Run, Radio Flyer!

By Jessica Burtch

April 7, 2015 4 min read

They tap for a good tune; they curl for the right moves; they lift us up when we're a tad low; they keep us from falling on our faces. When we're little, there's nothing better than hitching a ride on a bigger set. And when we're older, we try to have the good sense not to step on those of others, figuratively and literally.

A few years back, my own set of little piggies found themselves crushed under the weight of a mid-sized sedan. Eighteen months and many thousands of dollars later, they are again wiggling, curling, tapping and keeping me from face-planting with every step. I am now grateful for them as the funny-looking powerhouses they are.

So you can imagine my horror when, a week ago, while carrying a 50-pound jug of water, I stepped on a set that don't belong to me — a teeny-tiny set attached to a teeny-tiny dog. The dog I'm fostering. The sweet little gramps I've come to love as my own. The applehead Chihuahua with an asthmatic's wheeze and a smoker's bark due to his partially collapsed trachea. The pocket-sized pup with the reddish coat and the gray-white muzzle and the two bum legs and the awkward left hip and the biggest, brownest, wateriest eyes you've ever been melted by. The 6-pound spicy nugget we call — what else? — Nugget.

One-hundred fifty-five pounds came down on Nugget's itty-bitty piglets, and they went wee-wee-wee all the way to the vet's office.

The guilt is more crushing than the weight of that car on my foot.

This dog, scooped from a high-kill shelter in a last-minute save, has been broken in so many places in his relatively short and embattled life: a snapped hip that healed out of socket, a once-fractured front leg that now operates at an awkward angle, and a rear paw previously broken, once healed and now broken again. Aw, Nugget.

While it does nothing to lower my resolve to spend the rest of my life — or his — making this up to Nugget, the numbers are on my side. Turns out, the No. 1 cause of broken paws and legs in dogs is "humans stepping on them." Little dogs get it the most, being the most vulnerable, the most underfoot and the most undetectable to the human eye while carrying large objects.

Prevention is the best cure. We like to say that about all kinds of maladies. What could have prevented this? Training? Possibly. Place your dog in a sit/stay whenever carrying something large enough to obstruct your view or weighty enough to break his bones. Planning? Sure. Confine your dog to a secure area — a bedroom, his crate — whenever embroiled in such a project.

But we also know that accidents happen. I didn't intentionally step on Nugget's paw. I came home with some water jugs; he was happy to see me. What are the odds?

Nugget will be fine, the vet with the warm eyes assured me. His leg is wrapped paw to knee in a red bandage with a pink heart that earns him "awwws" and "feel betters" as he rolls through the 'hood in his temporary carriage: a red Radio Flyer wagon with custom rails and all-terrain wheels. Doctor's orders are two weeks' strict rest and recheck the bones, and I, of course, will abide. But as much as I love to watch Radio Flyer — Nugget's new handle — fly, I can't wait to see him run.

Jessica Burtch was the longtime editor and writer for Matthew "Uncle Matty" Margolis. She is an even longer-time lover of dogs and critters in general. Follow her @sicaleigh. Email her at [email protected] Read more at


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