Terii’s Cycling Babble


My Cycling Partner

Loke Puppy on Porch

And so, my old cycle partner, Loke has turned 14 years old.

Loke is pure bred Siberian Husky whelped on July 1, 2005.  He’s from a long line of working dogs, a number of them have even run in the Iditarod a few generations back if I understood the breeders correctly.  He’s a good dog, bright and intelligent as he alternates a bit between aloof and affection.  Though he was the monster puppy of the litter at 11 pounds when he came home with us, he was on the small side for a male husky at roughly 44 lbs. Since his health scare in 2018  which slowed him down and left him weak and with neurological issues, he’s gained weight and is kinda pudgy at 52 lbs.

He was 8 weeks old when we brought him home.   The breeders had started training the puppies as soon as possible.  At 6 weeks, the whole litter knew ‘Sit’.  They didn’t sit long, but they knew what it meant and would plop their tails down for a few seconds at least.   By 12 weeks, he had Down, Stay, Go Around and even Speak.

Loke proved to have a few surprising quirks that are great.  He rarely barks and never at things outside the windows or the apartment door.  Generally his ‘barking’ is limited to “Woof!” when he’s trying to be pushy because he’s bored or he thinks he really deserves the leftovers on your plate.  He also sleeps very well through the night.  No 4 am pouncing.  He’ll generally loll around until 9 am if I and my husband are having a lazy morning.  Those two things make him worth his weight in gold to me.

Loke was just a typical puppy for the first year or so.  He was about 1 when we bought my recumbent trike.  He had about 6 months to get used to it before I decided he was old enough to start running along on my rides.  It gave him time to get used to this big, red, weird thing sitting around, not to mention how worked up he would get watching me take off on it while my husband held Loke’s leash and waved bye.  He wanted to go with me.  Pulling on the leash and dancing on the end of it, even yapping.

When I started taking him, he took to it right away and formed a quick bond with the trike.  I’m fairly convinced that he viewed the trike as HIS toy.   I just was along to steer, pedal and give him water every few miles.  It was a bit of a challenge getting a running bar settled.  He broke 3 store-bought ones before my FIL strapped a bar with a spring tether across the back of my trike seat.  It worked.  It held up to that wild first mile just fine.

And for years that first wild mile was wild.  He would jump around around, yapping and yodeling until we started rolling. Then until we get good speed, he’d kangaroo hop against the pull of the harness. You know, acting like a husky. Once he’d hit his traveling stride, he was happy to just keep up which I viewed as a good thing. I ride for exercise after all and that’s a bit hard to get when a husky does all the work.

I taught him a few commands for going out with the trike. 5 of them to be exact. “Move out” for when we’re stopped and he’s not paying attention. “Easy” which is for slowing down or about to brake. “On by” to ignore that dog/cat/bird in the grass. The last are “Höger” and “Vänster” which are the Swedish words for right and left.

Loke was great company over the years, though not very chatty. He used to be able to cover serious ground. His best for a single day was about 43 miles (roughly 70 km). He gets easily bored on local routes and loves new ground.

He slowed down some after the amputation of his toe when he was 7 years old. The slowing continued over the years. By age 12, he hardly ever broke 10 mph on the outings, but he could still keep going for 20-30 miles at a time. Then, he come home and sleep for a short while before pacing around in between long staring sessions with bright hopeful eyes and wagging tail. His way of saying, “Now what are we going to do?!” His muscles and spirit were willing, but the joints are less agreeable. He was no longer the young firebrand who could rampage down hills at over 20 mph and cover 35 miles with a cruising speed of almost 10 mph on the flats.

The slowing made me sad, especially the hints of a stiff body he had. It told me that any hope of going on tours with him were in the past. The two we’ve done together, he seemed to love, though he didn’t care much for the overnights. It annoyed him that I would stop for more than 2 hours for something as paltry as sleep. But, the next morning, he’d drag us off at warp speed as if thrilled to complete bits that this was the way we were starting the day.

Of all Loke’s littermates, I think Eric is the only other one left. He’s in Norway and spent most of his years as a racing husky. Age 11, he did a race where the team of dogs he was part of covered over 17 miles in an hour. Better than Loke ever did, but then Loke’s had pokey me and no help to get me up those pesky hills. Eric is stone deaf now, and has been diagnosed with cancer. He’s still pain-free and happy at the moment. Still likes to get hitched up to the standing trike with another dog and go for rambles.

It surprises me that Loke has made it for so long, something our primary care vet attributes to me and my care. He’s had a long list of issues over those 14 years and most of those I attribute to his allergies. He’s allergic to pretty much any crop plant or meat from domesticated animals. Beef, chicken, pork, lamb, duck, turkey. Even fish has been ruled out. January 1-6th, 2019, he spent in the animal hospital because he became spontaneously allergic to reindeer. No grains, no potatoes or other root veg. He’s also mildly allergic to birch and/or hazel which are all over Sweden. We have dozens of birch trees just around our apartment. Even better, he’s allergic to some of the flora and fauna on his own skin. Yep! In theory, he’s even allergic to himself.

Fortunately, it’s incredibly rare for dogs to go into anaphylactic shock. He only gets a little itchy. The worst his allergies do is crash his immune system. If he gets a bit of bread from say, a bit of hotdog bun pitched in a hedge, within a few days, an infection breaks out on his skin. It causes oozing wounds as the flesh starts to turn to goo. Most often it’s between his toes. It’s the normal native bacteria or yeast that is always on his skin going out of control because his immune system has shut down. It’s normally harmless to anything with normal immune response.

When it’s the yeast, it’s no problem to treat. The bacteria is now a very real threat however. The infection has happened so many times and Loke has been dosed so often with antibiotics to clear it up, that his strain is becoming highly resistant. The last outbreak required a type of antibiotic that had to be special ordered, very strong and very specific to the type of bug that was turning his skin to goo. This was after we tried for a couple weeks to treat it without antibiotics. It only worked to stop the progression, but not heal him.

I’m pretty sure his immune system crashes are related to other issues he’s had. He constantly had problems with his anal glands. In 2012, he had to get treated for impaction 3 times in 2 months so they were finally removed.

The worst of the problems came late in January 2013 when something very wrong happened to one of Loke’s toes. The digit became twisted and painful. It was diagnosed as a torn ligament which baffled my husband and I as nothing had happened to inflict the damage. Fine one moment, nearly crippled 2 hours later without any incident. It turned out to be something more sinister.

Longing For Escape

Longing For Escape

In mid-February 2013, a tumor was discovered in the problem area. Between the irreparable damage to the ligament and the growth which had accelerated, the toe was subsequently removed. Biopsy conducted on the amputated digit revealed the tumor was benign but the bone changes had been triggered by a common virus which had been found in the toenail and migrated to the bone. Like the bacteria causing Loke’s skin infections, in animals (or humans) with a normal immunity, it never causes problems. The nail on that toe had an abnormal appearance for over a year, so that’s likely when the problem began, but had accelerated  sometime between December 2012 and January 2013. I’d had it checked when nail had changed in 2011, but the vet didn’t think it was anything to be concerned about. The ligament likely broke because its connection was weakened and damaged by the tumor, so perhaps that mysterious and baffling injury was a blessing in a disguise.

03-13 Three Toes

Looked a bit weird. Only got weirder looking over the years.

Loke’s recovery was not terribly painful, but difficult on he and I both. He limped longer than anticipated. An infection also developed a part of the incision. The entire month of February 2013 was spent with only short walks and absolutely no cycling, which drove both of us crazy.

When he started healing from the amputation, he began limping a lot but not because of his toe. He had the early stages of arthritis in his shoulders and one hip. At first I tried to coddle him. Cutting our outings short when he’d limp. Waiting 3 days or more in between episodes.

That went on for over a year. I was miserable, Loke was more so. Finally, I hit a point where I decided that I had to focus on the quality of Loke’s life. He wanted to be out and moving with the trike. Okay, so if I coddled him like I was, I might get another 5 years or more out of him. At what cost? Him going insane from boredom and pent up energy? Or, I could just take him out, go a little slower but not freak out and wrap him in lambs’ wool with every hop or limp. Perhaps it would mean he’d only be with us another 2 years, but they’d be better, happier years for him.

Best choice. Increasing the distance and frequency of the rides while keeping them slower (no more 17 mph charges down hills), cleared up his arthritic limping completely. Within 6 months, he was acting like a 4 year old again. A bit frustrated because I wouldn’t let him rampage along at his full speed, but otherwise happy and content.

That’s where we were for a few years. Loke could still do distances of 20 or 35 miles even if it took longer, but otherwise just fine.

20160630_192739 alt

I’m BORED!

The end of 2014 through the beginning of 2015, he had an episode which reduced the variety of his diet. Back then, he had still been okay with chicken though beef and the rest had been removed. In December 2014, he started having intestinal issues, but I thought perhaps he’d gobbled bread while out on a walk. Many trips to the local vet as we tried to get it under control. Then in Feb 2015, I rushed him to the animal hospital with abdominal pain. His intestines were inflamed and he was kept for 5 days for supportive care and tests.

Poor fuzzy went completely nuts for those days pent up in the hospital. He shredded blankets they put in and then pushed the bits around with his nose because he was sooooooo bored and had too much energy in spite of being sick.

They ruled out chicken and turkey from his diet and since then he’s been down to rabbit, reindeer and moose.

So, for a while, we had Loke nice and stable and he was his old, older self again. From age 11 until about 12 and half, he was good. Getting slower, but still wanting to be constantly active and out with the trike in spite of stiffness in his shoulders. It was hard because he had the stamina, energy, and ‘wanna go’ attitude of his 8 year old self, but once out, just couldn’t manage for long. It was a challenge to find some kind of middle ground that would take the edge off his energy, but not break him out on the trails.

Around his 12th birthday also brought another change. All his life, Loke had apparently been epileptic. It was just that his seizures only happened once every 3-5 years. When he turned 12, he was suddenly having them several times a week. I spoke to vets about it, but they were so brief in duration (less than 30 seconds), not happening very often relatively speaking (3-5 times a week), and he recovered quickly (typically under 2 minutes). At his age, medication for them might not help much and could put undue strain on his liver and kidneys. It was unnerving, but we adapted.

April 2018, Loke’s health took a nose dive. He started having trouble with his hindquarters, the seizures increased. I took him to the vet where they found a sizable tumor on his rectum. He started to lose control of his bowels. Not piles around the apartment, just that his fur on his rump was always dark and smelly with it.

It got so bad he could barely walk and seemed to be in pain. One day when it became very bad, I took him to the vet. We started talking about if it was perhaps time to say goodbye. I agreed the time was very close, but Jens was away on business for a couple more days. I asked the vet if there was anything we could do to make Loke comfortable enough to wait for my husband to be here for the goodbye.

She thought of one med that she’d heard good things for horses and given Loke’s situation was willing to try it.

It turned him around. Slowly, his neurological issues began to improve, seizure frequency decreased. Biopsy on the tumor had showed it was one that typically grew with the presence of testosterone, so we had Loke chemically castrated as he was too fragile for surgery.

For a while, he even started to get strong enough that he could go with outings with the trike of almost 10 miles. VERY slow miles, but he could do them and happily.

He made it to 13 years old with unexpected vigor and even onward into 14. He did decline a bit between 13-14 where I no longer felt I could take him with the trike. He tripped a lot, wobbled, struggled, but still still pain free, happy to take walkies with me and Jens, and with the appetite of a horse-sized pig.

A few weeks ago, I actually started taking him with the trike again. Just short 1 mile ambles between where we store the trike and home or the other way. The first of those a couple weeks ago, he struggled the last 200 yards home and it took us 47 minutes. The next one though, he was stronger and we did in 35 minutes. Now, he hardly struggles at all and we do the round trip in under 30 minutes. He even tries a bit of jogging.

I don’t know how much longer he’ll be with us, but he’s still content, pain-free, and happy to go for walks and eat. If someone had asked me when he was 8 years old, how long he’d be with us, my answer was, “He won’t even make 10 years old.” When he was 10, I would have said 12 was impossible. Here he is 14 years old and still ambling along, spoiled, bordering on pudgy, and being more of a trouble maker than when he was a puppy, I swear.

It would be a great irony if the one husky out of all his litter, that had the most numerous and extreme of daily health issues would be the one to live the longest. It’s been a honor to have him with me all these years and I wouldn’t trade the memories I’ve made with him for any thing.

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5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hi Terii
Just stumbled across your blog. What a gorgeous dog.
I had a German Shep (blue) called Tag and tried the dog/bike senario but it just didnt work.
Great that you now have Loke running with you 🙂

Comment by justjoanne

Love the idea of taking the dog. Mine would want to sit on my lap :0)
Just discovered you and enjoying the blog. I bought my QNT earleir this year.

Comment by dexey

Glad you enjoy the blog! It is also great to hear from other Trice owners. I’m sure you’ll have many great years with it as I’ve already had with mine. Here’s to an even better next year!

And yes, Loke does love the trike. I’m kinda stuck on an indoor trainer with it atm, but he still wanders over to stand along the right side of it and wag his tail hopefully as I’m pedaling along. 😛

Comment by terii

Is Loke anything to do with Loki the mischievous Viking god of fire?

Comment by dexey

Dexy!

Yes! Loke is actually the Swedish spelling of Loki. And he is a mischievous bundle of energy. Thankfully, he’s not a destructive dog though.

Comment by terii




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