On the Trail: The last miles with a smile
My dog is on her last legs.While she still tricks some people into thinking she is a pup and her heart is as big as ever, her body is failing her after 11 fun-filled years. Our vet found cancer in January. An inoperable tumor is lodged between her left hip and spine, causing nerve damage in her leg and weakening her bones.At first I cuddled Notchy (a name we inherited when we adopted her from Ursula Rose Shepherd’s dog-saving operation in January 1997). I limited her to 30- to 45-minute walks each day on a trail along the Roaring Fork River and through the old Mount Sopris Tree Farm.But Notchy was born to run, and through the miracle of modern veterinary care she has returned to a somewhat normal life in the last five months. From a traditional-medicine approach, she is receiving anti-inflamatories and painkillers. From a nontraditional approach, she is receiving acupuncture and following an herb-rich diet. The combination is effective, and she has exceeded her life expectancy for her condition (knock on wood).When June rolled around I decided I could no longer deprive her of the big walks, despite her handicap. Although she can’t put a lot of pressure on her left rear leg, she has mastered a hop-skip maneuver in which she reduces the time she puts that paw down by 50 percent.Her first big test was a crystal-clear Saturday morning when we walked up the steep slope across Highway 82 and west from the Independence ghost town. Notchy doesn’t attack slopes like she once did, but she still passed with flying colors. After the climb we spent a glorious morning exploring part of the island created by the Lost Man Loop.On her comeback tour, Notchy has climbed the steep Arbany-Kittle Trail, one her favorite midvalley haunts, and was in dog heaven walking along Pearl Pass Road past the Tagert Hut last weekend. Any trail with running water and snow cones gives her pleasure. As a shepherd-huskie mix, she never tolerated heat well, even in the best of times.Now it’s like old days again. Every time I pull my CamelBak out of the closet, Notchy anticipates another adventure.The old hound is on her last legs, but at least it’s with a smile on her face.
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