Whats a good response to strangers' comments on my dog's limp?
March 28, 2013 9:08 PM   Subscribe

My dog has bone cancer, and spends most of his time gimping around on three legs due a gross tumor on one of his hind legs. He's already a pretty striking dog (obligatory photos here and here and here), so people already often stop to talk to me about him and comment. Now, he has a very pronounced three-legged gate, and people comment on that too. I'm having a hard time dealing with explaining to people "he has cancer" multiple times a day, and watching their faces drop. Any suggestions as to how I can handle this better so I don't ruin my own and other people's day by making everyone think about awesome dogs dying?

The main place this happens is my college campus, one of his favorite places to romp and explore. I'm not going to stop taking him because it's spring time, he loves it, and I'm spending as much time as possible as I can with him.

He's still relatively active, healthy and happy the majority of the time, and certainly isn't suffering as he bounces around making friends and chasing magpies.

Other than this, I think I'm handling the whole affair pretty well, so no suggestions needed there.
posted by Grandysaur to Pets & Animals (19 answers total)
Best answer: "Yeah, he has a bad leg but that doesn't slow him down much."
posted by bricoleur at 9:15 PM on March 28, 2013 [30 favorites]

Oh, he's sweet.

One of my dogs lost an eye to disease and I used to reply to questions with, "Ah, she had a problem with it." I think you can find a way to indicate that it's too complicated or long to get into. If necessary, point out that it's nothing that interferes with his ability to enjoy himself: "It doesn't give him any trouble." (I used to say, "She sees fine with one eye.")
posted by BibiRose at 9:20 PM on March 28, 2013

What bricoleur said. Don't offer any details. Be vague and upbeat if pressed.
posted by overleaf at 9:22 PM on March 28, 2013

"Yeah, he limps. But that one bad leg sure doesn't stop him from short-hopping any food we drop in the kitchen."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:28 PM on March 28, 2013

Perhaps the word "growth" instead of "cancer" or "tumor" might elicit less of a response.
posted by Dansaman at 9:42 PM on March 28, 2013

About five-six years ago, my body decided to express the intense depression/anxiety I was experiencing as two knee-to-ankle eczema-like blotches on my shins. For the last 4-5 years, I dealt with it by wearing long pants. Over time my left leg healed. The blotch on my right leg persists but is getting better. Last summer, I made the decision to wear shorts again. And so came the questions, "OMG! What happened to your leg?" The real answer is too long and too painful to share with casual acquaintances and strangers. I needed an alternate response.

"Motorcycle accident," I say and then carry on with my romping and exploring.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 10:02 PM on March 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

One of my very favorite memories I have of my grandfather was the time we encountered a dog with a leg-affecting malady. He said, Look there, it's a 'rithmetic dog. I was a kid who had never heard of such a thing, so I asked him to explain what a 'rithmetic dog was. He said, He puts down three and carries the one.

What you have there is one sweetiepie of a 'rithematic dog.
posted by mcbeth at 10:35 PM on March 28, 2013 [45 favorites]

If you can't do mcbeth's " 'rithemetic dog" (marvelous!) go with a simple "Thank you for your concern."
posted by easily confused at 3:02 AM on March 29, 2013

Yeah, like you, I would tend to be blunt and factual -- but this isn't what people want to hear or deal with in a casual conversation. Pleasant vagueness acknowledging only what they can see is the way to go without turning this into a daily downer.
posted by dhartung at 3:47 AM on March 29, 2013

Perhaps you could avoid being stopped as much by getting a service harness or sign of some sort. Most people who know dogs know not to interrupt one with a harness. For the people who do stop you, it's OK to brush them off -- you don't owe strangers a detailed medical history of your dog, especially when it's painful for you.
posted by mibo at 6:02 AM on March 29, 2013

You could try something like "yeah, it sucks, but he's pretty game about it." Then change the subject "good thing the weather is so great" always works, with suitable sarcastic emphasis, as necessary based on the actual weather.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:16 AM on March 29, 2013

My dog has DM and is slowly losing the use of his back legs. I just tell people "he's an old dog and his back legs don't work as well as they used to".
posted by drwelby at 7:17 AM on March 29, 2013

Best answer: We had a dog who had one leg amputated due to cancer; people asked often (she was a neighborhood favorite, and neighbors were naturally concerned), but when they were rude or she didn't feel like explaining, my mom used to say "eh, she doesn't win as many monkey fights as she did when she was younger."
posted by like_a_friend at 7:40 AM on March 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

"Oh, it's just his old war/football/circus/skiing/skee-ball injury acting up again..."

Also, oh my goodness, cutest dog ever, I can see why he gets lots of attention!
posted by inertia at 8:32 AM on March 29, 2013

I think bricoleur's advice is good, but we might need to see 30 or 40 more dog pictures to be sure...

Seriously, as someone who's gimpy (if I had a nickel for every time I answered the questions "why do you walk like that?" or "are you okay?" I'd be rich), those questions are a. annoying and b. just asked out of curiosity, so you don't owe people any story.

But seriously, we need a few more dog pictures.
posted by deliriouscool at 8:35 AM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

How about making him a little jacket or tshirt that says "Howdy, I've got cancer!" or some such.
posted by chazlarson at 9:02 AM on March 29, 2013

They are just being courteous in their own way, and you don't owe them a detailed response.

"Yeah, that's why we named him Gimpy." Or some such will do. If they won't be around for his funeral they don't need to know anything more.

I second the move for more dog pictures.
posted by mule98J at 10:20 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a bald friend with an impressive scar on his scalp and he tells people he had a brain transplant. I think a funny response is best, it tells people you don't want to talk about it without being rude. 3rding for more pictures, he's wonderful.
posted by upatree at 11:58 AM on March 29, 2013

I have a scar on my arm from a removal of a benign growth. When people ask how I got it, I say "knife fight".

I also had a one-eyed cat and people would ask how he lost his eye. It was actually kind of a cool story, but when I didn't want to tell it I'd just say "oh, he had a problem with it but he sees fine with just the one." So, you know... go with bricoleur's answer. (Also, what a cute pup!)
posted by bedhead at 12:34 PM on March 29, 2013

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