Our New Home, the Vet

Ever since September 30th, when we had an unplanned hang out with with a prickly roadside traveler, we have spent an amazing amount of time at the vet. And we are very, very grateful for all the dedicated individuals at our chosen vet, North Pole Veterinary Hospital. They have gone above and beyond to help get the ATAO teammates back into prime condition.

It turns out porcupines are quite pesky / dangerous / etc. Our quill woes continue. Today we brought Belle in to have an x-ray and ultrasound to examine one of her wrists. After any amount of activity, she comes up with a limp on her front left wrist. Unfortunately, there is no sign of a quill exiting, despite a lot of dedicated time soaking, massaging, and wrapping. The worry is that she has a quill in her joint. I am particularly afraid that this might end up ending her racing career, which would be profoundly sad to me. Belle is an incredible athlete, and perhaps the best leader in the kennel. To not even get the chance to see her run a mid distance race breaks my heart. I am doing all I can to help her get back to doing what she loves. She has HATED sitting out our runs over the last few weeks. Because we are trying to limit movement, she has also not gotten to free play much. She is too smart to be sitting around like this all of the time, and she is definitely getting antsy.

Rest assured that if this turns out to not work, and Belle’s racing days are over, she will still get so much love and all the playtime we can safely offer her. She would likely still get to do at least short runs. She’s such a well socialized dog that transitioning to house-life should be very doable. But, sled dogs want to RUN… they want to be with their pack. We’ve had Rebel inside to try healing up from her own quill encounter (the good news is that she seems to be doing really well). She is so sick of being on the couch. Sled dogs love the couch in small doses, or especially when they are old like Bonnie and Hooch. But at their prime they are like kids being told to take a nap. The couch is NOT where they want to be.

Our vet visits have not been limited to porcupine fun. We are having some seriously bad luck on the vet front this year. I can’t even remember all that is going on, to be honest. Oli got sick and has been on meds for the last two weeks (he’s on the mend but poor guy).

Yesterday morning, I saw that Lincoln had been vomiting a lot. She continued to vomit throughout the day, despite seeming very chipper, and eating and drinking well. Her stools were normal. But, when wee took her temperature, she had a fever– so we decided it was time for our BFF’s the vet. Sarah rushed her to North Pole while I prepped the team for a run. With all of the obstacles of October, training fell a little behind. As I juggle all of the things, I cannot let training slide– because this will set the team up for failure when we race. I trust not only Sarah and Shawn, who got to the vet ASAP from work, but also the awesome team at North Pole.

North Pole ran a series of tests on Link and took X-rays. She came up negative for communicative diseases (like parvo– she’s vaccinated, but they will definitely check this), and the X-rays didn’t show anything that was a distinct blockage. The vet was a bit stumped. Her symptoms seemed most aligned with a blockage, perhaps a softer one that might not show in the radiograph. They advised having her overnight and hydrating with an IV in order to help her system pass. I told them that whatever they recommend we will go with.

Link stayed overnight and did not vomit more (they had given her an anti nausea medication). They are continuing to administer fluids this morning, and will do another X-ray around noon and then see where we want to go from there.

I learned this when I brought Ms. Belle in for HER scheduled X-ray. Now I am waiting in town for my good girls. I am hopeful I’ll get them both back today in good shape, but we will have to see.

Over the past month, we have spent upwards of 6 thousand dollars at the vet. That’s a quarter of my yearly income from my normal job. There’s no way we could have provided such extensive care to the team without all of your support. (Though again, I am prepared to sell of organs [I am not joking about this, I will definitely do it] and do whatever it takes to make the best vet care happen.)

Despite all of this, we are still doing everything we can to work towards our races. It helps my brain to think of life in the context of a race itself. If I was racing, these setbacks would be obstacles on the trail. And on the trail, all you can do is work through each obstacle. That is “Onward.” It would be easy to fall into despair as we keep hitting bumps in the road. To be honest, I really have to fight this. With so many problems along the way, accomplishing a race this year feels, at times, impossible. But, when you are IN a race and you run into problems, the finish line might feel impossible. You have to keep going at those times.

I keep this in mind when thinking of Belle and the whole team.

We don’t race to become champions, to win some kind of glory. Definitely not for money (lol!!!!). The reason we race is twofold. One, it provides motivation to get the dogs out on the trail as much as they want and need. It’s a goal my human brain can aim towards to achieve what the dog brain wants– Running running running!

The other reason is because I, the human, and they, the dogs, LOVE the race. The dogs don’t care about the placement, or the competition so much (though they do have a competitive nature). Instead, they love the new trails, the new smells. And for all of us, there is something special and bonding about accomplishing a race together. It is like a symphony of all of the beauty that running is, put together in some magical and completable package. When you are racing, the world feels right. No matter how many obstacles you encounter. And when you finish, there is a resounding pride between you and the team. You have accomplished something together. Something deeper than words, deeper than existential crises. Deeper than problems on the trail, deeper than human worry. We race because racing is living.

So we will keep aiming for those races. I will look for some nice niches to sell off various parts of myself. Do extra side work. Do what I need. I will be perfectly honest– even with all of your help, this adventure in vet visits has tapped our resources. If you have the desire and aren’t yet signed up, it would be a great time to be a patron on Patreon. You get to pick out one to five ATAO doggos to be your “Buddies” and you get updates about them, as well as their annual trading card. If you sign up before November 20th, you’ll get that card in our winter Solstice send-out! You can do that here at patreon.com/ataokennel. Or, if you are already a patron but want to help, you can throw a buck or two towards our journeys to the vet, below. Or, if that’s not in the stars, because, let’s face it, it’s holiday time, shit is rough all over, and if you’re reading this you probably have already given a LOT– you can still do us a solid by sharing this post, and by giving North Pole Vet a shoutout on social media. (Seriously, they are amazing.) Look up North Pole Veterinary Hospital on Twitter and Facebook and send them thanks from @ATAOKennel.

No matter what, we will keep training. Keep moving forward. Keep carefully building up the dogs who are still healing. There’s a reason for our motto. The dogs don’t want to stop– so we won’t. We will keep going. The race is not finished yet: let’s go.




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