By Phyl Newbeck
Reader Athlete Editor
VS: I understand you’ve summitted Camels Hump more than 100 times. Does it ever get old?
S: Oh no! Every day is an adventure. There are always new sights and new smells and new branches to carry. We go up different trails, too, and that keeps it interesting.
VS: Can your humans keep up with you?
S: Now that I’m older, they can, but I’m okay with that; my ego isn’t bruised. Besides, they’ve done so much for me that I’d never leave them behind. I’m a Chessie, you know, and we’re very loyal. I like to keep one human in front of me and one in back so I can keep tabs on them.
VS: Is there one hike that stands out above the others?
S: Once we went up in such deep snow that the blazes on the Forest City Trail weren’t even visible. Obviously that wasn’t a problem for me, so I helped my humans get to the top. When we got there, we found some hikers who said they had to rely on something called a GPS to stay on the trail. Dogs don’t need those kinds of devices.
VS: So do you like to hike in the snow?
S: Sure. Snow, dirt, grass, mud—any surface is good, but ice kind of freaks me out. I just like to be outdoors and moving around. Climbing up mountains is my favorite, but I’ll hike just about anywhere.
VS: I’m told you’re quite the swimmer, as well.
S: Chessies aren’t very fast in the water, but we are strong. My humans are a bit fussy about when they’ll go in, but for me, temperature isn’t important. I’ll swim any month of the year, if I can find open water—33 degrees or 90 degrees, it doesn’t matter. I just love the water.
VS: As a retriever, do you like to fetch things?
S: Sure, but I don’t do wimpy sticks like some dogs. I go for big branches. I like to chase balls too.
VS: You were diagnosed with Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia. Can you tell me a little bit about illness?
S: IMHA occurs when the immune system flushes out healthy red blood cells. Nobody really knows how it happens, but it’s very dangerous because those red blood cells carry oxygen to your tissues, which is vital for survival. I could have died from it, if my humans hadn’t found out.
VS: How did they know you were sick?
S: This is a little embarrassing, but it’s because they watched me piddle. They could see my urine change from yellow to red. It’s a good thing I got sick in the winter because it wouldn’t have been as noticeable if there hadn’t been snow on the ground.
VS: How did you get better?
S: I was put on a regimen of prednisone. We started at 120 milligrams a day, with declining doses every month. My humans also gave me Chinese herbs. Boy, did they taste awful on their own, but with cottage cheese or yogurt, they weren’t all that bad. The problem is that prednisone makes you very thirsty so I was drinking a lot and had to piddle a lot. My poor humans had to get up two or three times a night to let me out. I heard one of them say she thought she knew what parents of newborn children went through. The other thing that made me healthy was acupuncture. My humans said I looked like a porcupine, but since there was no mirror in the examining room, I can’t verify that. It was tough standing still for 20 minutes at a time while they stuck pins in me, but the humans insisted it would be good for me, and I trusted them. In seven months I was back to my old self, but then we had another problem.
VS: What was that?
S: It turns out I had a degenerative spinal cord, so I had to have even more acupuncture, but this time it was the electro-stimulation variety. I was in such bad shape that my humans had to carry me up and down the stairs, but by the third treatment, I was okay. It’s been eight months, and I think I’m as good as new. I have to admit that since I’ve been through a lot, I’m probably a bit more of a pain to my people. Sometimes I’ll sit in the kitchen and beg for food. They never let me get away with that before, but in one year’s time, I’ve had more than 30 vet visits, so they cut me some slack. Don’t get me wrong, Marv, Julie, Patty, Betsy, and Jennifer, and all the fine folks at Bristol and Hinesburg Animal Hospitals were great to me. Marv can stick as many needles in me as he wants; I can take it. I feel great, although my humans still haven’t taken me up Camels Hump since my illness. I guess they mean well and think the summit would be too much for me.
VS: Any advice for other dogs on how to stay well?
S: Even if you’re a little shy, you should let your people watch you piddle. That’s how they found out I was sick.