Saturday, August 27, 2011

First Run of the Season!

This morning the dogs woke me at 4am. The neighbor dogs were kicking up a fuss, so all my pups nudged me then ran out the back. This is usually an indication that something is going on that I should probably check in to. I dressed quickly, grabbed the spotlight and went out the backdoor.

Sweeping the treeline, I noticed movement off to the left. Two does and a couple yearlings eyes glowed back at me as the light struck them. With a satisfied smile I watched them head to my side yard to bed down for part of the day. Sounds like venison on the table this year.

When dawn was barely shading the valley with gray light, Princess, Freya and I took our first training run of the season. The air was a cool 52 degrees, with very little humidity. The trees have not yet begun to turn, so are a rich dark green, and the grass, well, in kentucky it's bluish green. The garden my neighbors helped us with is overflowing with rich growth of basil, tomatoes, chocolate spearmint, thyme, and several varieties of flowers. The solar light globes looked like magic balls of shimmering white light hovering just above the walkway.

I got the mountain bike down from the wall in the shed. The tires I had worked on last weekend were still firm, but the brakes seemed a little stiff. No time to work on them now though, Princess and Freya were already harnessed and screaming to go. The other nine dogs were lined up at the fence, watching with wistful excited eyes. I walked the bike over to the back of the truck and leaned it against the rubber bumper, and went to get the girls.

Princess was jumping and screaming, and Freya was dancing and whining excitedly. I could barely hold them back as I walked them over to the bike. Trying to quickly snap on their tugs without losing control was quite a challenge. Then taking off the leashes while holding back two strong dogs rearing to go. At last I had them ready, and slowly let the gang line out as I picked up the bike and held on to the handlebars with all my might to get it on the road. At last my foot was on the pedal and we were off even before I swung my leg over.

Freya and Princess were like the wind, swift, eager, full of the joy of running. In an instant we were across the bridge, around the bend and up the hill not slowing or breaking stride. Swift as an arrow, we flew, the cool breeze lifting each foot and propelling us forward. This was what they were born to do, and I was fated to be with them, a team, a spirit of one. All too soon we were at the three-quarter mile landmark, the old barn. Here I called them to ease then halt. Come around brought Freya immediately back to my left (she's definitely a left paw dog), and after a second of confusion, Princess followed suit eager to be on the run again.

The joy of running was in them both, I could feel it like the rising tide, and even the neighbor dogs running beside them could not distract from their purpose. Back around the bend, skirting the side of the mountain, back across the bridge, up the hill and home. With a bit of disappointment, both dogs realized we were already back at our own driveway. I called them to halt while I picked up the leashes, then walked them to the garden. Laying down the bike, I hooked up the leashes and undid their tugs. Happily they padded up to the door, eager for their well earned snack.

I let them run to the water jug for a quick drink, but they weren't going to let me open the freezer alone. Both were eagerly awaiting their frozen meat patty. I had to break them apart and handed one down to what I thought was Freya, but realized my son's dog Zena had snuck in for a stolen snack. Ah well, I shrugged and got out two more patties, handed one to Freya and one to Princess. Princess immediately took hers into her crate in my room, and Freya took hers in to the kitchen. When they had finished eating, I took off the leashes and harnesses and rubbed down Princess, checking every joint, the pads of her feet, her toes and nails. She leaned into me heavily, smiling as I rubbed her down. I then unleashed and removed Freya's harness, rubbing her down and checking her joints and feet. Both dogs had huge grins, happy to have been on the first run of the season.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thank Goodness for Instincts and Knowledge of Dog Behavior!

Thursday we almost lost my darling Princess! I couldn't imagine her not being at my side. We still have doubts as to just what had poisoned her, but she had acute zinc toximia. The only thing we have verified is that one of the dogs (presumably Princess) got a hold of a tube of diaper rash cream, but this has left more questions than answers. Normally zinc oxide in the diaper cream is not enough to put her levels into the toxic range. Our vet is also puzzled.

When I awoke Thursday morning, I had a feeling that something was terribly wrong and it immediately hit me that Princess was nowhere to be found. Normally she is either on my bed or in the crate next to my bed. With mounting anxiety I called to her with no answer. Finally I threw open the back door in my robe and went out into the yard looking for her, and she came to me from out of the gloom. (it was 05:30) She seemed less active than normal, refused her morning biscuit (quite unusual) and went to lay on my bed. Puzzled and a concerned, I had Yukon and Bandit's morning meds to deal with, so went about taking care of my boys. Princess was sound asleep on my bed, and though this still seemed out of place, I took my shower while Bandit ate his breakfast in the bathroom undisturbed. I dressed for work, put first aid spray on Yukon's surgery wound, and saw Princess walking stiffly around the den. She suddenly heaved up a pinkish foam with red spots in it!!

I snatched a cleaning towel and wiped it up and tested the texture to confirm my fears. It was blood! Bandit had an appointment with the vet for bloodwork to check his seizure meds, so I told Jim to take Princess with him as well. He was reluctant, but I insisted and told him that he had to take her, as something was definitely not right! She was very ill and in pain, I could tell from her dilated eyes and odd way she laid on the couch trying to be comfortable. It was an insistance that saved her life.

The vet gave her meds to help clear the pancreatitis caused by the toxic levels of zinc, and anti nausea shot and pills. They told us if we had waited too much longer she wouldn't have made it. The frantic search has been on to find another reason for the high zinc level, but so far nothing has turned up. None of the other dogs seem effected, so it is unlikely to be the food, but I still have my doubts.

The good news is that I've found my old pickaxe so I can start digging fence pole holes, and my old manual weed whacker (trying to convince my son to help out clearing the fenceline so the electric fence continues to work). Saturday while clearing the fenceline, I ended up overheating myself. Unfortunately while living in the desert I ended up with heat exhaustion and have been susceptible to overheating. I pushed myself too hard Saturday and ended up being heat sick for most of the day.

Still feeling out of it Sunday, so I stayed indoors and cleaned up the living room. It badly needed it. I was sorting through stuff to put in the shed, rearranging the furniture, dusting, vaccuming, then steam vac. I was really ready for sleep Sunday night.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Futures Lost

It has been a rough year for us and hard decisions had to be made. With the advent of Bandit's seizures, we have decided to ensure the double recessive gene is not passed on. Friday (tomorrow) our last viable male, Yukon, is scheduled to be snipped. Freya will be spayed in the not too distant future. Our hopes of a foundation from them has crumbled.

Princess now becomes our hope for a racing line, but the male we choose for her will have to be extraordinary. Hopefully this coming racing season I'll be able to see some great purebred lines, as I hope to make some of the sled races up north. With a bit of luck, we will be able to find and negotiate a select future breeding for her, or find a male pup from an extraordinary racing litter. The timing will need to be perfect though, as my husband does not want to get another dog until our old man passes on. That may be some time from now, though, as he's healthy and going strong at 15.5 years and still loving life. I'm so glad we've been able to give him such a great and long life here with us.