It Takes a Village

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it also takes a village to get an old dog to the desert. I’m living proof. Without the care and attention of a bunch of people, I wouldn’t be lying here in the Arizona sun, soaking up as many of those healing rays as I can. Nope. I’d either be struggling through the snow at home, having to wear the boots that have become tripping hazards for my old legs, or, even worse, I’d be buried under it, in one of my nests turned grave.

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Soaking up the morning sun near Quartzsite, Arizona.

 

Sounds grim, I know, but it’s the truth. Back in the summer, and even more so in the fall, none of us were sure I was going to make it this far. At one of my fall appointments, the vet suggested that Teresa and Nollind check out the “Quality of Life” scale that’s available online, so they’d have a sense of when it was “time”. And that’s “time” with that final, ominous sound, not the way it’s said when it’s time for supper or a walk.

When we took our fall camping trip to Cypress Hills Provincial Park, I had kind of a rough go. I was feeling very tired and starting to cough. My arthritis was making it impossible for me to climb the steps into the trailer or navigate out again. And I couldn’t make it more than a few hours without having an accident in the house or even the truck. The planned winter trip to the desert was off. Teresa and Nollind would stay home to look after their ailing, aging dog.

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Rest stop during a Cypress Hills walk in late September.

 

At least, that was, until they observed my increased stiffness with the cold weather and my struggle to walk on snow-covered or icy ground. That was when they started working on a plan to get me to the desert.

In early November, the cocktail of medications and supplements that Dr. Beth Barrett put me on really started to do their work. I was able to walk a little farther in the mornings without pain and I had more energy with no coughing. My appetite was back, putting a stop to the weight loss I’d been experiencing, and the shine returned to my coat. Another vet on Dr. Barrett’s team, Bronwyn, suggested that I be tested for a bladder infection and when the test came back positive and they put me on some aggressive antibiotics, my issues with incontinence were gone. I was back to my old “pee when I feel like it” self and a much more able travelling companion.

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Dr. Beth Barrett with one of her four dogs.

 

Every two weeks, from August to December, vet tech Roxanne administered my Legend injection and, when she was packing up all of my winter meds, she included clear and thorough instructions for how the Legend was to be given by the vets we’d see during our travels. This information came in very handy at our first vet visit in Las Vegas when the vet wanted to inject my muscles instead of my veins.

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My last visit to Roxanne before we left home.

 

My good friend, Laurana, loaned us her PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic field) machine that got me through the worst of the pain back in the fall and I think helped my heart and kidneys until Dr. Barrett’s diet changes and medications had a chance to do their good work.

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Therapy time on the PEMF mat.

 

The trip down was a breeze, largely because of Dame Dixie’s magical meds that she gave me last year. It’s not a drug I couldn’t get from the vet I was seeing at the time, it just wasn’t something they suggested. It works perfectly for me, completely removes the anxiety from travelling.

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Dixie. Walking the canal near the farm on one of her visits.

 

Dixie’s people, my good friends G and S, gave us a bunch of her things when, sadly, she passed on this spring, and part of that kit was a raised bowl stand. Thanks to their generosity, my meals have become more comfortable and I’m more inclined to finish them, “powering up” more easily for our walks. And Nollind used the double bowl holder as a prototype for the trailer-sized version below.12-logan-ontheroad-bowl

Nollind also built me a ten-foot ramp and covered it in carpet, so that I can safely get from the ground into the trailer and back out again. Not only has it saved my joints from hard landings and stair-climbing mishaps, but it’s given me back the independence that is central to my nature (as you’ll know if you’ve been reading my blog posts for awhile).

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The new ramp getting a workout.

 

And then there’s Teresa, of course, my greatest advocate, who orchestrated all of the above. The time, the cost, the trouble, all seem irrelevant when it comes to my well-being. (Although I think I pushed her pretty close to the edge with those middle-of-the-night trips outside and regular mop-ups before the bladder thing got resolved.)

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Leaders of my village.

 

Later today I’ll add another person to the village, when we go to see the vet in Blythe, California, about a twenty-minute drive from our camp in Quartzsite. They’ll be giving me my Legend injections every couple of weeks during our time down here.

And so, people of my village, these next three months, as I walk on warm, dry ground and nap in the sun, I’ll think of all of you. I wouldn’t be here without you. I’m certain of it.

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Desert time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Logan’s Run

Some of you might remember from a previous blog post that I was named after the 70s Sci-Fi classic, Logan’s Run. It was a favourite of Teresa’s, back in the day, and when I pulled a horizon-job on them my first day off-leash, I earned the name Logan.

Fast forward thirteen years to a walk in the field this past Sunday. Chico caught the scent of coyote, I picked it up, and we were in “the cone”, zig-zagging back and forth. Teresa caught up to us but only had one leash and Chico had the misfortune of being closer to her than I was. He soon found himself attached to the end of a retractable cable.

As the cone narrowed, I started to run south, baying as I followed the scent. It was exhilarating. I was that young dog again, heading for the horizon, hot on the trail of my prey. A quarter mile … a half mile … a … whew … the horizon was a lot farther than I remembered.

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My usual jogging pace.

Teresa and Chico were still well behind me but starting to gain ground, Teresa on her phone calling for backup. They wouldn’t take me alive! Okay, a bit dramatic. I pretended to lose the scent so that I could slow down and circle back, trotting a back and forth pattern in the field. And then they were on me, they’d caught up, and Nollind was on his way in the Kubota with a second leash.

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A “drink” along the trail.

The rest of the walk was on-leash and much more sedate but I’d had my moment to shine. At least, that was, until I was back at the house and had slept a couple of hours. I woke up feeling like I was drowning. My heart condition causes fluid to build up in my lungs when I exercise. I have medication that manages it under normal circumstances, but it wasn’t designed for half-mile gallops across the prairie.

 

I coughed. I retched. I felt terrible. And then I ate grass, gulped it really, as much as I could sink my teeth into at this time of year. It helped but, as you might imagine, it presented a whole new set of problems the next day since we dogs don’t have the stomach enzymes to digest grass. Those long strands don’t change much between entering and exiting.

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If only Teresa had caught a photo of me during instead of after the run.

 

 

But anyway, enough poop talk. I recovered. It took an extra dose of my diuretic, some anti-inflammatories, and a rest day, but I don’t think I’m any worse for wear as a result of my unsanctioned run. And, I’ll do it again in a heartbeat (no pun intended) should the incentive and opportunity arise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Fun

Winter’s come early this year, and I’ve heard quite a bit of griping about it from the humans … it’s cold … it’s snowy … it’s slippery.  I say, it’s winter! It comes every year so I’m really not sure why they’re surprised or upset by it. Living where we do, it’s inevitable that it’s going to turn cold and snowy. Winter will arrive. No question. It’s just the when and how.

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A snowy start to November. This was on the 2nd.

In my opinion, just between you and me, my humans have gotten soft from their winters in the south. The first few inches of snow, the first day the thermometer drops to -10C (14F), they’re ready to head for the deserts of Arizona. They used to be a pretty hardy pair—skating in twenty below weather, skiing into backcountry huts, attending outdoor New Year’s Eve parties, rolling in the snow when hot-tubbing—all kinds of winter adventures. They’re still adventurous, just less so if it involves getting cold.

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One of many winter adventures.

And I hate to say it but my old pal Logan is getting that way too. Well, you read his blog last week, Point Me South. He’s gotten soft in his old age. We went out for a short walk today and he was trying to pull all four feet off the ground at once. It didn’t work, in case you’re wondering. I have to confess that I also pulled a paw out of snow today when it was hurting, but just for a few seconds, and just the one. I hope T didn’t see or she might put me in the dreaded boots. I hate those things.

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Look ma, all four feet on the ground.

I’m usually pretty much a “live life to the fullest” kind of guy, and winter is no exception. In fact, I find snow kind of magical. One day there’s dirt and rocks and grass, the next they’ve all disappeared and there’s this wonderful fluffy stuff to run and roll and play in. What’s not to like?

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Enjoying a winter walk.

 

And early snow means we’ve had a couple of ski days already. I don’t ski, of course, but T does and it means we go farther and faster and it’s all off-leash time for me. She tried the leash thing once but it was a bit of a disaster. I kept pulling her over. T’s been suffering with a nasty cold, but as soon as she’s better, we’ll be back out in the fields with the skis. Sadly, Logan can’t join us this year. The deep snow is just too hard for him.

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Skiing west of the farm.

That’s the part of winter I’m not liking, watching my buddy struggle. We went out with T and Nollind to take down the horses’ temporary fall pasture fence. I went off exploring the south end of the pasture into the deep snow and Logan followed me. It was tough going because there was soft snow covered with a crust with more soft snow on top of that. He actually got stuck, marooned in this big expanse of deep snow. They had to go and rescue him with the Kubota. I’ll be more careful where I lead him next time.

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Staying on the path made by the Kubota.

Merriam-Webster defines winter as three things:

  1. The season between autumn and spring comprising in the northern hemisphere usually the months of December, January, and February or as reckoned astronomically extending from the December solstice to the March equinox.
  2. The colder half of the year.
  3. A period of inactivity or decay.

Number 1 is technically correct, Number 2 is closer to the truth in Canada, but Number 3 makes no sense at all. Inactivity? Winter is definitely not a period of inactivity, or it certainly doesn’t have to be. Let’s go play in the snow!11-chico-winterfun-chico