Photographer A. J. Windless    
Managing My Dog's Hip Dysplasia
When Tecumseh was about 3 years old, he and I went for a long and exhilarating hike in the High Uinta mountains. Upon returning I noticed that he seemed to be limping. We did a lot of long hikes in the mountains of Utah at that time, and I noticed that he seemed to limp after each one. I knew that hip dysplasia was common among Alaskan Malamutes so I took him to a veterinarian. He took X-rays and confirmed that Tecumseh did indeed have hip dysplasia but suggested that he didn't think it was his hip that was causing him to limp. He thought that Tecumseh had twisted his back and said there wasn't much he could do for his back, that having four legs to walk on, in time it would heal naturally. A year and a half later Tecumseh continued to have a recurring limp, so I asked around to find the most highly recommended vet for hips and skeletons that I could. I returned to the former vet, picked up the X-rays that had been previously taken, then I drove Tecumseh to the new vet. The new veterianarian took a fresh set of X-rays and pinned them on the wall  over a light box next to the old set of X-rays. Without any medical training whatsoever, even I could see how much Tecumseh's hip socket had worn away in just a year and a half. The  veterianarian, and indeed the X-rays themselves, predicted that within a year my loving companion would not be able to walk at all. The vet was ready to prescribe pain killers for Tecumseh, but since most of the time he seemed okay, I didn't want him on too many drugs too soon and delayed giving him any medication. Instead what I did was reduce his hiking trips with me to shorter and shorter distances. We had previously hiked 10 miles, but that was clearly excessive. He limped after a six mile hike, so I reset our limit to 4 miles, and then 2, but even after walking just one mile he still limped. I finally found his comfort zone, 400 meters, the distance he could walk without showing any pain afterwards. So for the rest of his life I continued to walk him every day, but I walked him a quarter of a mile. If we were at home that measured one lap around the park behind our house. If we went to the mountains I still went on my hike, but first I would walk Tecumseh 200 meters out and then back to the truck. There he waited in the back of the truck where he had screens on the open windows, a comfortable carpet kit, and a nice topper. Of course, I made sure that he had a dish of water and that my truck was parked in the shade. This wasn't ideal for either of us. I would much rather have him on the trail with me, and there's no question where he would rather be. Nevertheless, in this manner Tecumseh lived a happy and painless life. He exceeded the one year life expectation that the vet had given him. And he blasted through the year after that with his tail still flying high. In fact, we had a long life together, as he outlived his best friend, Nick, who was six months younger than he was. He even outlived my mothers Shih Tzu who not only was a smaller dog with a longer life expectaiton, but was several years younger than Tecumseh. That day that we walked out of the vet's office I never dreamed that Tecumseh would have a painless, happy life, and outlive most of the other dogs around him. To this day it still feels like a miracle that such a kind loving dog graced my life for 15 magical years.
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