We hiked with four of our dogs today, Zekie, Claire, Cassius, and Baxter. Shelby is still on injury leave from her run in with the loose dogs last week so rested at home. You can read about her injury. Progression of a Dog Bite Wound She is looking much better and her bruising is mostly gone now, we’re just finishing off the antibiotics as healing continues.
We went back to West Branch State Park to explore some of the trails we hadn’t tried before. From the the Mountain Bike Trail parking lot, we went down the main trail to trailhead A3. This trail is a snowmobile trail so it is nice and wide and relatively flat. We hiked out A3 until we came to the Bit O’ Honey Trail which is a mountain bike trail. Mountain bike trails are generally rougher, rockier, and tougher going. I am particularly slow, making sure I don’t trip on rocks, sticks, and so on. Even so, when it is in the 20’s, I get hot enough on these trails that I soon end up with my hood down and my gloves in my pocket. If it is a longer mountain bike trail, I end up with my coat unzipped too. That still leaves me with a turtleneck and a polar fleece and I am just fine. If we slow down, I just zip my coat back up.
The dogs start pestering us each afternoon around 1:30 pm. They know we leave for walking or hiking near 2 o’clock. On the rare day that we haven’t gone, they mope and give us dirty looks from the dog beds or couch. Yes, they are spoiled pups!
Cassius the greyhound always wears a coat in the winter when we walk or hike. All our past greyhounds have too. They just don’t have the body fat to stand up to cold temperatures. Baxter the Lab/Rott/Dobe mix has never worn a coat until this year, once it got below 30 degrees. In the past Baxter never wanted a coat. Now that he will be 12 in a few months, he seems to get colder and appreciates the warmth. Other than that he hasn’t slowed down much. So, getting ready for winter hiking can be quite the process. In addition to two humans suiting up and getting the right boots, sunglasses, hats, etc., we also have two dogs to put coats on.
Luckily, Baxter looks quite handsome in his coat. Of course, I am biased and think Baxter looks quite dapper all the time!
We are back to trail hiking. We had a scary incident while out last week. Two loose dogs attacked Shelby and Zekie. It was quite scary and between that and the ice, I took a couple days off from walking. For two days after that we walked on paved trails in town.
Zekie survived the attack and wasn’t much worse for wear. Shelby, however, was quite seriously wounded, but is on the mend. I continue to give her meds and provide wound maintenance while she heals. She won’t be hiking again any time soon. I won’t even think about it for a few weeks. She needs time to recuperate, and I don’t want her wound aggravated from too much activity. Also, the wound needs to stay clean and not have dirt and salt from the trails and roads splashing on her underside.
I love hiking in the snow and am glad to be back on the trails. I find it easier to hike with snow on the ground. It fills in a lot of the divots and small holes, and covers the large gravel. These tend to make the walking surface uneven and having them covered in snow makes it easier for me. The trail is beautiful when there is freshly fallen snow. I sometimes feel bad that we pass by and leave footsteps and pawprints to mar its beauty. The landscape at trailside still provides views of unbroken snow vistas. It can also be fun to see who else is using the trails, be it footsteps, pawprints, snowmobiles, or snow bicyclers.
After last week’s incident, we hike with pepper spray. I have heard that a product called Spray Shield, that is citronella based, is safer for dogs. I will look into that in the future. For now, what I have is pepper spray. I need to be responsible for defending my dogs to the best of my ability. I feel guilty that I failed them last week. Especially Shelby. She and I are a working team, having provided therapy dog visits for the past seven years. I need her to trust that I will take care of her, and you better believe that I will do everything in my power to do so.
It seems odd to be out hiking without Shelby. She is none too happy about it either when we leave her at home, even though she gets a treat when we go out the door. She is used to being part of everything that goes on and she believes she is in charge of safety. The other dogs believe that too! Even while she is healing, she does what she can to maintain order around here. Above, she is watching out the window to see what is going on in the neighborhood. She still barks at the mail jeep and delivery people, alerting us that strangers are about. Last night after we had gone to bed, Shelby even barked at something outside and a few seconds later, our motion activated security light came on.
We were out hiking on a local trail on Wednesday this week when two members of our pack were attacked by two off leash dogs. One of our dogs, Zekie, suffered only minor injury. Another of our dogs, a Shetland Sheepdog, Shelby, suffered more extensive wounds. I want to share with you what I learned about dog bite wounds and the progression. I have been involved in the dog world for most of my life, but mercifully have never had reason to learn much about dog bites, until now. The photos become increasingly graphic as the days pass, so be forewarned if this type of image bothers you.
Immediately after the attack, we did not even realize that Shelby had any injuries aside from a slight limp. We were unable to find any visible wounds. As the hours progressed, I suspected that something else was wrong because our other dogs kept sniffing Shelby and did not want to leave her alone, even when scolded. I got her up on the couch and looked her over again. I found the above puncture wound and a small amount of bruising, plus a tooth nick on her outer thigh. Since our veterinarian was already closed for the day, we decided to monitor Shelby until the next morning.
After examining the wound the next morning, it was still open and I saw the puncture passed through the entire layer of skin, leaving the area open to possible infection. At this point I did an internet search on damage from dog bites and what I found was scary.
I learned about a medical term I was heretofore unfamiliar with, undermining. Undermining is damage that extends in all directions under the skin and into subcutaneous tissues. The damage is therefore not visible to the eye. Tearing and crushing may have gone far into the underlying tissues because of the way a biting dog moves and thrusts its jaw and head. The damage can be very extensive. The puncturing bite also introduces bacteria into the wound from the biting dog’s mouth, not generally from the wounded animal’s skin.
This information put the fear of God into me and had me immediately on the phone to my vet and making an appointment. They got Shelby in within a couple hours and also advised me to bring Zekie in for a check, which I did. (Zekie was fine except for some bruising.) I’m so glad I followed through and took the dogs in. Shelby had undermining cranially and caudally from her abdominal bite, which means towards her head and tail. The damage was indeed difficult for the lay person to determine.
She also had a few injuries from the other dog’s teeth on her outer thigh. They were not nearly as severe as the abdominal wound and the antibiotics that she would get for the puncture wound would cover these too.
The course of treatment for the abdominal wound was antibiotics, pain meds, and warm compresses to drain fluid out and help keep the wound open. The vet said she was very concerned and there was a potential for peritonitis which is abdominal infection and/or inflammation and associated side effects. I was told the first 24-48 hours are critical and that I should bring Shelby back the next morning for evaluation. The antibiotics are to prevent infection from the biting dog’s teeth and bacterial peritonitis. Pain medication is used because dog bites are extremely painful. Punctures from dog bites are not usually sutured, only gaping wounds are stitched. The punctures are left open so they can drain.
Shelby’s re-check at the vet office was to see if her internal damage was extensive enough that she would need surgery to remove the underlying damaged tissue and a drain inserted. Mercifully, she did not. Due to the nature of her wound, it is hoped by me continuing the warm compresses three times a day and mechanically keeping the wound from closing will continue to be enough.
Shelby is such a good girl that she let me tend her wounds without complaint. I’m sure it didn’t feel good, but she seemed to know that I was helping her and taking care of her.
By Friday, the World’s best patient award goes to….(drumroll) Shelby! When it is time for Shelby’s warm compresses and wound maintenance, we go into the bathroom and I shut the door. I get everything ready and then sit on the bathroom floor. I tap the floor in front of me with my fingernail. After doing this routine since Thursday, Shelby now sits in front of me, lays down, and rolls over on her back, waiting for me to take care of her. She remains still throughout the procedure except for occasionally waving a paw at me if I pause the belly rubbing. When it is done, we get up and I give her a small treat. We exit the bathroom and she follows me around, being my buddy. Good girl Shelby, good girl.
I hope this is the end of the story and Shelby continues her healing without incident. But until she is 100% healed, I am watching her closely just to be safe.
Today was our 31st day in a row of hiking! We have logged over 74 miles of trails in the past 30 days. Not bad for January. The unseasonably mild weather has accommodated us.
This afternoon’s hike was a snowy one. Our area of northeast Ohio was fortunate to get only a few inches from yesterday’s snow storm. Other areas faired much worse than we did. It was still enough to slow us down a bit. We humans had to look for rocks, roots, and branches buried underneath the snow and just waiting to trip us up. The long-haired dogs, Shelby, Zekie, and Claire, had to stop repeatedly to chew snowballs from the back of their legs. Shelby in particular seemed to stop suddenly and plunk herself down in front of me on the trail, especially where it was only one track wide.
Another trail hazard was the areas that had thin sheets of ice, frozen over running water. None of these were more than a couple of inches deep, so it was the element of surprise as you dropped through the ice and had to step out that was the issue, rather than any danger. This does help you to see how important it is to have the proper footwear for the conditions you are out in. Fortunately, I had chosen to wear my L.L. Bean Wildcat boots, so I was in good shape.
I also plan carefully what gloves and coat I will wear. Usually, at this time of year I wear my mid-thigh length storm parka. The terrain we covered today had lots of winding paths as well as ups and downs. Even though it was about 30 degrees, I got hot enough that for the last quarter of the hike I had my coat unzipped and my gloves in my pocket. Of course, I was also wearing a turtleneck and a hooded sweatshirt under my parka. Layering is king for outdoor activities in the winter time.
The types of trails at West Branch State Park, near Ravenna, Ohio are varied. There are mountain bike trails, snow mobile trails, and of course, hiking trails. There is something for everyone and you can walk on any of the trails. Be aware that as this is a multi-purpose park, you should be aware of your surroundings at all times in case you come across bicycles or other vehicles. Hunting is allowed, in season, so be prepared. That is why Cassius’ new collar is very bright. A New Collar For Cassius
Although the trails were snow covered, we all had a good time. The views are beautiful and the squinch of the new fallen snow is pleasing to the ear. The dogs like to occasionally grab up mouthfuls of snow and swallow them. Rather like the doggy version of snow ice cream.
We have been noticing a lot of bird activity in the past week although I am not sure why. Perhaps they are having more trouble finding food this late in the winter. This is just a guess on my part. I only know for sure that I have seen increased numbers of birds flitting around, sometimes groups of birds, and they often sing. They are medium sized songbirds, at least a few were robins.
Here is a photograph I took of the trail map from trailhead entrance beside the mountain bike trail. The hike we took today was the squiggly blue line next to the water. It is fun because you are able to see the water for the majority of the time you are hiking.
I encourage you to try hiking in every season. What you see varies depending on the time of year. We tend to think of winter as a lean time with less plants. It is the perfect time to see the structure of the woods. I notice things that I never see in the summer because then they are covered with leaves and undergrowth. Each season has its own beauty. See which one you like best. Maybe, like me, you will decide you like them all.
Cassius is currently the only greyhound we have. We have had three others over the years, Merlin, Cyrus, and Phoebe. To be precise, Merlin was probably a lurcher. A cross of greyhound and hunting dog. Some hunters like this cross because it can result in a fast hunting dog. Merlin looked just like a greyhound to me, only a litter smaller and shorter, front to back. Merlin was a stray that came running by my house my day. Our three previous greyhounds overlapped in the time we had them for a couple years. Boy, that was a lot of dog food! Greyhounds may look skinny, but they eat a lot because of their fast metabolisms.
The photo above is Cassius in his new collar which arrived on Saturday. It was long overdue. His previous collar was once a fancy, handmade one that I bought for him from a vendor at a dog event, the Pet Expo at Hardesty Park, in Akron a couple years ago. The collar had a hard life (see photo below). As you may know, we have been doing quite a bit of walking and hiking since I retired Fall Hiking. Cassius’ old collar has been torn by briars and underbrush as he goes crashing along the trailside. The other side of the collar is even stained with a substantial amount of blood. On one of our hikes in the fall, as he was looking for a spot in the weeds to do his business, a large thorn caught in one of his ears. The thorn impaled itself in a vein in one of his ears and broke off. I was able to remove the thorn, but then the blood started flowing. And flowing. I had a couple of tissues in my pocket that I used to apply pressure. We had to stop our hike while I treated Cassius’ wound. It took several minutes of applying pressure to staunch the flow of blood. By the time we were ready to continue our hike, Cassius’ ear, a good portion of the collar, and one of my pant legs had large blood stains. All this from a relatively small injury that healed up within days.
Greyhounds do have very thin skin, and little body fat, so cuts on them can produce quite an injury. I remember one time Cyrus was running from the pasture to the house and ran headlong into a planter. The ceramic planter broke into shards and cut his head open. There was lots of blood and he ended up getting several surgical staples on top of his head. It must have been feeding time for him to be so intent on getting in the house.
Anyway, back to Cassius’ new collar. I searched for some time for what I wanted. I never did find it, but settled on this one which I do like. Greyhounds should ideally have wide martingale collars. Their necks are bigger than their heads so the martingale type of collar makes it harder to slip out. And a wide one is preferred, about 1 1/2 inches, so there is not so much pressure put on one point on the throat. Again, greyhounds do not have much body fat, so this is particularly important. I wanted his new collar in safety orange or safety yellow. There is lots of hunting in our area and I can see how a dog of Cassius’ size, shape, and coloration might be mistaken for a deer from a distance. Better safe, than sorry! My search produced no martingales in these collars. I could find orange and yellow, but not in the designated “safety” collars. So, I went with the green. It is pretty and bright and highly noticeable.
After his adventures, Cassius likes to have a good nap. Greyhounds are sprinters by nature, so walking and hiking (Hiking In Winter) over uneven terrain, for long distances tire him out. And greyhounds are excellent couch potatoes. He would be happy napping under a blanket even without the walk!
In my life before retirement, I was a Water Treatment Scientist. My days consisted of testing various components in water and giving feedback and advice on how to adjust the treatment systems. I worked hands on, in the treatment of wastewater and drinking water. Drinking water is self explanatory. Wastewater, is basically anything that goes down your toilet and other pipes for disposal. Some businesses discharge chemicals and other wastes that must be dealt with, but for the average homeowner, your wastewater consists of poop, pee, and some “gray water”. So, my professional career involved dealing with other peoples’ poop.
You would think my dealings with poop would end there. Not so! I deal with the poop of other beings on a daily basis at home too. We have two cats and two litterboxes. Cats are fastidious creatures for someone who poops in a box. And we greatly hope that they continue to use these boxes. So every single day, I scoop the litterboxes. Cats, being the fickle creatures that they are, want a clean litterbox. You DON’T want to see what happens if you don’t keep up with the scooping. Every afternoon I scoop “the biscuits” into a plastic grocery store bag, carry it outside, and hang the bag on the fence to scoop dog poop into it too. I also sweep up the floor so the cats don’t get confused by any stray bits of litter on the wooden floor boards.
I only use Tidy Cat litter. This seems to me to produce the least amount of dust and to do the best job of containing odors. You don’t want anything to strike the cats as being unpleasant. We want them to keep using their giant toilets in our front hall. Which reside behind a baby gate to keep the dogs from using them as a buffet. But that is another story.
I mentioned dogs, so you know my poop story isn’t over yet. We have six dogs. They eat twice a day and so they poop AT LEAST twice times a day for a total of twelve times. Often more because, hey sh*t happens! You would think it would be as easy as scooping up the piles, throwing them in the bag and being done. HA! We have two dogs who think that poop is a fine delicacy to be enjoyed at every opportunity. One of us humans must go out with the dogs to be “playground monitor” each time. Otherwise, these two dogs will partake of the buffet. If you are lucky, the dogs will “leave it” when you yell at them. But mostly not. This results in me running around with the poop scoop trying to pick up sh*t as it happens. And you may think this sounds easy too. Again, not so! With six dogs, there is usually more pooping going on than I can keep up with. So, it deteriorates to me running after the offenders who have picked up the poop, yelling “drop it”. Sometimes this is effective. Other times, I must give chase and shake the poop scoop in the air as if I am going to bean the poop bandit over the head. (I only threaten, I never actually resort to violence.) I’m sure the neighbors must think I’ve gone insane.
The dog doing the pooping does not take kindly to all this activity taking place near his rear end. He often ends up finishing the job while waddling across the grass leaving a trail.
This used to be the end of the story. Now I have another saga to share. Oh, joy! One of the baby rabbits that was born some where in the vicinity of our vegetable garden in the spring time, has grown up. And apparently decided that the clover growing inside the fenced area where the dogs do their business is quite delectable. I never see him, but this bunny comes inside the fence and after dining, deposits his little bunny pellets in the dog yard. The dogs, of course, find this to be the caviar of their buffet. Even some of our dogs who don’t eat canine poop, will chomp on what the bunny leaves behind. I hoped that as the bunny grew, he would no longer be able to fit through the slats on our fence, but so far that has not happened. I suppose that is why the heartworm preventative that I give the dogs also contains other types of wormers. Living in the country rabbits, squirrels, mice, chipmunks, and so on, are always around.
Such is my life. And, you know what? I wouldn’t trade it.
We are on a roll. Today is our 18th day in a row of hiking. We have been hiking religiously since the fall, but this is the longest stretch without a day off. We are eager to see how long we can keep it going. My husband carefully checks the forecast, and sometimes the weather radar, to find times during the day to go when it is not raining or snowing heavily. Given that it is January, our hikes have been pleasant and not overly cold.
I hate to think what the dogs’ reaction will be on the first day we are unable to go. Dogs appreciate routine and ours’ come to expect that if we do something two days in a row, it is now part of our schedules. Most days we depart near 2:00 pm for our outings. The dogs start pestering us starting about 1:50 now. They stare at us and begin to pace in anticipation for the fun to begin.
We vary our choice of hiking location depending on weather, day of the week, upcoming plans, or maybe just on a whim. The day’s pick may be at a State Park, a County Park, a local cemetery, a Hike and Bike Trail, or just up the road and back. We even have a walking trail around our property to use in a pinch. You have to go around the loop about 5 times to make a mile though. Here is a link to a walk in our woods during the spring. Woods Walk
Most of our hikes are not extremely long. The average length is somewhere between 2.5 to 3.5 miles. The amount of exertion does not always correspond with the length of the walk though. If the terrain is especially hilly, rocky, or swampy, that 2.5 miles can seem far longer than a 3.5 mile walk.
I track all of our outings with the Walk For A Dog App to raise money for Northeast Ohio Shetland Sheepdog Rescue. It doesn’t raise a lot of funds but every little bit helps. (Many other non-profit rescues are available as beneficiaries on this App too!) I like the App because aside from being a fundraiser, it lets me know how far we have walked, the miles per hour, and the time each walk took us. You can also look back at the historical information to see how many miles you have walked over the past 30 days. When we get up over 50 miles a month, I start feeling really good about it!
We enjoy our hikes for multiple reasons. Of course getting exercise and spending time with the dogs are the obvious rewards. We also get to see what birds are in the woods at this time of year. We see what plants and bushes stay green late in the season and throughout the winter. It is easier to locate side trails and see the paths that streams take without all the undergrowth obscuring the view. The sounds of the winter woods are different from other seasons too. Each season has its own beauty and can be appreciated in different ways.
Banana time at our house is eagerly anticipated each day. Five of our six dogs love bananas. I’m pretty sure my husband hasn’t eaten an entire banana in years. He’s a soft touch that way. The shelties are especially food driven. All the dogs can catch their bite as it is tossed in the air. Zekie’s (the dog on the left) catch makes a nice lip smacking sound since he doesn’t have any canine fangs, having broken them all off in attempts to escape his crate in previous years. Read more about him here. Zekie, My Pit Bull!?
All the dogs know they get one bite and they must take turns. Claire, our newest pack member, still occasionally tries to steal Nikki’s share as Nikki is old and somewhat senile. You can read about Claire joining our family here. Welcome Home! You can’t blame a girl for trying!
Luckily, bananas are one of the fruits that are safe for dogs since ours’ love them so much. Some fruits are not, and if you are confused about which ones are safe, a quick internet search will provide you with a list of which are safe to share with your canine friend and which are not. Raisins and grapes are particularly bad news.
The focus that a piece of food can hold for a dog is amazing. That’s why it is so much easier to train a food driven dog. Just look at that laser focus. You can teach most dogs to sit in a matter of minutes if you have a piece of cheese or other appropriately delectable goodie. I suppose it is not that different from me knowing when there is a chocolate cake on the countertop and not being able to stop thinking about it. Or those Oreos, or that chocolate ice cream with Reese’s peanut butter cups in it. Come to think of it, I am having a new understanding of my dogs’ focus and preoccupation with tasty food!
My husband and I are still keeping isolated from other people as much as possible in an attempt to stay Covid-free. So far, so good. This puts us in an insular world. Each day is similar for us, but I do not always feel the same way about each day. Sometimes, they go by quickly. Other times they do not. It is not the days that are very different. It is my reaction and interpretation of them that changes.
Some days I miss my family with a longing that is all consuming. I think about them and all that I am missing with the growing up of my nieces. Lives are being lived and I am not a part of them. I know the Covid vaccine is being rolled out now, so we will be able to catch up and share in each other’s lives again. This is a great comfort. Each gathering will be that much sweeter because we will revel in the privilege of spending time together. By staying apart and safe for now, we will be blessed with much more time together. I guess one way to look at the past year’s isolation is that it is an investment in our future. We will be able to have a future and I can’t imagine a time ever again when I will not be grateful to spend time with family and friends.
Other days I am able to appreciate being at home with my dogs. Being free to spend time hiking and communing in nature. Being immersed in the environment, watching birds fly overhead, while walking beside the water is a good thing. Hearing the lap of the waves and the call of the birds is soul soothing. There are so many sounds, if we only listen. The wind blows through the dry leaves creating a pleasant rustle. The earth has it’s own sounds.
When I get back home, I am ready for a cup of tea and the warmth of the fire. The dogs are content to nap. I pass some time with a book and become immersed in another world for a bit. Then on to something a little more active. I bake several times a week. We are spoiled having homemade baked goods on hand at all times. I may write. And the routine of household cleaning and laundry is ever present.
It is amazing how these simple things, and a few others, expand to fill an entire day. I don’t know how I ever had time to work. I know the thing I missed out on the most while working a full time job was sleep. A good night’s sleep then was 7 hours. Usually I got only six. Now I sleep for the time that I choose, it is usually 8 to 8 1/2 hours of shut eye. The big difference is that I rarely nap and I don’t fall asleep while watching television at 9 o’clock each evening. Something that I was infamous for doing!
No matter how the days pass, pass they do. It is our job to take advantage of the time we are given. To live, to experience life. To appreciate the things that we encounter. To live a life that you are proud of. And it is never too late to begin.
Looks like Baxter is telling Shelby “Hey, did you hear? Dogs must be licensed! This must mean we’re smart, huh?”
The deadline for purchasing your dog license for the year is January 31. The fee is set by the Commissioners of each county. The fee in my county is $15.00 per dog. If you do not purchase by that date, the fee is doubled, unless you just got a new dog or puppy
I am a certified evaluator for a therapy dog organization. As part of testing, I am required to ask to see proof of a Dog License. It is the law to have your dog licensed and of course no group wants to certify a dog that does not meet law requirements.
I thought knowledge of Dog Licenses was a common thing. Apparently I was wrong. On at least three separate occasions, I have asked…