Terii’s Cycling Babble


My Cycle Partner – RIP February 24, 2020

Loke Puppy on Porch

And so, my old cycle partner, Loke has passed on from this world – February 24th, 2020 at roughly 3:45 pm. He was 14 years, 7 months, 3 weeks, and a few days old. I lay on a comfy fuzzy mat beside him in a peaceful, comfortable room at the vet clinic, set aside just for times when nothing else can be done except to say goodbye. I cuddled him through his last breath and cried into his fur. The staff at the clinic who have worked so hard with me to keep my allergic furball feeling happy and healthy to such a ripe, old age, came in one at a time to say goodbye.

I was told his ashes would be scattered in the forest of the Dalarna region of Sweden. Fitting, since it was the land of his birth. He went home.

Loke was 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 was a good dog, bright and intelligent as he alternated 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 gained weight and was 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 barked and never at things outside the windows or the apartment door.  Generally his ‘barking’ was limited to “Woof!” when trying to be pushy because of boredom or he thought he really deserved the leftovers on your plate.  He also slept very well through the night.  No 4 am pouncing.  He generally lolled around until 9 am if I and my husband were having a lazy morning.  Those two things made 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 got easily bored on local routes and loved 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 would 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 he lived the longest though the rest of them had no health issues to speak of. One of Loke’s brothers, Eric who lived in Norway, was one other who made it to 14, but had passed away in the autumn of 2019 shortly after being diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.

It surprises me that Loke 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 attributed 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 was 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 was allergic to some of the flora and fauna on his own skin. Yep! In theory, he was even allergic to himself.

Fortunately, it’s incredibly rare for dogs to go into anaphylactic shock. At first, he would only get a little itchy. If he got a bit of bread from say, a bit of hotdog bun pitched in a hedge, within a few days, an infection broke out on his skin. It caused oozing wounds as the flesh starts to turn to goo. Most often it was between his toes. It’s the normal native bacteria or yeast that was 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 was no problem to treat. The bacteria was a very real threat however. The infection happened so many times and Loke had been dosed so often with antibiotics to clear it up, that his strain became 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.

After a few weeks, 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, 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. Then, he hardly struggled at all and we did the round trip in under 30 minutes. He even tried a bit of jogging.

After the New Year 2020, his decline accelerated. He sometimes had trouble keeping his hind end up if just standing around. Sometimes, his back legs would stop working for a few minutes at a stretch. He got picky about what he would eat which I took as a sign of decreased appetite.

I didn’t know how much longer he’d be with us, but he was still content, pain-free, and happy to go for walks. If someone had asked me when he was 8 years old, how long Loke would 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 was at 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.

When the absolute end came, it came fast. On Sunday, February 23, 2020, he became even more picky about his food. He wanted whatever we were eating, but refused to so much as look at deer meat which is where his medication was hiding. February 24th, 2020, he refused to eat anything, even when I tested his appetite with his beloved bread. My husband urged me to make an appointment to make sure Loke wasn’t in pain.

RIP - Feb 24th 2020

Loke – July 1st, 2005 to February 24th, 2020. My heart goes with you. Thank you for the smiles.

Loke probably wasn’t in much pain, but he had no gut sounds. He was becoming dehydrated. Most telling, his body temperature was below normal. His body was shutting down and it was time.

It was a great honor to have this amazing, if allergic, dog in my life. When we picked him from the litter of 6 week old puppies, I’d barely been in Sweden for 7 months. By time we brought him home to join our little family, I’d been in the country for just over 8 months. He became not just a part of our family, but so interwoven with my experiences here in Sweden.

His impact on my cycling was even more profound. The moment the trike arrived on our doorstep and I started assembling it, there was this grand dream of the places we’d go and adventures we’d have. We would ramble all over Sweden and beyond, just me, the trike, Loke, and all our gear in a trailer bumping along behind us. Even when he couldn’t come with so much, he was still there to come home to. He dictated how much and when I could ride. There was no cycling without being tethered to Loke one way or another.

Now, it’s all so different. Now, it’s discovering Sweden in a whole new light, alone, and embracing my cycling with a completely different mindset. One without this impish trouble-maker.

Over the years, we covered thousands of miles. He was my cycle coach who kept me from hammering the pedals so hard I’d injure my knees. He was the slave driver who often pushed me out the door on days I didn’t want to go. He was my hero who seemed to sense when I needed help to keep moving. He was the cheerful presence, who wasn’t the best conversationalist, but was none-the-less ideal company on the long miles when nothing much was happening. He was the clown who brought me hundreds, if not thousands of smiles. In a profound way, he as as much at the core of my riding as the trike was.

The first 12 years of this blog will remain as a celebration of the life of my coach, clown, hero, and companion in adventure


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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