Forever Artemis: it’s all fun & games until someone needs stitches

I was hiking with Charlotte and Watson (my neighbors’ dog and Charlotte’s best friend) the other day and saw another woman on the trail with her dog on a leash.  Charlotte and Watson were running up and down the trail, off the trail, back on the trail, chasing squirrels and generally having a good time.  I felt bad for the dog on the leash, and was thinking that the woman was probably trying to either do some training to keep the dog closer, or that the dog had done something to get in trouble and warrant being on a leash.

It was just at this point on the trail that I remembered having Artemis on the leash in that very same spot several years ago.  I felt really bad for Artemis, because Franklin was off leash and was roaming around (although he has never roamed far).  I needed to keep Artemis somewhat contained because she had a foot injury and, although I wanted to get her out and have her get some exercise, I didn’t want her to injure her foot further.

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Happy dogs in the High Sierra before getting turned around to go deal with injuries (they would have rather stayed and played in the water)

The injury happened when I was visiting a friend in California, and had been hiking with his dog (Vernon) and Franklin and Artemis in the Eastern Sierra.  I really wanted it to be a great hike and a great day, but we ended up cutting it short.  First, I noticed that Vernon got a fish hook through his ear.  Then, while we were hiking up the trail, Artemis developed a limp in one of her hind feet.  I noticed drops of blood on the rocks on the trail.

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Happy Artemis on the trail before her injury

“Oh, Boo Boo, what did you do?” I said to her when I caught up to her.  She had the biggest smile on her face which turned into a bit of a pout when I made her stop so that I could look at her foot.  She had a big gash near the main pad of her foot.  I decided to hike us back down to the car and take care of the dogs’ injuries.

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Vernon’s fish hook was dealt with quickly enough with a pair of wire cutters.  He handled it very well.

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Vernon’s fish hook

I didn’t really have anything to take care of Artemis’ injury, so I went to the general store in the tiny town where I was staying, and found some hydrogen peroxide and a sewing kit.  These items, along with the garden hose, would have to suffice.

I laid Artie down in the back yard and flushed the dirt and debris out of the cut in her foot with the hose.  Then I doused it a couple of times with hydrogen peroxide.  I rinsed it again with water (I was hoping the store would have some iodine, but I couldn’t find anything like that, and I certainly didn’t want to use rubbing alcohol because that would have been way to painful).  Then I set to work.

I threaded the sewing needle and hoped for the best.  With the first bite of skin that I took, Artemis’ head snapped up and she looked at me like, “What was that?  Something bit me!”  And I rubbed her ear and laid her head back down.  I got the needle through the next bit of skin and was able to tie off a knot.  I was only able to get one stitch through the wound, because the skin of her pad was just too tough to get the needle through.

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The gash (not bleeding) is right off the tip of my thumb and into the main pad

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Gash closed up, with red sewing thread

I put some Neosporin on the wound and wrapped it up with some gauze and tape, forming a little boot to protect the wound.

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Artemis:  all better!

She couldn’t go swimming for the next week (which is worse than getting stitches for a Golden Retriever!) and I kept her contained on the leash so that she wouldn’t rip the stitch out.  After a week, I clipped the stitch out of her foot and it was all healed up with no signs of infection.

Maybe it would have healed on its own without the stitch, but I always think deep cuts will heal better if you help them along a bit.  I was so amazed (but also not surprised) that Artemis tolerated me stitching up her foot without any kind of anesthesia.  Her pain tolerance was incredible and she was so trusting to let me help her in the way that I did.  I don’t know many other dogs who would let someone do that!

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We Ride

I cried my eyes out the day that I found out that Franklin had broken his leg again.  I went up into the mountains with Charlotte, and although I couldn’t find the energy to run, we had a nice hike up the mountain and a good jog down.  It really did help to get out a bit, even if I cried the whole way up.  I haven’t cried much at home, because I don’t want Franklin to see me upset.  Charlotte was too busy on the trail being a puppy to realize that I was upset (which is fine with me) but I did make her stop a couple of times to give me a hug and a kiss.

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Puppy trail kisses 

I’ve had a lot of support from a lot of friends, offering words of encouragement and offering to help out with the dogs.  I was afraid I might not be able to go to the one trail race that I have planned next month, but a friend offered to take both of the dogs for me for two days so that I can go.  It’s kind of a big deal, because when I finish this year, I’ll get a huge belt buckle because it’s my 5th year running this particular event (and that’s the tradition, to get the buckle after 5 finishes).  I’m looking forward to going, especially knowing that my kids will be well taken care of.

I had another friend reach out to me and got me in touch with a friend of hers who has a dog stroller.  I went over to her house Friday night and picked it up.  It is truly amazing.  We have gone for a 2-mile walk every day with it, and Charlotte does pretty well to heel alongside on the leash.  She pulls on the leash a little bit at first, but after we get warmed up (and she gets a little tired) she stops pulling.  Today we walked over to the park and while Franklin sat in the stroller in the shade, Charlotte and I worked on some leash-obedience.  It was good for her to be in the park around other people and dogs and try to behave.  She’s doing better:  jumping less and pulling less.  We have another meeting with the dog trainer (Robbin) in a few days for a refresher.

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Our first stroll #weride

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Charlotte checking on Franklin our first time out with the stroller

Franklin is truly happy to be out and about in the stroller.  It’s a little awkward getting him in, but once he is in, he just sits in there like the prince that he is.  We saw some neighbors and their dogs on the corner this morning on the way to the park, and everyone commented on what an adorable dog he is.

Franklin is actually walking around a little bit on his own, mostly with me helping him with a towel wrapped around his hips to support him, but also a bit on his own.  I was working on obedience with Charlotte this afternoon in the backyard and when we came inside, he was at the top of the steps watching us, wanting to come outside for a bit.  I got the towel and helped him down the steps, and we sat in the grass for a while.

Tomorrow, the doggie-wheelchair arrives.  I’m pretty psyched for Franklin that he will be able to amble around the block again.  We’ll take it slow at first, but I know he is going to master it like a champ.

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Franklin loves lounging in the cool grass in the backyard

Prince Franklin and the broken femur

The dogs and I went up to my brother’s house in Idaho for the weekend, to do some relaxing and some running in the mountains.  It’s about 10 degrees cooler where my brother lives and I really felt like I needed to get out of the heat (it’s been around 100 degrees here in Salt Lake).IMG_9628.jpg

After a couple of days of good Idaho-living and running in the mountains, the dogs and I drove back to SLC Sunday evening.  When we got home, Franklin jumped out of the back of the Subaru of his own accord and stumbled a little, but he has a really weak back end and he’s 15 years old, so I didn’t think much of it.  He went for a short walk Sunday night, but didn’t really want to walk Monday or Tuesday.  I called the vet Tuesday and asked if I could bring him in for a pain shot (because I had already increased his oral pain medications, Rimadyl and Tramadol) and he only seemed a little bit better.  Thankfully, the vet got us in right away.IMG_9637.jpgIMG_9620.jpg

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Charlotte, 6 months old, doesn’t want to leave Franklin’s side.  This behavior started Sunday night.  I’m sure she senses something is wrong.  And Franklin, usually the grumpy old dog, is allowing her to snuggle in his bed with him.

It’s at this point in the story where I should probably let you know that 10 years ago, Franklin jumped out of the back of my brother’s truck up in Idaho and fractured his femur.  He went through a couple of surgeries and a couple of months of physical therapy to fix it.  He’s had trouble with arthritis in that knee for a handful of years, but he has always dealt with the situation really well and has been a really active dog despite his injury.

6 months ago, in January of this year, he was gimping some and started draining gross discharge from the leg, and it turned out that the hardware had worked itself loose and was being rejected (abscessing).  Franklin has been on antibiotics for the past 6 months and has done really well.  The ortho vet whom we consulted, didn’t want to take the hardware out because at Franklin’s advanced age, he didn’t think the bone would be able to repair itself.

At the vet’s office today, Dr Lynette encouraged me to get an x-ray of Franklin’s leg.  I kind of wanted to hold off and see how he would respond to a change in his pain meds over the next few days, but I could tell she really wanted to get the x-ray.  So we did, and  we found out the reason why Franklin doesn’t want to put weight on his leg:  the impact from jumping out of the back of the car re-fractured his femur.  So here we are with a dog who, despite not wanting to bear weight on his injured leg, is eating drinking, peeing, pooping, and altogether quite happy.

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Fracture of the right hind leg is visible at the 4th screw down from the top.  You can also see that the screw heads are above the plate, which means they have worked loose.

The decision might be more easily made if he were miserable, but he’s not.  He was goofing around with the vet techs at the clinic today and begging for treats.  He is a prince.  Prince Franklin.  I’m not sure what we are going to do, but I will post updates when I hear back from the ortho vet on a recommendation as to where we go from here.

I feel so horribly guilty that I let him jump out of the back of the car a couple of days ago. I feel like I should have prevented this from happening.  How could I think that a 15 year old dog with brittle bones and loose hardware in his leg could sustain that kind of impact and not have an injury.  But I suppose it doesn’t do any good to look back and think what I could have or should have done.  We just have to move forward.

Now… I’m going to search online for doggie-wheelchairs…

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Franklin, 3 days after re-fracturing his femur, happily chilling in the backyard.