Terii’s Cycling Babble


My Cycling Partner

Loke Puppy on Porch

And so, my cycle partner, Loke has turned 11 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’s on the small side for a male Siberian Husky weighing roughly 44 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.  When 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.  I think that gave him time to get used to this big red wierd 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.  You could tell he wanted to go with.  Pulling on the leash and dancing on the end of it, even yapping after me.

When I finally started taking him, he took to it right away and formed a quick bond with the trike.  I’m fairly convinced that he views the trike as HIS toy.   I just go 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 has been 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’s been slowing down over roughly the last 2 years and it’s accelerated during the past year or so, sadly. But even after toodling along for 12+ miles, he can still come back home and pace 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 are willing, but perhaps the joints are less agreeable. He’s no longer the young firebrand he was who could rampage down hills at over 20 mph and cover 30 miles with a cruising speed of almost 10 mph on the flats.

The slowing down makes me a bit sad, especially the hints of a stiff body he’s had of late. It tells me that any hope of going on tours with him are now 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.

One of Loke’s full brothers of the name of Eric is still going strong. He in Norway owned by a man who races huskies. Just this last winter, Eric did a race with a time of 17+ miles in an hour. Loke has _never_ done that, probably because its just him and he’s stuck with my pokey self, but still. It makes Loke’s recent sluggishness and difficulties all the more stark.

I attribute much of it to the health issues plaguing my lovely partner-in-adventure. He’s allergic. 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. 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

Longing For Escape

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 past year and a half, he’s had other issues too. 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. He would shred blankets they put in and then push 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 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. Now though, over the past couple months, he’s been slowing further and showing some stiffness in his shoulders. Or, it could be boredom as we’ve been staying so close to home on our outings. Kinda like the horse that plays lame to get back to the barn? The problem is, except for that possible stiffness in the shoulders, he has the stamina, energy and ‘wanna go’ attitude of a younger dog. It’s quite a challenge to find the middle ground. He’s a pest if I err on the side of caution.

Still, he’s otherwise happy and I love him to bits. I still enjoy his company on the rides, even if we’re now slower than ‘molasses in January’. Yes, my southern U.S. upbringing is showing. I’ll keep going out with him as long as he has that interest and energy. Even if it means rolling the trike along at 2 mph, I’ll take him with me as long as he’s happy and relatively pain-free.

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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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