Bambi, Carla, dog rescue, fosterdogs, Lucy, oph, running with dogs

The Grave Consequences of Being a Slow Learner

I’ve fallen down a lot over the past year and a half while we’ve been fostering dogs. I’m talking about physically falling down, though certainly I’ve mentally and emotionally taken my tumbles.

Carla was the first to knock me over when she darted in front of me while we were running. A 75-pound coonhound is not something you can hop over, so instead she took me out like a football player making a clean block. Luckily (for me) she broke my fall. I only suffered a few scratches and started running with a longer leash so the next time she’d have the leash length to clear me if she happened to notice a squirrel on my opposite side.

Then Frank pulled me over twice. Frank wasn’t huge, but he was 50+ pounds of solid muscle. When he slipped into the chicken pen as I was closing the gate, I chased after him and stupidly grabbed his collar while he was in full flight. You can imagine the rest. A skinned elbow and bruised knee were my penance for my bad decision. (Frank didn’t get a chicken, though, so perhaps it was worth it.)


The second time I was walking down our steep hill in smooth-soled shoes and my feet slid out from under me. I’m not sure he had anything to do with that fall other than happening to be on the other end of the leash when I clumsily lost my footing. The result of that fall was only a few grass stains.

DSC_9923Tennessee took me out while running. He had been the perfect running companion, incredibly obedient and sticking close to my side for weeks. Until something behind us startled him and he slammed into me in his panic and sent me sprawling. I ended up with two skinned knees and one skinned palm on that one.

After that I had a long run of not falling over, nearly a year and then Whoopie yanked me over when her bloodhound nose picked up the scent of a cat and I couldn’t keep up. I did a lovely belly flop on the grass, but was no worse for wear.

And then this past Monday night, I hit the ground again, only this time I didn’t get up. I was walking Bambi and Lucy at the same time in wet grass, in the dark, in sandals, down the hill. So, you can already see all the mistakes I made going into this. The two of them both lunged forward at the same time and I’m not even sure why. I think Bambi was only excited, as she is a puppy, and I believe Lucy, who is not a puppy but has a puppy-spirit simply joined in the fun.

They bounded forward suddenly and my feet went out from under me. I landed sprawled with my leg bent underneath me in a painful position. I didn’t let go of the leashes and my screaming brought both dogs back to kiss an apology all over my teary face. Nick came and grabbed the dogs.

As I lay there waiting for him to return to help me, I was overcome with multiple thoughts. The first thought was probably not one that is appropriate to share on this blog, so I’ll move on to the next. I was just SO MAD. Not at the dogs, but me. How could I have survived so long on this planet and not learned a little common sense? What makes me think I’m invincible? Basically, how stupid could I be?

And then I thought—this just cannot be happening. I cannot be hurt. I have no time for this.

Sadly, I couldn’t will away my pain. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t a fun night at the Achterbergs. Instead of going for medical help, I insisted on waiting it out a bit. I popped a handful of ibuprofen and then took the pain meds left from Brady’s recent wisdom teeth removal and finally slept with my knee wrapped in ice and elevated on a pillow.

In the morning my knee seemed doubled jointed. I was pretty sure if I tried I could bend it both ways.

So off to OSS (local ortho clinic) we went. Now I’m sporting a stylish brace and praying that when I go for my MRI this week the doc will say, “Why no, your meniscus is not torn. In fact, here, let me give you this pill that will make you all better by tomorrow.” (Please leave me alone with my fantasies – remember, I write fiction for a living.)


With the brace on, I’m semi-stable, so I’m moving around pretty well, and occasionally using my bum knee to garner a little sympathy, or at least someone else to walk a dog for a change.

As a look-on-the-bright side kind of girl, I’m holding on to the good things that happened this week.


First, Lucy is NOT pregnant. Cheers all around. She is being spayed as I write this and will be available for adoption this week! She’s an awesome pup with a HUGE loving heart, so get those applications in. Her skin is clearing up quickly and hair is re-growing. Turns out she had an allergic reaction to flea bites which then became infected. Antibiotics is clearing everything up and she is looking gorgeous. YAY.

Second, Bambi bounded home with a happy family on Friday. What a turnaround for our little girl.


Third, the doc who looked at my xrays told me I have “beautiful knees” (no arthritic changes, no obvious wear and tear on the bone structure). This is AWESOME news since both of my parents have had knee replacements. So many people tell me that running will ruin my knees, but see? I’m bucking the odds. I have beautiful knees.

I hope you don’t walk away from this post thinking, “Wow, fostering dogs is dangerous,” because fostering dogs isn’t dangerous. Walking downhill in wet grass wearing sandals in the dark is dangerous, dog or no dog. Sadly, for some of us, it takes fifty years to learn that lesson.



6 thoughts on “The Grave Consequences of Being a Slow Learner”

  1. It’s the hounds. My son’s coonhound has unexpectedly bolted with me on the other end of the leash. (A cat.) I’ve suffered two spiral fractures – both index fingers!


  2. Poor baby! Well, regardless of the species, being “Mom”, foster or otherwise, holds intrinsic risks…including heartache if you give up. Glad you’re the kind to push on through!


  3. If you’re walking a dog or just with them at home and they do something that causes you to fall, can you scold them for it? A tricky line, as they don’t seem to have that actions and consequences thing down pat. They don’t think and reason the way we do. From what you’ve written here, there doesn’t seem much point in getting upset with them, as tempting as it might be. Any thoughts? I’m still learning about canine behavior.


    1. I do work to curb the pulling since that’s what usually lands me on my butt (or face). The uneven ground at our house is also a challenge. Teaching a dog to walk nicely is really important. Sometimes they do better with a head collar-type harness or a front-leading harness. I experiment until I figure out what works best for each dog.


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