This is Molly. Molly was running in an open field when her foot got caught in a gopher hole. She began limping. Her owner took her to the vet where they learned Molly had sprained a ligament in her arm. After about four days, with rest and time, the limp slowly wore off and Molly went back to living as she had before her injury.
Injuries that are common to dogs are also common to coyotes. But time and rest are not so available to wild animals who must continue to hunt and protect themselves, come rain or shine or disease or injury. It’s why most coyotes don’t live beyond about 5 years of age on average, even though their full natural life span could be as long as 14 years. Dogs, of course, with state-of-art medical care can expect to live out their lives almost to the end of what is genetically expected for their breed. Humans, too, are aided by state-of-art medical aid.
Only a couple of generations ago, if a human fell and broke a hip or injured a knee or broke a leg, it was “the beginning of the end”. You lived with your injury, hobbling around with a cane if you were lucky. Being bed-ridden was the clincher — it caused pneumonia, atrophy and all sorts of other problems which often led to a premature death. Luckily, this isn’t so anymore.
I’m having my turn at this now. Scrambling around the parks doing my coyote observation work — in fact, doing what any other coyote or dog might be doing in a park — I myself sustained a debilitating injury: I was hurriedly descending a steep incline covered with tangled brambles. I didn’t trip in that booby trap, but I must have come down wrong on the leg or twisted it as I descended ski-fashion.
I could feel something was wrong, but it didn’t hurt much at first, so I pushed my luck rather than take a break. I should have done what Molly did. Instead, I continued, like a coyote. Within a couple of weeks, as I walked carefully so as to avoid pain, I heard a “POW” and fell to the ground — I could not walk another step and the pain was excruciating. It was already dusk. I wondered how I would get out of the park. I was too proud to scream for help. So I found two sticks to lean on and inched my way out of the park — about 500 feet took me over an hour.
X-rays showed I had perfect bones — I was told to wait it out. But my friends all told me to demand an MRI. I finally did, and discovered that my meniscus was a mess of rips and even the root was torn apart. Dogs and coyotes also have meniscus injuries. My prognosis: knee replacement within a year if I didn’t have the meniscus repaired. Isn’t that called Hobson’s Choice?
I had state-of-the-art surgery and had to remain off the knee for six weeks. I wore a full-leg-length brace and hobbled around on crutches, with the warning words ringing in my ear, “You have one chance at this — the minimal tissue in the root won’t allow a second repair — if you mess it up, you’ll have to have knee replacement.” When you live for being out-of-doors, it’s excruciatingly difficult to take “time out”. Fortunately, my hiatus is up. I’ve missed only the coyote mating season. I’ll be out there observing within the week, though full recovery will take many months. I’ve been thinking about coyote leg injuries. Coyotes can’t afford to take an extended “time out” to heal, nor do they have doctors to help the healing process. But they do have four legs instead of two which allows them some “wiggle room” for recovery. I was just sent a video of a coyote using three legs. Although the coyote was somewhat hampered, he was not incapacitated, and he kept up with the other coyotes.