Got some bad news today about our border collie, Shawnee. She had been intermittently lame on her left front leg for the last two months, so finally took her to the vet and got her x-rayed. Turns out she has very bad elbow dysplasia with serious inflammation, which may completely alter her lifestyle from this point forward. It’s like the worst form of arthritis, and apparently she’s had it for awhile, but has a very high pain tolerance. She has always walked with a bit of a stiff gait, so it may be she developed this as a puppy, which can happen quite commonly with border collies. The vet referred me to Orthopedic Surgeon with a word of caution that there probably isn’t much they can do for her, given that she’s almost four years old.
From the depressing tone of this post, you might deduce this is a death sentence. It’s not, as she doesn’t have cancer, but for a mountain dog, it might as well be a death sentence. The vet said she can’t go backcountry skiing or snowshoeing with us anymore as it will put too much strain on the joint and cause her serious pain. Hiking steep, rocky mountain trails is also probably out. We don’t know if we can even walk her off leash on the dirt roads around our neighborhood. If Shawnee was a city dog, this probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal, because city dogs are used to getting a couple of short walks a day on leash around the local city park.
But Shawnee has grown up here in the mountains of Nederland, and as a working dog, she wants nothing more than to frolic and bound through the snow, run through the woods, clamber up rocks and mountains alongside Bryon, me, and her buddy, Simon. We have been so lucky with Simon, he’s stayed in remarkably good shape despite his 11 years, continuing to hike and frolic with us. I had thought we had many years ahead of us to do the same with Shawnee. The most heart-breaking thing about it is her spirit is so willing, and apparently in the heat of the moment, her adrenaline takes over and she runs and bounds, but pays the price dearly after when she starts limping around the house. When the vet told me the prognosis, I cried.
I know she will still be a loving companion, and we are going to see an orthopedist for a consultation to see if there is anything we can do treatment-wise to better her quality of life going forward. And no matter what happens, we will love her. But tonight, this mountain mama’s heart is breaking for her mountain dog, who won’t be able to frolic in the hills she so loves.