Thursday, August 15, 2013

Long story short - a difficult situation (guest post by Kevin)

Hello everyone! Please welcome Kevin in this space as he openly reflects on a difficult situation for us all. Beowulf injury Long story short...well, this might be long story long. Let's start at the beginning:

Thanks to my current desk job (that also requires me to work 12-18 hours a day, six days a week on average), I have been pretty out of shape these last 4 years. My annual fitness scores that were once slightly increasing year after year, have been slowly decreasing since 2009. My poor Nara Simha Devi, our German Shepherd, was also out of shape and overweight, so I used her as my motivation to get myself back in shape by running with her at my side. As I started to increase our runs to a longer distance, I realized that she was slowing me down. A 4-mile run that I used to do in 30 minutes by myself was taking me over an hour with Nara. Sad to say it, but I had to "fire" her as my sidekick. I take all three dogs bikejoring 6 days a week with a day of rest and recuperation. We do a 1.5-mile loop three to four times each session, with the dogs pulling me, running out ahead while I sit on my mountain bike, barely having to pedal unless we hit a hill. I'm actually braking most of the time. Crazy pulling dogs! I love it. So on days I ran Nara, I would bikejor with Paw Paw and Beowulf. It was an every-other-day schedule of bikejoring all three, then running with Nara and only bikejoring with the two.

Nara went from around 88 lbs down to 75 and is still in the process of losing weight. She lost enough to be able to run harder and faster, well enough to almost keep up with Beowulf and Paw Paw. She got "hired" to be the 3rd member of my bikejoring team, as she is very strong and helps to motivate the other dogs to run better. Since we were no longer running together, I started running by myself, increasing my distance week after week.

I missed having a running partner, and then the light bulb went on! BLINK!!! My crazy Paw Paw, my lead dog, who pulls like no other dog on this planet! Yes! He can be my new running partner. I think I'm in shape enough now to try and handle his speed and power. But I knew he was going to drag me down the road if I didn't wear him down first, so I figured I would do our normal bikejoring ride, go home and let Paw Paw rest while I switch over our gear to prep for the run, and then try things out with a worn down Paw Paw Power! The most he's ever run/biked was 15 miles the first year we moved to Oregon, so he was two years old. He's five now, and has not lost any of his spunk and drive. There was no way I could keep up with him fresh off a night's rest. We did the 4.5-mile bike ride, then built up to the 6.6-mile run, and he ran perfectly at my side. I couldn't believe it. I nicknamed him "My Champion," as he flawlessly kept up with an 11.1-mile total exercising session, all within three hours. Amazing is my Paw Paw Man!

Then the trouble began. The next morning during our bike ride, he had zero pulling power. He was spent. I should've let him take the day off. I've never seen him NOT want to run or pull. As my lead dog, he's always out front of my other two, and pulling harder than both combined. I had to temporarily demote him and replace him with my "backup quarterback" (as I called him), Sir Beowulf the Brave. They swapped positions, as I thought Paw Paw would pull again, chasing after Wulfers in front of him. I was right. He pulled, probably out of demoralization more than anything. So sad. Huskies are known to never complain about pain or discomfort, but his lack of energy made it clear. Something wasn't right. I gave them all a day off. The next day, this past Saturday, Paw Paw was back in the starting position of lead dog, and he ran just fine.

Beowulf injury

I developed a better plan for the future: I thought I would try alternating running partners. Beowulf has a similar never-ending endurance, as he is part-Siberian Husky and part-Alaskan Malamute, both strong sled dog breeds who will run forever, or 11.1 miles. I would bikejor every day, six days a week, then run with Beowulf day one, Paw Paw day three, Beowulf day five, so on and so forth.

Saturday was Beowulf's day to shine. He's three years old, so he is the puppy and the omega of the pack. He was a rescue who was beaten, starved and neglected when we got him at 14-weeks old. We've worked hard to rehabilitate and socialize him with the world. He is still scared of loud noises and sudden movements, or anything strange or unknown to him. If something is out of place or abnormal, he will freak out. We work diligently with him to get passed his issues. He's come a long way, but still has a long way to go. Most people that meet him cannot believe he survived such abuse, as he acts mostly like a normal, well-behaved dog with a ton of charm.

Off we go! First the 4.5-mile bikejor. Rest while I change and prep. We're on schedule. Now the 6.6-mile run. As we're running, Beowulf is doing remarkably good. I'm verbally praising him the entire time. I notice his head is alerting left, then alerting right, back and forth, over and over. New sounds. New smells. New sights. Nothing abnormal. He's somewhat spooked by the strangeness of this running trail experience. He's been on it before, but never while running with me. We approach a filled, black plastic garbage bag that someone has left as litter on the shoulder of the trail. Beowulf freaks and stops running. He won't go near it nor passed it. I have to patiently work with him to get him to the other side of this out of place item. I don't remember it being there when Paw Paw and I ran by this point just a few days earlier. Oh well. Beowulf is able to recover and we start running again.
We're less than a mile into the run and something else spooked him. I'm still not sure what it was. He spun around nearly 360-degrees while leaping from my right side and landed directly in front of me. I was in mid-stride and my right foot came down on top of his back left paw. This action somehow twisted his paw upside down and grinded it against the ground under my body weight until I could come to a complete stop. He yelped out in pain louder than any yelp I've ever heard before. I thought for sure I broke his leg badly and would have to carry him back to the van and rush him to the 24-hour emergency vet. I immediately noticed that the collision opened a 2-3" gash that exposed the bone and tendons on top of his paw and toe. He was bleeding badly, but was able to walk all the way back to the van without showing any signs of pain or limping. I called our holistic vet, even though I knew they weren't open yet. They answered and said to bring him in right away. If he needed x-rays, they were going to send me to the emergency vet. If not, they said they would squeeze him into their schedule to help sew him back together. Either way, it was going to cost the same, and I'm much happier knowing he's in the hands of our holistic vet who we've trusted for four years, versus a non-holistic doctor and complete stranger.

In the waiting room On pins and needles in the waiting room

He did not need x-rays. Our vet said we would have to leave him all day, and she could perform the necessary surgery during her lunch break. How nice of her to make that sacrifice for our Wulfy dog in need. They had to knock him out, clean the dirt and gravel out of the wound, stitch him up, and that was about it. They called us once he was awake, letting us know that he is no longer falling down. Haha! I can just picture my boy in such a drunken state. They said he was ready to be picked up and go home. We instantly dropped what we were doing, as we agreed the entire family would be there for the reunion. As we arrived, we could hear him whimpering and whining in the back kennel area. He missed us so much, and was probably so scared to be without us after all the abuse he suffered as a pup.

Beowulf injury

We got him home and had to put him in the cone of shame whenever we're asleep or not able to watch him, which isn't too often. We've been bringing him with us wherever we go while running errands, and we keep him in the same room as us no matter what we're doing: cooking, cleaning, packing, etc. He's made a speedy recovery so far. He goes in on Friday for a check-up, then goes back to remove the stitches on day 14. He'll hopefully be back on the bikejoring team soon after that, and I already promised him I would take him running again with me. I won't let these obstacles and small setbacks hold us down. But I did learn some lessons from this whole crazy situation, and will put into action my plans to avoid a repeat incident.

IMG_4965 IMG_4971

So here's to our Big Honker Nose as we like to call him! Beowulf is once again The Brave. I "knighted" him for surviving such suffering as a pup, thus the name Sir Beowulf the Brave. The name also brings up fond memories of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a movie Nicole and I both love. Ha. And of course, his name is from the ancient and heroic, Old English epic poem, Beowulf, commonly cited as one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature. It was a story I read in school as a child, and it has always been one of my favorites ever since.
  Put him in the cone of shame

Re-join our team when you are ready, Wulfers. We miss and need you. I'm sincerely sorry about what I did to you. You are one of my children. I would die defending you. I can't believe how this happened. Hopefully you understand it was an accident and not intentional. I would never purposely hurt you. Forgive me. I love you.

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