Hiking at Garland Ranch Regional Park

Ace and I went hiking with three friends yesterday. The weather was incredibly dry and in the mid-70s, the hike was spectacularly steep, and we drove almost two hours to get there. Despite all this, Ace proved herself to be the fittest hiker of us all. I was truly proud to watch her running circles around us in the heat, smush face be damned.

And run circles she did, thanks to the rules of Garland Ranch Regional Park. Unlike almost anywhere I’ve hiked (the exception being Fort Funston, actually), dogs are allowed unleashed on all the trails, and the trails range in difficulty level. Often, off-leash trails are fire roads or short, flat loops, but we climbed the most challenging hike, described here (scroll to number five), with Ace bounding around us when I gained the confidence to let her roam.

The park was exceptionally well-maintained, with good signage, water fountains periodically on the trails, and a nice visitor’s center, with no entrance fee to boot. If you’re lucky enough to be in driving distance to the Carmel Valley, and especially if you have a dog, this park is a real treat.

I was really grateful for the chance to go hiking with Ace on such a beautiful day, especially because the day prior brought us some more bad news about Ace’s health. A few days ago I discovered what looked like a broken tooth in Ace’s mouth, and we went to our usual vet, the SPCA Veterinary Hospital, to have it checked out. It made me sad to think she’d been quietly suffering with a broken tooth. I’m a pretty guilty mama, I must say.
Well, the vet came in, glanced at her mouth, and proceeded to tell Jefe and I that the tooth had simply not descended, and explained to us the science behind all that. I just accepted that I’d made a dumb mistake and listened quietly. After he left, I turned to Jefe and we both said that something didn’t add up. I’m glad Jefe encouraged me to go against my urge not to bother the vet, because when I asked him to check her mouth again, lo and behold he discovered the broken tooth was in fact a broken tooth. I guess he’d looked in a different part of her mouth the first time, or else had forgotten to actually open his eyes and examine her.
We were furious, but it is a good lesson to trust your instincts with your and your dog’s bodies. By speaking up, the worst that could happen is you aggravate your doctor. But by trying to be polite, the result could be much more painful or dangerous.
Ace is scheduled for surgery to evaluate and likely remove the tooth on February 4. We’ll be a bit shy of the one-year anniversary of her double knee surgery, but at least this procedure SHOULD be covered by her health insurance. While I’m more upset that she has to go through another round of anesthesia and post-op pain, the cost sure hurts as well.
It’s a good thing she’s so damned cute.

Lil Jankyfoot

Ace had her bandage removed last Friday, and her foot looks like it’s healing well. However, the vet advised us to prohibit off-leash play this week to give it more time to heal well. It’s remarkable how much energy Ace has without daily hardcore exercise. We get a lot of faces like this:

Today she was so hyper when I got home that instead of walking her I just chased her around our 10′ x 10′ “yard” until she was panting. Poor girl.

Flipper the Lemon

I realized I hadn’t written a post in awhile about Ace getting injured, so we paid a visit to the vet today. Actually, I never wrote about Ace’s penultimate injury because we were doing final prep for Burning Man when Ace tore her self a new asshole. Yes, that’s right — the Tuesday before we left for Burning Man, the day were were supposed to bring all of our belongings to a friend’s house so that we could pack the truck the next day, we got a very calm text from Miss Rachel stating that Ace had a minor injury to her anus. The first thing I thought when I saw the blood and the piece of her butt hanging by a thread was: “How the hell am I going to keep that from getting infected?” Off to the emergency vet we went for some antibiotics. The best part was that Ace never seemed to notice that she had a tear in her asshole. We didn’t even have to break out our Cone of Shame.

What is wrong with this picture? 
So it’s been a few weeks without an incident, which for Ace is a long time. Earlier this week, she tore her paw pad while playing with the Zipdogs. I tried to keep it clean and dry, but the wound included several flaps of paw pad skin that I couldn’t clean underneath. I finally broke down this morning and took her to the vet, where they found some sand in there (ouch) when they cleaned the wound.

I really appreciate the incredible sense of humor of the vet or vet tech who bandaged her paw. You can’t really see it in this picture, but the orange tape has the word “BOO!” meticulously cut from vet tape and emblazoned across the side. I have so many questions: How many colors do they have back there? Who gets to decide what color is used? Can patients make a special request?

Chillin with Flipper 
Leaving the vet, we were accosted by our usual swarm of Ace-lovers, which always increases in number when we are at the vet because such a place attracts animal lovers. Today, her fans were more numerous and enthusiastic than ever, because nothing is cuter than an adorable animal with a deformity. I have taken to calling her Flipper because of how she walks with the bandage on. Also, we were given some kind of IV bag to tie over her bandage when she is outside to keep it dry, so she looks even more like a part-dog, part-sea creature deranged mutant when she walks while wearing the bag.

Ain't no lemon 
No Fort Funston this week, little guy. I’m going to keep trying to save you from yourself, but yes, I am going to make fun of your flipper leg. Even though a receptionist referred to you as a “lemon” for always being broken and busted up, you’re MY lemon, and you’re pretty damn sweet.

Ace received some good news from her surgeon today — her knees continue to heal splendidly. He recommended we increase Ace’s physical activity gradually over the next month to prepare her for her return to Fort Funston and the ZipDogs. I am disappointed that she can’t return immediately to her old routine. But I also appreciate that she has recovered — is still recovering — from major surgery. I am putting together a conditioning schedule à la Rocky IV, beginning today with ten minutes of off-leash Boston explosion at the rec center’s dog run. Ace chased a four-month-old puppy in huge circles until they were both dizzy and covered in slobber-caked mud. Watching all four meaty legs gallop in unison was a beautiful sight indeed.

Ace Comes Home

Ace is home and I can finally breathe again. We laid her in a blanket and I fed her kibble by hand, and then sang to her while we shared a banana. She is sleeping next to me on the couch and is slipping into a dream.

Ace’s body is so different. I did not expect the shaved square on her lower back, but then recalled she’d had an epidural. I found her surgical wounds to be pretty brutal; they are much larger than mine, and my knee is the size of her head! What a crazy ordeal. What a brave little girl.