Monday, June 18, 2012

A Dog Named Blitz, Chapter 8 "Fourth Year, Part 1"

For background on this serial, please click here. You can also start at the previous section

Going into her fourth year, I couldn't have been more happy with Blitz and how she was performing.  She was an incredible dog, we were an incredible team, and at three years old, she still had not peaked yet, either mentally or physically.  By the time snow began to melt that spring, I simply couldn't wait until the fall.  Fast-forwarding through summer would have been fine with me. 

While Blitz was poised for a big year, our little team had its bench strengthened as my buddy Fuzzy brought a new yellow lab pup into our little circle.  Gus was a rambunctious pup, and was equally as smart as he was active, and under Fuzzy's tutelage and working with Vic's example, he learned quickly.  However, when Gus got with Blitz, things tended to get a bit haywire.  Despite her chronological age Blitz was still very much a puppy at heart, and she loved to spend time romping with Gus via dog training sessions or other informal get-togethers. 

And while three yellow labs - two of them usually misbehaving - were more than a handful, Fuzzy would often volunteer to dog-sit when we were going out of town.  Knowing how the dogs acted together, it had to be stressful as a one-armed juggling act, but Fuzzy was more than generous.  He'd say "Taking care of three dogs isn't that much harder than two, besides Annie would hate me if I didn't do it."  Annie, being Fuzzy's young daughter, took delight at the antics of the two younger dogs, and would ask when Blitz would be coming back for a visit.  "Dad," she say, eyes full of delight, "Blitz jumps OVER the couch!  Without touching anything!"  While some kids need an electronic form of entertainment, be it a video game, TV show, or PC, all dear Annie needed was an acrobatic yellow lab, bless her heart. 

As we got into early summer, Fuzzy and I spent a weekend at his family's cabin on a lake in central Minnesota.  And it was there, working with the three dogs simultaneously, that we caught glimpse of the dog power that would be afforded us in the field that fall.  That vision, that performance, led us to what we had, and what we were.  We were a Yellow Dog Patrol, and the nickname that was coined that weekend stuck with our group.  It also ultimately became the name of the blog under which I have written for a number of years. 

The lakeside cabin was the perfect place for the dogs to romp, and the amount of wrestling, swimming, and fetching was enough to tire out the audience, let alone the participants.  Hence, when we said our good-byes at the end of the weekend, the resulting ride home was pretty quiet. 

As I resumed work that week, I considered the past weekend and what lay ahead of us the upcoming fall.  The birds didn't stand a chance.  I couldn't wait.  However, a fly had appeared in that ointment.  When I retuned home from work that first Monday back, my wife pointed out that it appeared that Blitz was limping slightly.  Given all of the romping in which she had engaged over the weekend, I wasn't shocked.  However, this was also a dog with a massive pain threshold, so I did feel a pang of worry. 

I decided to keep the dog pretty quiet the coming week to see if the rest did her any good.  By the time the end of the week arrived, I was crestfallen to have to admit that the quiet time had not done Blitz any good.  Instead, she was slightly but clearly limping worse than she had been earlier in the week.  I booked an appointment with our local vet for early the next week and hoped for the best. 

Blitz always loved the vet.  Despite it being the place for shots and to get treble hooks removed, it was also the place where she got treats, got to interact inappropriately with all sorts of new animals, and got lots of attention from the nice girls that worked there.  It seems that everyone loves a yellow Labrador, and that was especially true of high school girls that work part time in a veterinary office.  Blitz was always popular there, and she loved the attention that she received.  So when the day of the appointment arrived, it was no issue getting the dog to kennel up in the vehicle for the short ride to see all of her friends at the vet. 

Dr. Jeff, who had been our vet since I brought Blitz in for her first check up, was a big fan of my dog.  He knew she was a hunter, and that she was kept in impeccable shape, and that made his job so much more easy.  Many times he tell me at the end of an appointment "if all of my patients looked like Blitz, I wouldn't have much to do."  So when he noticed a hitch in her stride, he became slightly concerned. 

We decided on an x-ray of the knee to see if we could notice anything out of the ordinary.  What came back was a bit fuzzy, but it did appear that there was some ligament damage.  Immediately, my heart sunk.  What did it mean?  "Here's what I'd recommend," stated Dr. Jeff "Let's keep Blitz rested.  No walks, no training, no exercise of any kind for two weeks.  She may just need the rest.  But we'll know more clearly what we're dealing with by the end of that time." 

I left committed to the path forward, and briefed my wife on how we would proceed.  I also looked at the calendar.  Would Blitz be available to hunt this season?  If so, how much?  I cursed myself for allowing her to play so rambunctiously and hoped against hope that the two weeks of rest would do the trick.    

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