We biked in the woods thrice last week, only stopping to water the dogs and to eat salal berries, thimbleberries, blackberries, dewberries, salmon berries, and red huckleberries. We covered ten miles some days, no more because of the dogs.
Baxter has diabetes incipitus, so he must never be without water. He drinks as much as Peggy, Bonnie, and me together, so much water that his pee looks like water. We carry a gallon for a ten-mile trip and, on warm days, stop every ten minutes or so to check him for heat exhaustion. We note whether he collapses in a heap or hunts for game in the bushes. We check his gums to be sure they are pink. We talk to him to gauge his alertness. We give him time to catch his breath.
We are aided in our attentiveness by reminders of how everlastingly guilty we would feel if we ran him to death. I say we, but Peggy leaves Baxter’s care on the road to me, which is a reversal of what we do at home where she looks at the dogs’ piss, pokes at their poop, feels their bodies for growths, observes their eyes; and sometimes works herself into a panic for little reason that I can see. I took Bonnie to the vet last week simply because Peggy was worried about a fleeting pain. The vet didn’t know what to make of it, and suggested x-rays. I demurred at the price, and came away with a bottle of anti-inflammatory pills of which only two were used—and them only because we had them.
Without dogs, we would bike faster, farther, and sometimes on pavement, but dirt and gravel are conducive to slower speeds and are easier on their feet. Their joy is worth our sacrifice. It is even worth having to bathe them when we get home.