Heartbreak, Part 2

 Posted by on 21 May 2007 at 3:51 pm  The Beasts
May 212007

Last week, Paul and I enjoyed a fantastically difficult five days of single and double track mountain biking around the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. (That’s our second trip with Escape Adventures. Paul and I highly recommend them.) We biked over 100 miles, with almost 8000 feet of ascent total. Happily, we were in fine physical shape for the trip. We never wimped out on rides, nor suffered from sore muscles — although with altitude of 7,000 to 9,000 feet, we were often short of breath on the bigger hills. We didn’t suffer any serious injuries, but I took a rather hard spill on the first day due to too-tight clips. After that, I abandoned my clips entirely, as they were simply too difficult to manage on single track for a beginner rider like me.

I do really enjoy these painfully strenuous vacations. Particularly with mountain biking, it’s all-too-easy to serious injure yourself if you lose focus for just a few seconds. So these trips really force me to leave all my work behind: whatever I’m not doing doesn’t prey on me, as it would if I were trying to do nothing on the beach. (I can’t even pack thoughts of work in my brain! No room!) However, I did read the book How to Complete and Survive Your Doctoral Dissertation by David Sternberg while lounging about camp. That was very helpful, since I came back from vacation ready to start my dissertation prospectus. (It’s already underway!)

Unfortunately, our otherwise excellent trip was marred by the death of our dog Abby. On Tuesday, she suffered a massive trauma that shattered her femur. We’re not sure how it happened, but she might have been trampled by my mare Tara or hit by a car coming up the driveway. She was taken to the Douglas County Animal Hospital by our housesitter Melissa right away, put on IV morphine and other drugs, and evaluated by three vets. (One of those vets was Dr. McVicker, the vet that Abby and I have been seeing every ten days or so for acupuncture for the last seven months. She’s grown very attached to Abby.) The vets determined that surgery and recovery would be very difficult even if Abby were fully healthy. However, she was sure not to recover with her degenerative myelopathy. Given her rate of decline from that neurological disease, Abby probably would have been unable to walk in six months, if not sooner. So recovery from such a massive hind-end trauma was just not a realistic option, nor remotely fair to ask of her.

Paul and I got the message about Abby on Wednesday morning. After a painful series of phone calls to determine the facts and make arrangements, I told Dr. McVicker that she should put Abby down that day. Sadly, it would have taken us at least 24 hours to return home. As much as I wanted to see Abby one last time, that was just not humanely possible. She was well-loved by friends at her end though. Dr. McVicker brought her outside on a stretcher for a few last good moments in the sun. Melissa, our long-time housesitter, was able to be with her, and she even brought our other dog Kate.

It has been strange to be home again without her. Paul and I were so far away when she was injured and put down, but we now feel her absence from home constantly. Kate seems to be doing reasonably well, although she’s a bit more stuck to me than usual. (Abby was always far more dependent on Kate than vice versa.)

Despite her various doggie flaws, Abby was an excellent dog. She was attentive, loyal, and protective. She was a very happy farm dog. She was a dog of rare quality for trailing riding: even in face of alluring distractions like wiggly wildlife and barking dogs, she remained 100% devoted to quietly following Tara and me on the trail. Most of all though, she was my dog. And I miss her.

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