There are things that happen out on the trail that make me feel especially slow. Once, while I was running, a man caught up and passed me. He wasn’t running, he was hiking. But he had really long legs. So, not a big deal, right? Except for the Yorkshire Terrier trotting along with him. With the usual Yorkie size short legs. As they passed, the Yorkie gave me a really superior, snobby look. Not cool
Or the time I startled a quail and it ran away in fear. And kept running, pulling away, running away down the trail on its two-inch long legs. Pretty much lost me. Also, not cool.
Then there’s The Ivy Dog.
The Ivy Dog, as you have learned (The Ivy Dog) is a trail running machine. She has perfect conformation for trail running, with all-wheel-drive, traction control and the finest brakes money can buy. She also has perfect trail etiquette. She politely greets fellow trail runners and, unlike her buddy Clayton the Malador, she never bumps you when she passes. The only thing she does on the trail that is slightly rude is when she stops uptrail and waits. She isn’t trying to be rude, but the look on her face is like, “my gaaawwwd can’t you go any faster? I don’t have all day here!”
About six months ago, Ivy got a red spot on her eye. At first it looked like an injury, like maybe she caught a branch in the eye or something like that. It was off on the side, on the white part, and most of the time you couldn’t see it at all until she turned her head just right.
The Ivy Dog actually belongs to my non-running daughter N, who relies on the rest of the family to keep Ivy sane by taking her trail running. When the red spot didn’t go away after a few weeks, N took Ivy to the vet. N started treating her with eyedrops morning and night. The Ivy Dog, as I mentioned in the previous post, is ridiculously smart. Even though the drops were unpleasant, she began whining at a certain time of evening if N hadn’t given her the drops yet. Us humans need a lot of reminding. It’s not easy being in charge of us.
I won’t give you all the details, but suffice it to say that the drops cleared an underlying problem that they had identified, but did nothing for the red spot. In fact, it began to grow rapidly, spreading across her eye and getting in the way of her eyelid.
The concerns turned rapidly to cancer and whether it may have metastasized to other parts of her body. This, in turn, led to sleepless nights (for us, Ivy was very brave) lots of vet fees, and some hard decisions. It also led to a couple of sad trail runs. We didn’t know when, or if, Ivy would join us on the trail again. Each run leading up to her surgery could be the last. Did she know? I couldn’t tell. She ran and played like it was her last. But she always does.
A few days before Ivy lost her eye, an ultrasound of her abdomen came back clean. The other area of concern was her lungs. The lung x-ray had a couple of spots that might be a problem, or might not. We wouldn’t know if we should worry until they biopsied the tumor on her eye.
We have a wonderful vet. A couple of them, actually. They told us to YouTube videos of one-eyed dogs so we wouldn’t be shocked by how she looked. We did. It’s not an easy thing to see, but at this point, we wanted the tumor to be gone, and Ivy to be okay. That’s all. We knew she was beautiful and always would be. We also knew that if any dog would be just fine with one eye, it would be The Ivy Dog. (Clayton the Malador is a doofus, he would run into everything!)
We picked her up in the evening. She was very high on drugs. I walked her into the parking lot and she stopped, staring at some buildings across from the vet’s office. She stood there for a few minutes, moving her head just slightly. So this is how things look now. Okay. Then she walked purposefully to the car.
Two weeks confined to a carrier is like two years in a prison cell for a dog like Ivy. Two weeks in a cone AND confined to a carrier is worse than anything that’s ever happened to anybody. It was very snowy during that time. She is very modest and won’t do her business if you’re watching, so we let her off leash in the backyard. As soon as the leash was off, she ran like a jackrabbit. We chased her and she ran, using her cone as a snow shovel, joyfully throwing snow over her head as she ran from the pitiful two-legs.
So we knew she would be fine.
She didn’t know she was supposed to be convalescing. She thought we were ridiculous, trying to make her walk down stairs (instead of fly), trying to make her drink, trying to make her eat. I get it. If you were to say to me, “Hey, thetrailsnail.com (that’s what my friends and family call me) you need to drink this water, and eat this bowl of damp kibble. Eat it all. Good girl!” I would also roll my eyes at you, or eye, if I happened to have only one.
She was angry at Clayton the Malador. She assumes everything is his fault. But she stepped her chicken herding up a notch, deciding, for instance, that they really needed to be herded into a particular area and kept there for a certain amount of time. This led to some conversations like this:
“Is Ivy eating the chickens? They sound like they’re being attacked,” my husband calmly asks. I look out the window, “No, they’re in the corner of the garden by the composter. She’ll let them go at the appropriate time.”
Two weeks after surgery, we went back to the vet. The biopsy had come back, the tumor was benign. She was finally okayed to get rid of the cone, but a slight infection was going to keep her off the trail for another week.
As we were leaving, Ivy walked up to say hi to a man sitting in the waiting room. He was a tattooed biker dude, a tough-looking guy. He reached to pet her, then recoiled when he saw her missing eye. She dropped her head and walked away.
I would like to say that this exchange didn’t make me cry, but I can’t. My heart kind of broke for her right then.
We waited out the week. Then my daughter J and I took her out to her favorite trail. We kept her pace slow (i.e., at our pace) and kept her on leash for about a mile. When it was clear that we had the canyon to ourselves, we let her off. She didn’t miss a beat. She went right back to her steady, ground-eating pace and took the lead. She stayed to the trail more than usual, with just slight meanderings, but she seemed to be even faster than before! We had to keep reminding her that we were slow, pathetic two-legs. At one point, after being made to feel like exceptionally sluggish little slow worms, we taunted her, saying that maybe she had twice as many legs as us, but we had twice as many eyes! Too soon? Sorry. Ivy thought it was funny.
So The Ivy Dog is back. She seems to have lost absolutely nothing, and to have gained even more joy on the trail after being confined. We’ve all been there, right?
It’s a strange journey, when the worst thing you can imagine isn’t really the worst thing. It’s a horrible truth in life, that there are always worse things. Losing an eye is an awful thing, but if you could ask Ivy, I think she would tell you it’s no big deal. Not running; not smelling squirrels and voles and deer; not ridiculing slow humans? That’s what’s really hard.
So if you see her out on the trail, sporting her pink collar and single eye, please accept her greeting. Give her a head nod. Tell her she’s pretty. Don’t recoil. Don’t say “ewww”.
Remember, she’s part of the trail running community. Just like you.