Sunday 2-3-13 Priorities

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This morning when I woke up, I knew pretty quickly that it was the right thing to do for my dog team to not ask them to continue today.  I am not a professional dog racer… I am a caretaker first to these furry kids, and am called to do what’s best for them before I do what I want to do at their expense.  I knew they had not had their usual fun the last two runs and didn’t want this weekend to end on that note, so I decided to take them out for a short, fun run, going as far as they told me they wanted to go (by watching them in harness) and call it good.  I also hoped to find Dr. Shawn to assess Tozi after a run, in hopes of finding out what was going on with him.  It would be devastating to find that he isn’t able to run on the team, but more importantly it would be devastating for him to be in pain.  Shawn had diagnosed a subtle, chronic injury on Yuki several years ago when he had a partially torn wrist ligament by having me take him out for a run and check him immediately after.  I knew this would be the best shot I had of getting a diagnosis from him, and if she could actually see him run, that may provide the key clue to what was going on with him.

I had been thinking more about his movements that I had watched on the trail and started to think it wasn’t a front leg issue, but seemed to make sense that it was related to his back somehow, possibly at his shoulder girdle region.  I had felt a bit of warmth from that area when I checked him this morning, and believed it had something to do with his core somehow.  That would explain why I couldn’t detect a consistent side that seemed to illicit a limp when he stepped on it.  I try and learn as much as I can about dog care to help during all the times there aren’t Vets available to me, and it is one of my favorite parts of mushing.  However, it’s one thing to learn something and another thing to apply it.  I’m feeling like my ability to problem solve and assist with a diagnosis is improving, but there’s much more to caring for dogs than knowing what’s wrong with them.  You still have to carry out the treatment or preventive care  in a consistent and timely fashion… I fall far behind in this area.  I learned the importance of monthly whole body checks with Yuki’s cancer, but I’m still not carrying that out as I should.  There’s always room for improvement.

So we watched the other race teams head out on the trail, happy that we weren’t rushed this morning and could relax and do what was comfortable for us today.  After everyone was out, we headed out the race trail with Bill’s permission, and even had a mock countdown from the race chute boss for more training for the team.  I was thrilled to be passed by a couple of snow machines and see absolutely no reaction from Tozi.  He was just fine after yesterday’s “adventure”.  We came upon Dr. Shawn who was on the trail (as we had planned earlier) and she quickly detected what seemed to be muscle soreness (by feeling him flinch) along his right side, just down from his spine.  It was right along where the “hinge” between his thoracic and lumbar regions is located, which explained some of the rocking horse motion I had seen when he loped, as if he was trying to keep that area from moving.  In fact sore back muscles made sense of all the observations I had made.  I love it when something makes sense like that!   I was so thankful it didn’t seem to be a serious or structural injury, just a soft tissue one.   Being a wheel dog (the dogs that run right in front of the sled and do a lot of the turning of the sled), there is a lot of stress that goes into their backs, so this is always something to stay on top of.  I was so thankful for both Dr. Shawn and Dr. Margaret who was there also, and their wonderful time spent with “my man”.  They were able to do this since all the other teams were still out on the trail, so our timing had been perfect.  Tozi got a wonderful exam and a thorough chiropractic adjustment (Margaret found his atlases were rotated, which made even more sense after my observation of him shaking his head while running yesterday morning) and a great massage, and I got some awesome teaching about how to better care for him.  After getting Tozi’s diagnosis, I was even more thankful that I hadn’t tried to run him the day before, because just a short run this morning was obviously uncomfortable for him.  I stopped the team at one point and looked back at him and he was just standing there with his eyes closed.  Bless his heart.  He would have kept running, but he was certainly in some pain.  Nope, my dogs are not here primarily for my entertainment… I am here primarily to care for and love them.  That is the bottom line that I’ve reached after “racing” for two weekends in a row.   One other musher (Jane, who won the Sporting Class with her amazing Siberian team) gave me great words of wisdom and encouragement when I told her we scratched.  She said that my team is more than just a group of dogs who run, but it’s an equally important goal for them to all get along and be happy in the house with each other.  That IS my most important goal, and she said it perfectly.  My highest priority is not to win races or even have the best runs we can have in them, but for my dogs to be HAPPY and know they are LOVED and be able to TRUST ME to do the best things for them.  I could certainly purchase a driven leader with generations of “driven dog genes” behind them to elevate my team to the next level (and someday I may go that route), but for now I’m just THRILLED that I have been gifted with this SPECIAL TEAM, most of which had very rough beginnings in life and DESERVE to be SPOILED and LOVED and CARED FOR in the best way that I can. 

Yes, I am feeling very disappointed in the outcome of this race (having to drop two dogs and scratch from the race) and I pray I never have to go through something like that again, but I know it happened exactly the way it did for God’s purpose.  It has all worked together with all the myriads of other experiences I’ve had this season (and throughout my whole life) to teach me things about myself, my Lord, and His Grace and Love that I couldn’t have learned otherwise… and for that, I am EXCEEDINGLY THANKFUL FOR THIS RACE, including its outcome…

When we pulled off the ferry back at home on Sunday night, another very appropriate song was playing, one I first heard during Laura Daugereau’s rookie Iditarod presentation, “I Hope You Dance”, by Lee Ann Womack.  It brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it, thinking back to the stories and emotions Laura shared that initially pulled me into this sport, and this night was no different.   I now had my own trail memories and special times with my own team, and couldn’t be more thankful or more proud of them.   I looked over at Tozi, who was up front in the cab with me and told him outloud, “We Danced, Buddy!”

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’
Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’
Don’t let some Hellbent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance …

 

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