Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My little athlete

I used to be fat.

Harsh, I know. But it's true. I tipped the scales at 200 lbs. To put it into perspective, I'm 5'4". The quarterback for my favourite football team is 6' and weighs 210lbs.

I definitely used to be fat.

Over the years, I've shed 60lbs, primarily by eating better and adopting a more active lifestyle. And with this lifestyle has come a veritable bevy of injuries. Let's see... There have been 3 groin pulls, 1 from sprinting and 2 from dead-lifting (I didn't even know that girls had a groin until I pulled it and required extensive - and painful - physiotherapy to recover). There was one nasty bout of tennis elbow, even though I have never held a tennis racket in my life. I've sprained both my peroneal tendon and my Achilles tendon from running on overly tight calves. I've sprained by ankle by tripping on an ice-filled pot hole while running in the dark. And most recently, I tore my TFL muscle in my hip, an injury sustained in some mysterious fashion that neither myself nor my sports doctor can decipher.

This is what happens when you get your ass off of the couch and you get a little physical. Yep. The life of an athlete - even a not-so-great amateur one like me - is fraught with injury. (It is also an expensive lifestyle once insurance coverage for physiotherapy, massage therapy, and chiropractic run out...)

I had never really thought about the potential toll that an active lifestyle could take on a dog. That is I hadn't really thought about this until recently, when my husband called me, while I am out West visiting with my family, to tell me that he and the Beast were in a little accident and had to pay an unexpected visit to the vet.

The Beast met our vet for the first time in June, shortly after he came to live with us. Hubby and I wanted to be sure that he was in good shape from head to toe. We also wanted some of our most pressing questions answered - the ones that we couldn't figure out on Google. Questions like, "Should I be stopping him from eating sticks and leaves?" or "Is it weird that he obsessively tracks and tries to eat insects?" (Answers. Chewing on sticks is perfectly normal dog behaviour, but eating them is not such a good idea because he may lodge a twig in his throat, which would require a 600$ surgery. Tracking insects - yep, that's just weird, and likely a demonstration of some kind of obsessive compulsive behaviour that we may want to have checked with a dog behaviourist...)

Obsessive compulsive behaviours aside, the Beast passed his physical examination with flying colours. Then the vet asked us what we knew about his breed. She wanted to make sure that we understood that Aussies and border collies are not lounge-around kind of dogs, and that they will need a lot of exercise in order to be fulfilled. "Not to worry," I told her. "I'm a runner, and the Beast and I are already running together almost every day." (Although at this point he was still dragging me so we were really just running back and forth down the same street together). Then I listed off all of the other activities that we would do with him: we had plans to teach him to run alongside our bikes, AND to put him in an agility course, AND to take him to a herding farm, AND to take him hiking with us, AND to roller blade with him, AND to take him swimming, AND AND AND....

The vet looked pleased. "Your dog is an athlete," she said, "and it sounds to me like he ended up with the right people."

I swelled with pride when I heard those words "your dog is an athlete." He might be pushy, bossy, obsessive compulsive, and slightly neurotic, but he is an ATHLETE. Right then and there I swore - in the same way that soccer moms and hockey moms across this great country of ours do - that I would do everything in my power to nurture the Beast's athletic prowess so that he would be the fastest, most agile dog in the dog park. Even if he was the worst behaved...

And nurture our little athlete we do. He gets at least 2 hours of physical activity every single day. (Someone should remind me of this in the dead of winter...) Aside from our three-times-a-week runs, we've indeed taught him to run alongside our bikes, an activity that he dreaded at first but that he lives for now. We take him swimming. We play agility games with him in the dog park. And we go for nice long walks with him through our neighbourhood. He gets so much exercise that I've lost another 5lbs since adopting him (which is great because I can now justify having ice cream every single day)!

Which brings us to his recent and unexpected visit to the vet, a visit we had honestly hoped we could postpone until next year's check-up....

Being 2,500 km away at present time, I am fuzzy on the details and can only go by what my husband told me over a hurried cell phone conversation. But my understanding is this. Hubby and the Beast were off for their early morning bike ride together. They had to pull out and pass a pedestrian and his dog. This other dog, for reasons unknown, decided that he did not like the Beast, and lunged at him. The Beast leaped a few feet into the air, and rather than moving AWAY from hubby's bike, dove straight into the rear wheel where he got tangled up. Thankfully, hubby was able to maintain control of the bike, because it could have been a lot worse had he and the bike fallen on top of the Beast. He pulled over and immediately examined the panting Beast, who showed absolutely no signs of having just been run over by the rear wheel of a bike. In fact, like any self-respecting athlete, the Beast seemed impatient to keep going. In his wisdom, hubby cut the bike ride short, brought the Beast home, and conducted a second examination, which again revealed nothing. So off to work he went.

It wasn't until hubby came home from work that the true nature of the Beast's injury came to light. Having spent the day doing what animals do - that is lick, bite at, and "clean" the sore spot - hubby came home to what appeared to be a fresh and very raw wound which until that point had been camouflaged by fur. He immediately brought the Beast to the vet. No stitches required, but a round of antibiotics was administered, and the Beast was instructed not to run for 2 weeks. To make matters worse, he must wear the cone of shame for 7-10 days while his wound heals. Hubby was also warned that, because he is an athlete, the Beast may become anxious and upset if he can not run, so the vet gave him a prescription for sedatives.

(Sedatives? Really? For a dog? I'm not sure I can bring myself to dope up my dog...)

Now whenever I get injured and get told that I can't do something for an extended period of time, I throw myself a little pity party and mope around. I also eat a lot of chocolate. Then I disregard medical advice and go and do that something I'm not supposed to anyway, which usually only results in a longer recovery time and a more injured me. This, of course, only prolongs the moping, the self-pity, and the chocolate eating. But at least I don't have to wear the cone of shame.

So I'm imagining the Beast lying on his dog bed, looking up at hubby with those beautiful (and now sad) brown eyes as if to say, "Why do you hate me so much? Why won't you take me out for a bike ride? I can run! I swear I can! I'll show you if you just take me to the park to play fetch and chase other dogs! And why are you making me wear this stupid freaking cone?"

I'll find out tonight when I get home from my trip the exact extent of the Beast's disillusion. I'll lay with him on the floor and let him know that I understand what he is going through. I might even give him an extra bison bone to make him feel better.

And when the time comes to take off that cone and get back out there, I will spend an entire day doing all of his favourite athletic things with him.

Get better soon, Beasty!