On our long run the other day, Boudica got tired after 30 miles and rode in the barkbox the rest of the way. The next morning, when I went out to the dog yard, she wouldn’t come out of her house. What’s up? I asked her.
I eased her out of her house and immediately saw that something was wrong. She wouldn’t straighten her back legs and was sort of hopping to move.
[spoiler alert ALL DOGS ARE FINE ok back to the story]
We see a lot of strange symptoms come and go with our dogs, so we’ve developed a pretty good sense of what is or isn’t a big deal. But this was weird and I couldn’t put my finger on the problem.
So of course I immediately started worrying. What if she had some dread illness? Or a complication from her injuries last year? WAS SHE DYING? BOUDICA I LOVE YOU BE OK.
I started thinking about loading up the barkbox and driving the snowmobile for a few hours to get to the road and starting the truck and heading north and finding a vet up in Fairbanks. Would the trip be uncomfortable for her? Would it take too long?
This is where Q would point out that last week I opted to get stitches in my lip without any anesthesia rather than make the many-hour trek to town but as soon as something seemed vaguely wrong with a dog I was ready to drop everything and leave.
That’s how it goes, I guess.
I was heading up to the lodge to do some googling when I noticed that 3-time Iditarod champ Mitch Seavey was a few yards away, heating river water in an alcohol cooker to make a warm dinner for his dogs.
“Hey Mitch,” I said. “Could you take a look at one of my dogs?”
He said he would as soon as he was done feeding. “Thanks!” I said.
Then I sat there for what felt like months, trying to be cool.
Nope not panicking not me
Just sitting here petting Boudica
Whom I love
Very soft Boudica
Everything totally fine over here
(Should I run up and do some quick googling?)
Just chillin with my dog ya know
Honestly it was probably only like 4 minutes before Mitch came striding over in his parka.
Boudica had ducked back into her house again and I pulled her out. She stood crouched before us. Mitch tilted his head. “Huh,” he said.
He ran his hands down her back and sides. (She gave him a gentle kiss.)
He took her face in his palms and tilted her head in different directions. (She gave him a gentle kiss.)
He felt the tendons behind her ankles and pressed his fingers around the arcs of her shoulders. (She gave him a gentle kiss.)
He pressed on each of her toes individually. (She tried to give him a gentle kiss but couldn’t reach his face and temporarily freaked out until he leaned down so she could lick his chin.)
He lifted her hips into the air. She squeaked.
“Have you done any runs in fresh snow?” he asked.
I said we had.
“Were you the first team to break trail?” he asked.
I said that we were.
“Hmm,” he said. And then he gave his verdict.
He had noticed that her head turned slightly more comfortably to the left than to the right, and he showed me: how her neck curved into a perfect U on one side but not the other.
From this, he’d reached down to the top of her left shoulder and felt a knot in the muscle.
“What I think,” he said, “is that she was running in powder, sinking in with every step, and she reached a patch of packed snow and jammed her left shoulder right here. Just a bit.”
“It wasn’t a big deal, but her shoulder was tender. So she was trying to compensate and take a bit of the weight off her shoulders. She did that by curving her hips under”—he gestured with his hands”—“so that she was carrying more weight with her back legs.”
But why can’t she stand? I asked. Why did she yelp when you touched her stomach?
Mitch scratched his mustache. “I think what you have,” he said, “is a dog with very sore abs.”
GUYS. I have to go cause it’s time for communal lodge dinner! Check back later for the story of How We Treated Boudica’s Sore Abs.
ok that was a delicious dinner
Breakfast burritos and cheesecake. Good food for hungry mushers. Thanks, @AlpineCreekLdg!
But I was telling you about Boudica’s abs.
Mitch said that she needed rest and a massage. “Do you have somewhere she can be warm for a day or two?” he asked. @ChrissieBodz had come down the hill by now, and we looked at each other. Oh, did we EVER.
This is the wonderful cabin where we’re living for the winter. Chrissie and I have been sharing the bed. We each get one side for our head and one for our feet, so we’re sleeping opposite of each other.
Looks like we were getting another roommate for the night! Chrissie and I threw our arms around Boudica. We nuzzled her and whispered to her and kissed her all over. “You’re sleeping with us!” we squealed.
Mitch rolled his eyes. “Girl mushers,” he muttered. We knew he loved it.
Now, you may recall that Boudica has spent some time inside before. She was recovering from major injuries and was on, as they say, the Good Drugs.
So we weren’t sure how she’d feel about coming indoors again. As it turned out, she was highly skeptical.
“Come on, hon,” I cooed to her that night, pulling her toward the cabin. She waddled as slowly as possible, eyes wide.
I lifted her carefully and set her on the bed. (Don’t worry, Q — we moved your sleeping bag and all the bedding is easily washable.)(Q is allergic to dogs.)
Boudica bolted for the door a few times, but after Chrissie and I sat on either side of her and petted her, she started to acquiesce. Maybe this whole massage-in-the-cabin thing wasn’t so bad, after all. She didn’t lie down, but she gave us some gentle kisses.
Finally it was time for bed. We were both wondering... would Boudica actually sleep? Would she let us sleep?
We said good night. We turned off the light. We were lying head-to-toe, with Boudica between us. And she would
We wrapped blankets over our faces, tucking in the corners. All would be still. I’d let myself exhale. And then somehow, magically, a tongue would snake in.
We’d ease her away from us, readjust the blankets, finally get close to sleeping again. I could hear the wind blowing through the trees and a dog howling in the distance. And just as I slipped into a dream—
And that, my friends, is the story of our sleepover with Boudica. In the morning, she was still sore, but she walked a bit more comfortably back to her house.
A few more days and we expect she’ll be back to normal.
You can follow @BlairBraverman.