Tales From the Trail
|Acupuncture for Snickers. Can you spot the needles? (Photo: Courtsey of Hannah Moderow)|
A Visit to the Vet
Today we made a special visit to veterinarian Susan Whiton, DVM. With the Serum Run only two weeks away, I want to make sure each dog is in perfect health. Juliet and Snickers are two invaluable members of the dog team, and have been running a little bit “off” in the past couple of weeks.
Juliet is my main leader, and has shown signs of a sore hind foot. Snickers, on the other hand, is getting older and gets stiff shoulders after long runs. Dr. Whiton specializes in acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic care for sled dogs. A veteran of both the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest, she has a lot of wisdom about canine athletes. Going to visit Dr. Whiton is not only good for the dogs, but I learn a lot too—things like massage and stretching techniques.
Dr. Whiton began with Juliet. Instead of going straight to her hind foot, where I suspected a problem, Dr.Whiton took the time to go over every part of her body from nose to tail. She stretched her neck and her front and hind legs, and in the end, she made a few chiropractic adjustments. In the sport of mushing, dog injuries often occur from compensation. What I mean is, that if a dog has a sore right wrist, they may hurt a completely different part of their body by trying to protect the sore part.
If you have a sore ankle, would you tell someone? I tell people if I have aches and pains. Sled dogs are not that way! First of all, they don’t speak English. Second, they are very tough animals, and are often slow to reveal injuries. Mushers must be vigilant, and notice every little thing about the dogs to prevent them from hurting themselves.
As I guessed, Juliet has a hurt toe. If you have ever had bad blisters on your feet while hiking or running, or gotten a really bad paper cut in your finger, you know how Juliet felt. Though the blisters or cuts may look small, they can hurt a lot! Dr. Whiton prescribed some antibiotics to prevent infection and instructed us to soak Juliet’s foot in a betadine solution once a day. The good news is that this is not a major injury. A few days of medication and paw baths will fix her right up.
Snickers pranced into the clinic with glee. We bought her from Dr. Whiton and her husband Vern Halter a few years ago, so it was a homecoming for Snickers. A few adjustments, and then Dr. Whiton began acupuncture. Check out the photos. Can you see the small needles?
Unlike shots, Snickers didn’t pay any notice to the needles, and acted as if she were being treated at a spa. She shut her eyes and soaked up the attention. After removing the needles, Dr. Whiton showed Mom and I shoulder massage techniques we can practice on the Serum Run.
By the time we left, I felt completely rejuvenated about our planned adventure. Watching Dr. Whiton work with Juliet and Snickers reminded me how much we as mushers can do for our athletes. Through the innovative use of massage and stretching, we can know much more about a dog team and ensure that they stay healthy for hundreds of miles. Thank you, Dr. Whiton!
Hannah Moderow is a musher and writer for Scholastic News Online.