior dog when he was approximately 10 years old. No one knew his history, but there must have been some kind of trauma in his life. On our first ride home and in every ride in the car for many months to follow, he would shake uncontrollably, clearly scared to death. And when there was a loud sound nearby (a dropped pencil or fireworks down the street or a thunderstorm), he would start shuddering unconsolably.

“Was there some kind of trauma with him?” the doctor asked.

I told her what I just told you.

So… we don’t know what happened to him.

My theory used to be that he was driven out into the country and abandoned in the middle of nowhere. But that theory doesn’t seem right, anymore. It’s pretty clear that there must have been some kind of accident (a car crash?) where he was banged up pretty bad. Something made his hips pop out of socket, and they never got put back. In the years that passed, his body just adapted, tendons and muscles holding on to his free-floating femurs, fibrous tissues building up.

The doctor said there’s nothing to do for it, now. And it’s a relief to us that he’s not in pain. It’s just the way it is: once in a while everything lets go, and Charlie’s back legs splay out.