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No rough-and-ready surgery of the Del Mar sort obtained at Cedarwild, else Michael would not have lived. A real surgeon, skilful and audacious, came very close to vivisecting him as he radically repaired the ruin of a shoulder, doing things he would not have dared with a human but which proved to be correct for Michael.
"He'll always be lame," the surgeon said, wiping his hands and gazing down at Michael, who lay, for the most part of him, a motionless prisoner set in plaster of Paris. "All the healing, and there's plenty of it, will have to be by first intention. If his temperature shoots up we'll have to put him out of his misery. What's he worth?"
"He has no tricks," Collins answered. "Possibly fifty dollars, and certainly not that now. Lame dogs are not worth teaching tricks to."
Time was to prove both men wrong. Michael was not destined to permanent lameness, although in after-years his shoulder was always tender, and, on occasion, when the weather was damp, he was compelled to ease it with a slight limp. On the other hand, he was destined to appreciate to a great price and to become the star performer Harry Del Mar had predicted of him.
In the meantime he lay for many weary days in the plaster and abstained from raising a dangerous temperature. The care taken of him was excellent. But not out of love and affection was it given. It was merely a part of the system at Cedarwild which made the institution such a success. When he was taken out of the plaster, he was still denied that instinctive pleasure which all animals take in licking their wounds, for shrewdly arranged bandages were wrapped and buckled on him. And when they were finally removed, there were no wounds to lick; though deep in the shoulder was a pain that required months in which to die out.
Harris Collins bothered him no more with trying to teach him tricks, and, one day, loaned him as a filler-in to a man and woman who had lost three of their dog-troupe by pneumonia.
"If he makes out you can have him for twenty dollars," Collins told the man, Wilton Davis.
"And if he croaks?" Davis queried.
Collins shrugged his shoulders. "I won't sit up nights worrying about him. He's unteachable."
And when Michael departed from Cedarwild in a crate on an express wagon, he might well have never returned, for Wilton Davis was notorious among trained-animal men for his cruelty to dogs. Some care he might take of a particular dog with a particularly valuable trick, but mere fillers-in came too cheaply. They cost from three to five dollars apiece. Worse than that, so far as he was concerned, Michael had cost nothing. And if he died it meant nothing to Davis except the trouble of finding another dog.
The first stage of Michael's new adventure involved no unusual hardship, despite the fact that he was so cramped in his crate that he could not stand up and that the jolting and handling of the crate sent countless twinges of pain shooting through his shoulder. The journey was only to Brooklyn, where he was duly delivered to a second-rate theatre, Wilton Davis being so indifferent a second-rate animal man that he could never succeed in getting time with the big circuits.