Terii’s Cycling Babble

March 11, 2014, 7:18 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Well, I’ve actually gone for more than 1 ride this month. 3 actually or perhaps 4! Perhaps I should download the rides from my Garmin to be sure? I’ve gotten a bit slack about that task since the software ate 2 years of data.

Yesterday dawned clear and crazy warm. About 20-25 degrees warmer than the historical average for that day in March. The idea that I could go for a ride under sunny skies and with perhaps just a single thin layer of wool under my cycle clothes prodded me to drag the trike out of the car before Jens went to work.

After that, I just lost my oomph. Pity really since the blue skies disappeared under a sheet of murky gray though no rain. The same weather we had for a week prior except for watery thin glimpses of sun through thin spots in the cloud cover. In spite of that, I kept looking out the window while telling myself, ‘I want to ride’ only to sluggishly go back to work on my 3D project.

I think it was around 1 pm when Jens called to ask if I’d been cycling or was out cycling. I answered I was trying to scrounge the verve to do so. He wanted to know if I could hold off long enough for his parents to come by to pick up something. Without hesitation, I responded with, ‘Or, I can cycle there and drop it off.’

The hubby loved the idea and quickly called his mom to see if they’d be home for me to do just that. Yep!

It gave me the kick in the butt I needed.

Part of my apathy was my left foot. The past couple of years, I’ve been very prone to heel cracks. The past month they’ve gone very bad and the past 3 days, the worst. Gaping wounds that treatment only seems to half work on. I’ve barely been able to walk barefoot. Even limping seems to pull the gashes open. Getting the foot into a shoe leaves me shaking, sometimes bleeding and walking while shod is hardly better. It involves a lot of limping that leaves my thighs, hips and back tight and uncomfortable.

So, the idea of cramming the foot into the cycle shoe and then inflicting it with whatever discomfort (to put it mildly) pedaling might bring sucked away my will to ride.

Still, I had a purpose to go so started moving. Loke seemed remarkably interested as I got ready. When I held out his harness, he actually walked briskly over to shove his head through the straps. Can’t recall when he did that last.

I dressed in just a thin layer of the wool under the cycle clothes as it was about 55 F. Pannier in hand along with Loke and handlebar bag, out we went.

Amazingly, once on, the cycle shoe turned out to be the least painful to walk in. I guess because it doesn’t flex, but sort of rolls stiffly with each step and lessening the pull and rub on the heels. The minimization of the pain I’d been in left me cheerful as we walked to the trike.

There was a moment where I paused, staring at the ever-so-tiny speckles of wet on my cycle top. I debated a moment on calling off the ride or at least going in for thicker underlayers. I decided against the extra layers as it was already almost too warm for what i had on and got ready to ride any way.

Loke was eager to go as I set off across the yard. Even as I made the usual sort of turns as if heading for the River Loop, he was interested in going. Quite a change from the last outing where I felt like I was going to have to drag his furry butt home because he was so sluggish and apathetic.

Where we usually turn left, I called out ‘Höger!’ Loke was so surprised he actually half stumbled and gave me a baffled glance even as he swerved obediently to the right. Suddenly, he bubbled with enthusiasm. He carried his head higher and tail raised and swinging like a flag as his jaws gaped in a wide husky smile. His excitement heightened as we crossed Gamla Uppsala Road, turned left and began the decent under the rail tracks. Then to further confuse him, we took a right at the mosque which we’ve never done before.

With that single turn, Loke went from enthusiastic to wanting to fly. He stretched his legs and tried for a full out run. His ears took an annoyed turn and he gave me disgusted little side-glances as I touched the brakes and kept him at roughly 12 mph. He still loped that entire length of street until we reached the light and waited to make a left turn. Then he continued loping down that next street. Even once he decided to stop loping, he settled into a ground eating jog. If the trike slowed to less than 8.5 mph, he threw his weight into the harness to hurry us along. He was a dog with a job and happy to be doing it off the River Loop.

I think it was about mile 3 or so that the misty drizzle increased until it settled on the fine line between a heavy sprinkle or a light rain. Water started running off the bill of my cap (water-proof cap, I might add) and the clothes went from barely damp to increasing levels of wet. It didn’t help that the temperature took a 5-6 degree nose-dive either. The thin wool was far too inadequate for me to be anything other than miserable.

Loke was fine and he really got crazy as we started rolling down the usual roads we drive when we go visit his ‘grandma n grandpa’. He was bouncing madly when I rolled to a stop at the door to their building. His ears were back and he wiggled cutely in between his jumps even before my wonderful mother-in-law came down to take the delivery. We chatted a few minutes and she made sure to greet the muddy, soggy sponge that was posing as a husky.

As Jens’ mom went back in to escape rain, I expected Loke to be stubborn about rolling out. Incredibly, as soon as he heard the cranking that released the parking break, he lunged against the tether and we rolled out at a brisk pace.

We had roughly 5 miles under wheels and paws as we made the turn toward Granby mall and Loke began to flag. Could have been reluctance to be going home, or unhappy to leave the ‘magic food apartment’ that is my in-laws’ place. Or it might have been that his longest ride of the year was something like 5.2 miles and we were pushing 5.5 and he was running out of steam.

The slower he went, the longer I was out in the rain and the dry spots I had were shrinking. Also, the paths and much of the area between my in-laws’ place is much more open that rolling through the small city with buildings of 3-6 stories and tall old trees. Turns out, there was quite a brisk wind. Not the crazy kind that can make a tethered husky into a kite and roll a trike backwards no matter how hard one pedals, but cold especially to someone wearing wet fabric. Every now and again, a hard, pea-sized pellet of ice would sting me. At least until my arms and thighs got too numb to feel anything.

Slower and slower Loke went and colder and colder I got. I couldn’t really get any wetter, except oddly my feet seemed to stay dry and, of course, my head snugged under a water-repelling cap.

Here come the crocus! A month or more early!

Here come the crocus! A month or more early!

In spite of the chill misery of the latter part of the ride, I did have a moment’s smile. We’d made the return ride under the rail tracks, sooooo close to home and warmth, when on the side of the embankment, I spotted my first crocus of the year. A lot of them! More than usually seem to bloom on that little patch of ground. I would have seen them on the way out except we went on the other side of the street. None of them had opened buds yet, but there they were.

About 2 months early. Usually they beat the sprouting of the daffodils and certainly the tulips, but I’ve been seeing those those particular flowers pushing their first leaves out of the ground for something like 3 weeks or more.

Crocus remain my favorite flowers of spring, so I still had a big smile for them as I paused and risked my iPhone in the rain for a photo.

I couldn’t stop shivering while parking the trike and hurrying into the apartment as fast as I could. I’d promised Loke a ‘cookie’ (bit of reindeer meat) to hurry him the last half mile and kept it even before removing my wet clothes.

I was soooo cold. I felt like I’d jumped into swimming hole chipped through the surface of a frozen lake and then walked half a mile through a screaming ice storm.

I tried a shower to warm up. I’m sure the water was barely above room-temperature, but it felt boiling and I couldn’t stand it long. I gave up and sat down for a hot meal of left over mashed potatoes and reindeer in sour cream sauce. That felt wonderful beyond words and helped stop the shivering better than my attempt at a shower did.

And Mother Nature taunted me. Less than an hour and a half upon arriving home, the clouds rolled away and the sun streamed down from a sky of flawless blue. *sigh*

But other than the rain and the cold, it wasn’t a bad ride. Loke had clearly enjoyed himself, running through the urban environment of Uppsala which is nothing compared to our day in Copenhagen. As for me, the ride felt great from a muscle and stamina perspective. It became a little difficult once the chill started going to the bone, but the first 2/3 of the ride in the areas sheltered from the wind, I felt strong, as if I could ride for 20 miles or more.

It was the longest outing of the year for Loke and I both. We coasted to a stop next to our balcony with roughly 7.5 miles.

As for Loke, maybe it was just excitement because of the goodie I’d promised him, but he actually was bright-eyed, bushy tailed and hyper. When Jens came home, he was still bouncy and energetic. He looked for all the world as if he could have done another 30 miles before being tired. He certainly had a great time with Jens when my hubby went out for a jog.

Well, Now We Know…
March 3, 2014, 6:23 pm
Filed under: Misc

It’s only taken nearly 9 years, but finally we’ve managed to figure out the source of Loke’s issues.

Wednesday, I tortured Loke with a bath. He’d abruptly gotten a little smelly so, into the bath he went. While scrubbing the smell away, I noticed how red he was all over where the water parted his fur down to the skin. I also saw the same crusty red on his belly as he gets on his paws.

A call to the Stockholm vet clinic and a desperate plea to ease Loke’s suffering netted results. Katarina, for Loke’s sake, kindly slotted us in at the very end of her appointment’s at the Uppsala animal hospital. The Wednesday or Thursday before it would have been the 2 week mark since his last treatment with any kind of cortisone, so Friday the 28th was perfect.

While waiting for our 4 pm appointment, we met a stunning and HUGE Doberman Pincher. He was as bouncy and eager to play with everyone of the two or four legged variety. Clearly he was a favourite of the clinic staff as well. Vets and vet techs came out to greet him at regular intervals. He had two spots shaved on either side of his chest. Finally, I asked what had happened to him.

That 2 year old, big beautiful bundle of bouncy love had been hit by a car! Amazingly, no broken bones! But the impact had traumatised his chest, bruising his lungs and causing them to fill with blood. He’d been at the hospital for a week. Clearly, he was fully recovered, or very closely, with all the energy and enthusiasm he was showing.

Katarina appeared about 15 minutes before 4 pm to show us to an exam room. She made sympathetic sounds as she looked at the red, swollen angry mass that was Loke’s lower lip on the left side of his muzzle. She said she was glad I called because it would have been bad to let it go on much longer, especially as miserable as the furry one was.

Katarina was baffled why it was so bad and so extensive for the first time ever. Taking up a scalpel, she scraped his lip and tummy while using tape to take samples from his paws. She was actually hoping to find what she called ‘scabies’ (aka mange) which would explain the itch. It would have been quick to treat and easily taken care of.

But, no such thing. Under the microscope, all she found was yeast. She even took me to the microscope room and showed me the nasty little culprits. Once sure it wasn’t a simple case of mange, she had Loke sedated and began the test. A spot on his side, just behind his front leg was shaved and marked with about 30 dots. Then a tray with 30 small syringes was brought in. One by one, she injected tiny little amounts of potential allergens. Then we waited.

This current episode he’s been suffering is because Loke is essentially allergic to himself in some fashion. For those who don’t know, ‘endemic’ flora or fauna is by definition, animal or plant life native to a specific area. Blue jays are endemic to North America. Wildebeest are endemic to Africa. Well, there are countless types of yeast and bacteria that are endemic to skin of every mammalian species. They’re with us from birth and can never really be gotten rid of completely. Quite a few of them are even required for our health. If they were to get out of control, they can cause problems, but generally the immune system keeps them under control and they’re harmless.

Loke however is allergic to the yeast we found in the scrapings. His immune system can’t deal with them, the numbers went through the roof and start breaking down the skin. Then the histamine kicked in making him itch furiously.

The yeast isn’t the only external, environmental trigger. The dot pricked with a combination of pollen from Birch, Alder and Hazel trees also reacted. It was very slight, but still there. It’s is yet very likely that he’s still allergic to various food items. For all we know, it might have been some kind of food that started a cascade reaction. Or perhaps this episode was so bad because his allergy simply worsened rather like someone who’s been stung by bees over the years has no reaction and then one day, they’re suddenly being rushed to the hospital for anaphylactic shock. Fortunately, dogs very rarely suffer anaphylactic shock. Mostly, they just get miserable and itchy like Loke.

Once the test was done, the sedative reversal was given and I had prescriptions in hand. Unfortunately, they were in Jens’ name so I couldn’t fill them out and he didn’t land back in Sweden until it was too late to get them. Still, after his lips scrubbed with an antiseptic and sprayed with a topical cortisone, Loke felt SOOOOO much better! He even had several cone-free hours right after the appointment where he didn’t try scraping his lips off! The shaved spot on his side didn’t fare so well, but a circle of plastic around his neck and head wouldn’t have stopped that.

Now he’s on cortisone tablets and I’ve been treating his lips topically along with his stomach and paws. He also had a medication to specifically target the yeast, but there was none to be found in all of Uppland. It had to be ordered and Jens should be getting home with it any time now.

As for long term treatment. I guess Jens and I need to decide our options. There’s hypersensitivity treatment. 1 in 3 dogs don’t respond and most often those who fail to get any benefit from it are older dogs, a category Loke now falls under. So, the odds of it working for him are probably worse than 50-50%. We might just have to try and mange the yeast with scrubbings, close observations and pounce on what looks like an outbreak with topical countermeasures. Keeping him under constant oral medication has the potential of nasty side effects like liver failure.

After we get this outbreak under control, we’ll need to figure out what food allergies he has, but that’s more of a trial and error thing. Introducing foods little by little  and see if he reacts. Give time to get his system stabilised if he does have an allergy response and try another. It will take a while. Hopefully though, he’ll be able to have something more than bland, hideously expensive veterinary food and reindeer.

So, here’s to moving forward to improving the quality of life for the fuzzy one! So very glad we didn’t have to make him suffer for another week before getting the test done!