My last month of travel and social outings had gone better than I expected. My leg strength had improved so much that I never fell. I could routinely lift it so high that I no longer dragged my foot constantly. When I did drag my foot, it was due to absent-mindedness. I might stumble, but I would always recover before I fell. Not dragging my foot also meant that I was more energetic. When you drag your foot, it generates a lot of friction. The force needed to move it forward expends a lot of energy. Without having to put in nearly as much effort, I found that walking no longer tired me out.

Not only did this allow me to stay out longer and enjoy myself more, but it also made my time in the gym more productive. Not having to put forth so much energy walking from one workout station to another meant that I had more in reserve when it was time to lift. I was excited about engaging in more intense workouts. I didn’t increase the weight for any of my workouts during September because I didn’t want to risk injury while on vacation. But now that I was back, I was more than ready to attack the weights.

Being back in Minnesota after a month meant that I could go back to my favorite gym. I was so happy to be able to do lying leg curls after a month away from the exercise. When I had started doing them two years ago, I could barely do one set of ten. Over the years, I had gradually worked my way up to the point where I could grind out three sets. Now that I was back, I felt my leg go up a little higher. My hamstring felt so strong that I was able to push out a fourth set. Now when I’m sitting down, I will practice extending my leg and pulling it backward.

I started doing more weight on the leg press, too. Before and during my vacation, I had only worked out pushing the weight of the empty sled. This time, I only warmed up with the weight of the sled. After my warm up set, I added ten pounds and did two working sets. This went so well that I added ten more pounds and did two more sets. I committed to this exercise two days per week. I figure that I can go up ten pounds each week. Even if I don’t gain a lot more control of my lower leg, this should definitely improve strength and stability.

The last major modification I made to my workout was to add time on a row machine to my rotation. Like the one in Mississippi, my club here had a machine that placed the weight at one’s feet. But unlike Mississippi, this row machine had an elevated platform. Rather than being flat on the floor, the feet are at an angle. This adds a greater degree of difficulty since it requires the use of many more leg muscles to balance one’s body. The first day I used this row machine, I spent a lot of energy just trying to keep from falling off the machine. But I committed to using it every day I went down to the gym. It would force me to use leg muscles that had gone dormant.

Mary has always been on a health plan. When she was a puppy, she was on a specialized puppy plan. After she matured, she rolled over to an adult plan. Then when she had her summer check-up, I asked about dental coverage. They told me that it would be $300 for a teeth cleaning; but if I added it to the plan, the upgrade would only be $13/month. No matter what my health or financial status, I always wanted Mary to be healthy, so the upgrade was a no-brainer.

I was due a dental exam and cleaning, so I scheduled appointments for Mary and me on the same day. I asked my friend Rob to rent a car. We dropped off Mary at the vet, then I went home and got ready for my visit to the dentist’s office.

When I got to the dental office, I had to fill out new patient paperwork. Because of my double vision and my fingers, I hadn’t filled out forms by myself. There was usually someone else there with me. Since there was no one else there, I took the clipboard from the receptionist and resolved to fill it out by myself. I sat down, balanced the clipboard on my lap, squinted my right eye, and began writing down my answers. It was a little difficult to make sure all my answers were on the correct line, but soon I was finished. When I was done, I handed in my form and waited for my name.

The cleaning went well. The staff were pleasant and efficient. They were obliging, even pausing to take pictures for my blog. I normally make my dental appointments by calling the insurance company and asking for a list of providers. This time, I think I have found someone I want to keep coming back to.

I wanted to pick Mary up around noon, but the vet had informed me that, because they would have to sedate her, she wouldn’t be ready to go until after 5:00 pm. Instead, I got dinner and wasted time until 6:00. Mary was still a little woozy when we picked her up. Rob had to lift her up and place her in the truck. After we got home, I took her out to use the restroom. When she was done, we came back up and sat on the couch.

Before I went home, I had committed to leaving the building at least once per day. I’d felt that amount of activity was important for my rehabilitation. But I would often find myself napping after workouts. Now that I was back, I wanted to rebuild my energy. My plan was to do this by trying to stay active all day, forgoing naps. I might be tired at first, but I would ultimately be walking around with more energy.Today had been long and productive. I let Mary stretch out across my lap. We were both on the path to healthy futures.

The following week, my friend Allene came back to visit. I was happy to have the company for a few days, but Mary was even more delighted. Whenever a human comes into my apartment, Mary’s energy goes up. She dances around in circles, then climbs all over the person. If I can get Mary to sit still long enough, I try to get a few pictures. It usually doesn’t work out, but it’s satisfying just to see how happy she gets.

After a brief shopping trip, Allene and I returned to the apartment with another surprise for Mary: Izzy, Allene’s dog. Mary hadn’t seen Izzy in over two years. Once roommates, they sniffed each other before Mary was ready to play Tag! Izzy, being older, played a little, but had no interest in wild play.

The next morning, Allene and I went out for a short workout. I didn’t need to spend all day in the gym; I just wanted my body to get used to moving all day without a nap. I did one explosive movement for the upper and lower body respectively, while book ending the session with a fat-burning cardio workout designed to get the metabolism moving. A lot of days, I might have felt disappointed that I didn’t workout to muscle failure, but I reminded myself that getting the muscles moving is a victory in itself.

When we were done at the gym, we went home and took the dogs outside. This was one of Izzy’s first times in an elevator. Each time she had to get on, she took her own leash in her mouth and dragged her feet in an attempt to stall. Once inside the elevator, she would lean against the wall or Allene’s leg. I can only assume that the swaying of the room caused her a great amount of anxiety. Mary had been riding elevators since she was two years old, and now rides this one an average of six times a day. For her, it’s just a routine part of life.

Once they were outside, Mary tried to chase Izzy and play. Izzy didn’t like the chilly weather. She used the restroom and hustled back indoors. Mary and I followed, as we had the keys to the apartment. Once she was warm again, Izzy was ready to play. She charged and boxed with Mary. This was what I wanted to see. Until I can begin taking Mary to the dog park again, I want to make sure that Mary has all the opportunities she can get.

Allene and I went out to dinner in the south metro area that evening. Unlike the days when we were broke, we looked at the menu and didn’t need to calculate how much anything would cost. As we laughed and reminisced through a long dinner, I told her about how it used to take me several attempts to stand up from the table after dinner. When we were done this time, I stood up with barely any assistance from my right arm. I walked out into the cold Minnesota night without a care. It had been a long, arduous journey to this point, but every step seemed effortless now.

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