Rob's Blog Archive

September 28, 2014

Late Night Walks with Vixen










In a week, Vixen will be fourteen years and nine months old.  Like mothers of newborns, I’m starting to track Vix’s age by months.  With each month being about five of ours, and her equivalent age being over eighty-five, I don’t take any month for granted.  

She’s clearly lost some strength and some coordination, but her movement remains great.  There’s no way she can keep up, even with the B team, and so on days when I’m running the other dogs, we go for walks.  My dogs have had various opinions of these, but Vixen enjoys them.  Moreover, for at least the first half to three quarters of a mile, she’s pulling pretty hard. 

Me, I always enjoy walking in the evening.  I’ll settle for any weather, but I prefer cooler temperatures.  It is the end of September.  It won’t be long before the temperature drops below 20 F during the majority of nights. 

And so, we go for our walks.  Every walk starts by traversing my driveway, a quarter mile of dirt that climbs forty-five feet, including thirty during the last fifty yards.  

On the street, Boy Scout Road, I have three choices.  I can walk northeast to the Clearwater River.  That’s nearly a mile in each direction and Vix is having trouble with that distance.  Still, I can get to several open pastures well before this and turn around.  There have been a couple of clear nights that I’ve stopped and, perhaps for the last time this season, taken in the double band of the Milky Way. 

I can also wander south along Boy Scout.  Both directions have a few houses, my neighbors, but the houses are a little more densely “stacked” to the south, probably on 2.5 to 5 acre lots rather than tens and twenties.  Still, it’s pleasant and it’s not a very long way to get to open areas. 

Finally, I can walk along Fawn Creek Road.  It’s dirt through forest and has no open spots.  There are also no houses.  There’s a gravel pit, but it’s off the road a bit and hidden by the forest.  In fact, the forest along this road or the adjacent path is what makes it interesting. 

When I had Dawn and Tenaya and I walked them for exercise, I went in all three directions.  By the time Tenaya died, cancer had started affecting Dawn’s walking.  Still, at least during that last fall with Dawnie, we could go almost as far as Vix and I are going. 

Beyond the cancer, Dawn’s dementia was bad enough that I was simply a care giver that she more or less recognized.  The one thing that made Dawn’s life worthwhile, and it was on the bubble, was her love of food and eating.  Simple pleasures are often adequate for dogs.  That was true for Dawnie, and her love of food never diminished.  Up until the end, her attitude about life was, “If you really believe in it, everything is edible.” 

Happily, I haven’t had to deal with any real dementia in the rest of my pack.  Vixen had shown some signs if it, but, knock on wood, they haven’t worsened.  That’s a good thing.  My experience has been that if dogs are with it mentally, it’s easy to tell whether they’re happy or not.  Just like people, though, determining for dogs when quality of life has gone to hell after their thought processes have been corrupted is exponentially more difficult. It was a daily conundrum with Dawn.

Not only was Vixen among the six dogs on my first real racing team, she was my first consistent leader.  Fondue was sold to me as an incomplete leader, but Vix actually liked leading better.  By mid-season of that year, my runs had Vixen in lead and Jake and Fondue alternating as partners.  The next year, Mink was my main leader and Vix and Jake were the pair who alternated.

I’m lucky.  Of the six on that first team, I have four.  Still, as old as Vixen is, I could wake up one morning and find that she passed away overnight.  And with this as a real possibility, I do wander over to Vixen more than other dogs to give her a few extra scratches.  And, we do go for our late night walks.

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