SAN MATEO, Calif. — Local Family, preparing for the start of a new season and already thin at dog for more than a year now, will be even thinner with the news that the club’s starting (and only) dog underwent his second anterior cruciate ligament surgery in 15 months on Tuesday. Surgery was described as “successful,” which is to say the bill is due and payable upon receipt. He is expected to miss four to six weeks, taking him well into the start of the season.
“This is a tough break for the club, but not an unforeseen one,” the family said in a statement. “When he tore his right ACL last year, we’d been warned by the doctors that there was a likelihood that the other might go as well. While this tear is only partial and will need less recovery time, the club will necessarily be short at dog for a while.”
There is no indication that the dog will be replaced by one from the club’s American Pet League affiliate in Danbury, Conn., due to cap constraints, and people familiar with the family thinking is that it will do without some of the dog’s traditional services (reluctantly going for walks, whining to eat minutes after eating, barking at neighbors he has known for years) until the club’s annual long holiday road trip. “They’ll probably play with a dogless third line for awhile while he rehabs on the black chair,” ESPN analyst Ray Ferraro said, “and they’ll be a bit vulnerable to the mail deliverer, but I can’t say their chances of making the playoffs will be that damaged. I mean, it’s a dog, for God’s sake, and not even a high-impact dog.”
The dog has had a productive though largely workdoglike 10-year career, having become a persistent league leader in minutes whining by the treat cupboard, and in more recent times has become infamous for barking at larger, stronger, and more menacing dogs that would toss him around like, well, like a dog toy. “He’s become a bit like Brad Marchand as his career has gone on,” a member of the coaching staff said. “He can get under a bigger dog’s skin without ever really throwing paws, but his skill set is becoming more limited as he ages out. I wouldn’t expect that to change too much with two surgically repaired knees. He might be a bit slower, and we may not be able to use him on the power play very much, but he’s never been much of a scorer anyway. He’s really more of a glue dog anyway … you know, good in the room, a calming influence to the neighborhood’s yappier dogs, that kind of thing.”
He may also be developing a reputation for being injury-prone after years of health. As one family member said, “They say the most important ability for any dog is availability, but I think in this case the most important ability might just be stasis. That, and wearing a cone around his neck for a few weeks.”
His first injury came 15 months ago while chasing a squirrel, causing one teammate to say, “He always gives 100 percent, but in fairness he had no shot in hell catching the squirrel and ended up both out of position and flat on the ground. More optimist than realist, really. I mean, who in their right mind actually needs a squirrel?” He missed six weeks at midseason, and was told at the time that such injuries tend to come in pairs. A recent exam showed evidence of a tear on the other leg, and in an Instagram video posted today, the squirrel said, “Good. That oughta stop him chasing and barking and all of his tired old bullshit.”
As per club policy, the dog’s name has not been identified because, let’s face it, you wouldn’t remember it once you heard it because you’re mostly interested in your own dog and can’t be bothered with anyone else’s. “He doesn’t answer to it half the time himself,” an assistant coach said yesterday. “You could call him Fido, Knucklehead, Stalin, or Queen Maxima of The Netherlands and get the same level of response. I mean, he’ll give you quality minutes and all, and the owner’s wife still likes him because he’s been a good servant to the franchise, but sometimes he’ll just lay there motionless on his stomach for hours, like a duvet on a concrete ottoman.”
According to Dog-Reference.com, the dog has earned about $46,000 in salary over his career, paid out in food, treats, dinner bits that have escaped humans’ plates, training that did not substantively improve his ability or willingness to honor commands, stuff to chew that isn’t furniture, repairs to the training ground caused by evacuative services, and medical bills. “This is the first year he’s really impacted the cap,” an aide to the general manager said. “We are examining alternatives for the future, including playing some dogless formations for analytics reasons, but for now we’re still good with him on the club. We hope he gets well … well, whenever. Next dog up, and all that. We still have a business to run here.”