Good news, sports fans!

Titus had his appointment with the surgeon after that last post and was not diagnosed with a CCL tear after all. The knee actually looked great on X-ray and under sedated manipulation. (His hips also X-rayed well, which wasn’t a current point of concern but is nice to know for the future.)

What didn’t look so great was his reaction to the iliopsis stretch on his right (affected) leg only. Iliopsis strain is the diagnosis with which we walked away. Can’t conclusively say that the CCL is perfect, but with signs pointing elsewhere, I’m giving myself permission to not worry any more about the ligament unless he becomes much lamer again. We’re still looking at a long, tedious rehab with the iliopsis. We’re not looking at surgery, though, which means I’m not worrying about whether he’ll chew out his sutures when I’m not looking or do something stupid before the bone is sufficiently healed. That’s a huge weight off my shoulders.

What does this mean for us functionally? Titus won’t be hiking mountains any time soon, but he’s allowed to go on good-terrain leash walks “to tolerance.” So I’ve started carrying him up the short steep hill to the rail trail and we’ve resumed ambling down it for gradually increasing distance and time. We have plans to do a little car camping in two weeks (which can actually happen, because no fresh sutures!) and I’m hopeful that he’ll be ready to navigate some flat, easy trails by then. We’re continuing to work on our handling skills and on a forefoot and a hindfoot target. He also has an appointment with a rehab vet in two weeks (and a recheck with the surgeon the week after that). We have the technology! We can rebuild him…faster and stronger!

He’s thrilled to be out again, seeing and sniffing new things, and has been a pretty great sport about taking it easy. That in turn makes it easier for me to trust him and thus take him out and about to do rehab-friendly activities. (He’s going to a polo game on Sunday – wish us luck!) Having a muscle-strain diagnosis is much better for my brain than picturing the ligament shredding away with every step he takes. I know this isn’t rational, but it’s true. So all in all, I’m about as happy with the prospect of an extended recovery as I could possibly be.

Lilo is also getting an adventure this weekend. I’m heading up Mt. Washington on Saturday with a crew for the Hike for Mental Health. I didn’t get my act together enough to fundraise, but our group is here; please consider throwing a few bucks their way if this is a cause as close to your heart as it is to mine. We’re getting an early enough start to beat the heat on the ascent, so Lilo will be tagging along. Unless the forecast shifts, that is. Pit bulls melt in the rain. I’m feeling a little anxious about the possibility that she’s still having some summer weirds and may refuse to go down trail. But an easy-paced group including some other dogs is a good set-up for success, the crew has assured me they won’t think less of us if she doesn’t wanna, and I can always drive up and meet them on top if need be. It’s not my favorite approach to a mountain, but in this situation, I’m grateful to have the option.

I’ll tell y’all how it went next week and also share Titus’s Wisdom Panel results. Have a good weekend!

Holding Pattern

So both of my dogs are out of commission right now.

Just over a month ago(!), we hiked the hike that I’ve been meaning to right the next blog post about and the one that I’ll go ahead and sprinkle this post full of pictures from. The plan on that day was to hike Jackson. Then the forecast shifted and shifted again and in the end, was for rain.That’s not good sign for a ledgey summit. I came up with a backup plan, then a backup plan for my backup plan, but I just wasn’t feeling jazzed about the destination when I threw the dogs in the car and headed north.

Then I started seeing glimpses of blue sky through the clouds in Franconia Notch.

I gambled: we pulled into the Cannon tramway lot and headed up Greenleaf trail.

Eagle Pass.

I’ve been wanting to revisit Greenleaf for a while. Doubly so since our turnback due to ice in the spring. It had been hot all week. The forecast was dire. I figured we’d get to the hut, maybe to treeline, and it would be too wet or muggy or windy or hot and we’d turn back again.

But we didn’t. Everything just kept right on being perfect, even as we cleared treeline, even as we hiked up into the bank of clouds that hit the summit of Lafayette. And somewhere along the way I remembered the possibility of descent via Garfield Ridge over North Lafayette down to Skookumchuck trail, which would tack nearly three miles onto our day (we’d have to walk the bike path back to our car) but was supposed to be a gorgeous, lightly-used route with excellent (read: pit bull-friendly footing).

I had plenty of dog left when we hit Lafayette. So we continued on.

Hiking the ridge towards North Lafayette.
Peering down below the cloudbank into the bowl of the Pemi Wilderness.

Skook was everything I’d hoped: lush and ferny and wonderfully good going. Little Titus did start to tire on the descent. I’d been thinking of this, with the bike path, as an 11.7-mile day, but failed to factor in that he’s mostly getting to drag a long line now, which means he does a fair bit of frolicking, which means that for him, it was probably closer to 15+ miles. He communicated beautifully, though, and twice took himself quietly off-trail and made a nest and put himself in it to rest while Lilo and I settled in to wait. When he was ready, we continued on.

Nesting and watching Lilo catch flies.

I was so, so proud of both dogs (and of myself, for being flexible and finding a truly magnificent hike in such an unpromising day). They were attentive, agreeable, and engaged all day long (and actually, the day prior when we did the Welch-Dickey loop, too). Both took good care of themselves and they were just a joy to hike with. It was one of the very finest days I’ve ever had on trail.

Titus’s #3 and Lilo’s #14.

Happy to see cool grass along the bike path!

The following weekend, we set out with Paws on Peaks for an easy jaunt to Lowe’s Bald Spot. Everyone in the world was at Pinkham Notch that day, but once we turned off the routes to Washington, we had the trails nearly to ourselves.

Across the Auto Road and back into the woods.

It was a joyride of a hike: four miles and change, never overly difficult, a few minor scrambles, and cool views of the Presidential range from the Bald Spot itself.

Mt Adams & Co.
Pointy dog convention at the Bald Spot.
Soon, little dog. Soon, all this will be yours. I hope.

I swear that Lilo was on this hike, too. (She loved it.) She was just mostly glued to my side and not posing for pictures.

On the last mile out of our easiest hike in weeks, Titus started to limp. Consistently, but not seriously. I carried him a bit. Couldn’t figure out the cause. But we made it out in good order and I rested him that night and the next day. He looked fine again. Great!

Then he pounced on Lilo and came up three-legged.

And I’ve spent the last three weeks hoping he didn’t tear his CCL.

Our local vet saw him very shortly after the injury and was thinking muscle pull. He actually looks pretty sound just walking, but continued (and continues) to go intermittently non-weight-bearing on the right hind and you can see him offload the leg while standing. The vet didn’t feel any swelling or laxity in the knee on physical exam, but he was wiggly and tense and we opted not to sedate for X-rays or diagnostic manipulation at that point. When he wasn’t all better after a week of rest and NSAIDs, though, it seemed like time to get him in front of a specialist for a workup — and that’s where we are now.

I have really high standards for lameness evaluations (thanks, horses!); everyone I wanted to have see him was either booking 2+ weeks out or else on vacation. We had an appointment with a great orthopedic vet for last week, but there was a scheduling snafu on the hospital’s end that did not come out in our favor. Luckily I had kept another appointment that I had previously scheduled for today with someone else who sounds very good — so as soon as I finish typing this, I’ll be loading poor Titus (he doesn’t understand why he couldn’t have breakfast this morning) into the car and heading down for his workup.

He’s been a much better sport about being rested than I had hoped, but man, please cross your fingers for us that it turns out that he’s just being a weenie about something that will heal quickly and well. He’ll get whatever he needs; I just want him back on trail again.

And meanwhile, it has been a million degrees here for these last few weeks and Lilo does not believe in hiking when it’s a million degrees. Which is totally fair and I’m glad she takes care of herself. But it’s been a real bummer, for many reasons, not having either of my hiking dogs able to accompany me. So please cross your fingers that fall — the best time of the year! — gets here ASAP, okay?