Thursday, August 28, 2008

Anxiously Awaiting News

Although it wasn’t quite so cold the last two nights the sky has been overcast or nearly so the past 2 days, so it feels chilly.

When I go out to feed, all of the puppies rush the gate, making it difficult to get all the puppies plus their food plus me inside at the same time. To help solve the problem I made a barrier across the entrance to the pen, about 16” tall. It won’t last forever, as these guys are getting some serious legs underneath them (courtesy of Lucky) but it will help keep them under control for a while. Kyle says that Lucky always throws rangy pups, and in fact that is something we wanted from this breeding.

Lucky has had a swollen lump over her right hock for a while, and it hasn’t been resolving on its own. Yesterday I was finally able to get her in to see our Vet, Dr. Jeanne Olson. Dr. O is the only holistic veterinarian I know of in our region. Although she doesn’t have a lot of the fancy diagnostic equipment of larger clinics her clinical skills are excellent. She also has many years of experience treating working dogs and has been a key researcher in some sled-dog related issues that have plagued dog mushers for a long time. I have a lot of faith in her and am hesitant to take the dogs to anyone else. The problem is that there is only one of her, and a whole of lot of us who rely on her. Getting an appointment can be tough because she has a full dance card. Still, it’s usually worth the wait.

I’m afraid that Lucky and I put Dr. O into a bit of a quandary yesterday. The issue is an approximately golf-ball size fluid-filled lump over her right hock. She does not have an elevated temperature, the lump is not tender and she is not lame. In fact, she acts like it doesn’t bother her in any way at all. These indicate that there is probably not an infection such as a bacterial cyst or n abscess, but they don’t provide much information to indicate what it is.

Because the lump is directly over the joint, Jeanne is concerned that it could be some form of synovial cyst similar to a Baker’s cyst in humans.

Because Lucky is a healthy working dog and still nursing puppies Jeanne doesn’t want to take any chances. If she were to needle it to aspirate fluid there is a risk of introducing bacteria into the joint that could result in a nasty and very difficult to treat infection and / or cause damage to the underlying joint that could lame her forever. In the case of a synovial cyst, Simply aspirating it (draining the fluid) would not resolve the underlying problem.

Jeanne will get back to me with a recommended course of action as soon as she can talk to Dr. Stuve. It may be as simple as “keep an eye on it” or may require some diagnostic testing or even a potential need for surgical correction.

I’ve been on the phone with Lucky’s owner (Kyle Belleque, owner of Nushagak Kennels in Dillingham). Kyle is a really good dog man who relies on his team for many of the subsistence activities that are a part of daily life out in the bush. Kyle uses his freighting team for hauling firewood, running his trapline, hunting and all the other transportation chores that are a part of Alaskan bush life, so the health of his team is of vital imporance. Kyle and I discussed Lucky’s situation pretty thoroughly. Among the considerations is lack of veterinary care at home. Dillingham does not have vet residing in the community though they have a great Doc who flies in fairly regularly. Consequently we need to deal with this issue here if at all possible.

We also have to consider Kyle’s plans for running Lucky in the future, as it can have an impact on any decisions we have to make regarding her care. Kyle wants her on his main working team this winter, after which she’ll most likely be going into semi-retirement, taking on the job of teaching new dogs and new mushers the secrets of our craft. Of course until we hear back from the doctors we can’t know how this situation will affect Kyle’s plans for her.

So, I’m in a situation where all I can do is wait to hear back from Dr. Olson so we can plan an appropriate response to the issue. Being essentially a man of action, I find the inaction of waiting to be the worse part. Once we have more information and can actually do something about it my brain will settle down nicely, but in the meantime I tend to fret and worry the situation and sometimes, like last night, loose sleep over it.

So, I find myself at the keyboard at 5 o’clock in the morning sharing my angst with you (sigh).

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