River Rescue

I’m going to admit right off the bat that I’m posting this here because nobody was there to catch everything on video and I want to tell the whole story. I don’t actually care who or how many people read it, I just want to chronicle the events of last night and today.

Last night when I took Yuna out for her evening walk, we saw a pack of three canines go running across St. Mary’s River Dr. near Bay St.. From the distance at which we originally saw them I wasn’t certain whether they were domestic dogs or a pack of coyotes gallivanting about town. What was apparent was that they were unleashed and unsupervised, which drew my concern. They also happened to be running along a path where Yuna and I were set to walk anyway, so we set out in pursuit, being cautious not to get too close until I could get a better look at the animals. I didn’t want to inadvertently get too close to a coyote or even a stray dog turned feral if that was what they turned out to be.

After Yuna and I had been trailing the pack for about 10 minutes we still hadn’t gotten very close but I’d gotten enough looks at the animals under street lights to establish that they were domestic dogs and not wild animals. One was a golden retriever mix, the second appeared to be a tan-coloured bully breed mix, and the third was a black and tan mutt. Yuna and I followed them for about another ten minutes, calling out softly and reassuringly for them to come closer, but they didn’t seem interested in human contact. The few times we got along side of them, they fled when they spotted us. Given that they were showing no signs of distress I decided to leave them be as I didn’t want to make them feel threatened or hunted, out of fear they would turn aggressive.

Moments after Yuna and I had turned away to resume our regular walk, I heard several barks and then a distressed yelp. We turned to investigate, proceeding with haste toward where the sounds had come from. A few minutes of looking revealed the retriever had somehow fallen into the river. The other two dogs were nowhere to be seen, but the retriever was obviously in distress. He was whining, and began swimming toward Yuna and I as soon as he spotted us. At that point we were on the boardwalk directly behind the Delta Hotel, so I called to the dog to coax him toward shore and then left him for a moment to run into the hotel lobby and beg the receptionist to call the fire department. I quickly explained why, then ran back out to keep my eye on the dog in the water.

The dog managed to crawl up onto the rocks under the boardwalk, but there was nowhere that he could actually come up onto land without re-entering the water and travelling about half a kilometre. I wasn’t sure if he’d be able to stand the cold for that long, so I just stayed with him until the firemen arrived. It only took a few minutes for them to get there, but they drove up with lights and sirens going and the commotion spooked the retriever. When they lowered a ladder over the side of the boardwalk to climb down and get him, he actually swam back out into the river to evade capture. They followed him up and down the shoreline for approximately an hour, but he wouldn’t let them catch him. Eventually, they had no choice but to give up. I was distressed, but felt there wasn’t much I could do. I thanked them for trying and then Yuna and I left.

This morning when we headed out for our walk, we returned to the same stretch of boardwalk. I went to the area upstream where the dog might have managed to climb out, looking for any sign of him, but found none. Next I started watching for a body as we resumed our walk. I walked out to one of the scenic viewing areas and as I gazed downstream, scanning under the boardwalk, movement caught my eye. The dog was still there! He was pacing the shore and was in better shape than I had dared to hope. A little farther along was another scenic area that was built lower, closer to the actual shore. It would be too high, and the space between the railings too narrow, for the dog to jump up on its own, but I knew I would be able to climb over at that point and lift him to safety. So… that is precisely what I did. His paws were rubbed raw from pacing on the rocks all night, and his fur was tipped with icicles, but he was still alert and strong enough to climb to safety after I hoisted him up on my shoulder and lined him up with the edge of the boardwalk.

Once he was safely on dry land I frantically begged him to stay while I climbed myself back up and untied Yuna from where I had left her tethered. Thankfully the dog obliged. I wrapped the handle of Yuna’s leash around his collar and held the leash by the middle with one dog at each end as we turned toward home. I dubbed the dog River, since that’s where I found him.

We got him home, got him thawed out, and I gave him a bit to eat. He was fairly thin and I wasn’t sure how long it was since he’d eaten last, so although he was hungry I only gave him a few mouthfuls at a time because I didn’t want him to gorge himself and then get sick.

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River, after a bit of thawing out and a light snack.

Soon enough it became apparent that he was infested with fleas. I reluctantly drew him into my shower. I figured he wouldn’t love the idea of getting wet again so soon, but I didn’t want to give him a chance to share his bloodsucking friends with Yuna. I made sure the water was nice and warm, then lathered him up for a flea bath. Although my suspicion was correct and it was not happy fun times in the bath, he endured the washing and came out looking like a new dog. I dried him off and let him doze while I contacted the local Humane Society and other shelters to get word out that he’d been found.

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River, after a bath and a bit more to eat.

I joined a Facebook group for local Lost & Found pets to post pictures of him, and instead found a post from last night made by a person searching for him. I replied, “I think I found your dog,” and was able to confirm. Less than 15 minutes later his owners were here to pick him up! Both the owner and River (whose real name is apparently Grinder) seemed happy to see each other. I told them briefly about what he’d been through and suggested they might want to take him to the vet for a check up. They thanked me for rescuing him and we all wished each other Merry Christmas. Then they were gone.

I’m happy the whole saga had such a happy ending. When Yuna and I headed down the the boardwalk this morning to check for signs of River along the shore, I was truly expecting the worst. I’m glad those fears were not realized. However, I’m not sure he’s going back to the greatest home. I don’t believe he’s being physically abused, but he was really thin. I honestly thought he hadn’t eaten for days, at least. I hope I’m wrong. His owners seemed genuinely concerned for his health, and it turns out he is only about a year old so he still has lots of filling out to do. My imagination has a way of running rampant with negative thoughts. And in any event, it’s too late to do anything about it now anyway.

So Merry Christmas, River dog. Have a happy life. ❤

 

Working Class

Despite coming to it rather late in life, Yuna is making an excellent transition to being a working dog.

For my few readers who aren’t also friends on some social media platform, a quick update: Back in October I relocated to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. I’m very happy to be away from Toronto and so far I love my new home, as well as being out on my own. However, I don’t have a car! I take the bus occasionally, but usually just run my errands on foot. Whenever I can, I take Yuna with me to help out.

If I’m going anywhere that she is welcome to accompany me, I strap on her backpack and she helps me carry a few small things. I still don’t ask her to carry much weight, but she’s more than capable of hauling a few essentials like my wallet and phone; and simply not needing to bring a purse makes things so much easier! She’s gotten quite used to wearing her backpack and walking in front of me while I drag my little shopping buggy along behind, which is something that made her quite nervous at first. Now I’m looking into getting us a little kicksled to use for things like laundry. Heck, I could even use it for groceries (one of the things that, sadly, she can’t help me with. No dogs allowed in the grocery store).

Yuna’s a natural working dog. She loves having a job to do. And it brings me joy to see her acting so happy and fulfilled. Now that she’s comfortable carrying a small load as well as pulling one, the possibilities seem endless! The greatest challenge is keeping myself from getting too excited. I don’t want to overwork her and have her stop thinking of these tasks as fun. Right now, whenever we start gearing up to run errands, she gets just as excited as when I pack my own daypack for one of our hiking excursions. I’d like to keep it that way, so we can continue to enjoy these little trips together.

On a semi-related note, I’ve decided that I’m going to invent in a winter coat for her. She is a Siberian husky, yes, but we live quite a bit farther North now and the Winters here are colder and harsher than anything she is used to. As I type this, there are white-out conditions outside. I look out my window and can barely see across the road. She may not need the extra insulation very often, but I’m sure she’ll need it more than she did in Toronto — and I doubt that giving her my fleece sweater with the sleeves rolled up is going to cut it here like it did there. I don’t want to have to rob her of her play time or exercise because it’s too cold for her to go out, so I’ll invest in the gear necessary to protect her from the worst that Ontario has to offer.

Running, running, running…

I didn’t fall off the face of the earth, it just seemed like it!

I’ve been incredibly busy and blogging just kind of slipped down the priority list, but I’ve been collecting memories to share!

Yuna and I have been running four times a week, gradually increasing our distance while I train for my 10K race coming up on May 8th. We run Monday and Tuesday, rest Wednesday and Thursday, run Friday and Saturday, rest Sunday. Saturday is Long Run Day, and last Saturday we did 12.6km. It ended up being an evening run, because I had a staff meeting at work that morning. By the time I got home the sun was high and I felt it would be too warm for Yuna, who still has not fully shed her winter coat.

Our route took us down along the river, but instead of cutting back up to the road at Finch Ave. we kept going north along the river trail to its exit at Steeles Ave.

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I love it down there during the day time, but I admit that running the trail as it was getting dark was a bit scary in some places. It’s not particularly well let, and although there is a fair amount of “city glow” at all hours, some of the more heavily treed areas got pretty shadowy pretty fast. The trail south of Finch is so familiar to me that this wasn’t much of an issue, but I haven’t been on the section north of Finch nearly as often. The twists and turns came up very suddenly and I didn’t know where to duck or swing wide to avoid low-hanging branches.

I can say this much, though: At no point did I fee unsafe due to human predators. Even as dusk fell, there were enough other people out walking, jogging, and biking (singly and in groups) that I didn’t feel isolated or in danger.

Monday we did 6km, with nothing noteworthy.

Tuesday was 10km:

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I got a new PB for 10k, yay! I always feel like a bit of a rockstar after improving on my time.

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We also saw a coyote down by the river. Yuna an I were in no danger; it just ran across the path ahead of us and disappeared into the woods. I tried to get a picture but it was long gone before I managed to get my phone out of my arm band. It was a lovely animal though, and definitely not a fox. It was about Yuna’s size, with a tawny-brown-tan coat and russet extremities. It glanced at us but otherwise showed very little interest, and seemed mostly to want to get out of sight.

People often talk about how dangerous coyotes are because they “aren’t afraid of man”, but they aren’t bloodthirsty killers, either. They’re just trying to live in an ever-shrinking habitat. I was thrilled to spot one. In fact, it was kind of the highlight of my week! They’re amazing, adaptable creatures; incredibly clever. I hope that one lives a long, safe life, unmolested by its human neighbours.

Yuna is finally blowing her winter coat. The weather’s been nice enough the past few days that I’ve been taking her out to the yard to brush her. It’s more pleasant for us both that way, because she can stretch out in the grass while I brush her, and I don’t have to try to collect all of her fur for disposal. I just let it blow away! Sometimes the birds collect it for nesting material. In the past day or two I’ve seen a couple of nests with fluffy white tufts sticking out. It makes me smile to know that Yuna is helping to insulate some hatchling chicks.

I think that’s me all caught up!

Discovery

Friday: 4.5km.

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This was actually tough for me because somewhere in the back of my mind I have a mental wall that tells me nothing less than 5km is acceptable. It’s stupid, I know, and there’s a long story behind it. Maybe I’ll share it another time. To help make it easier to hit the brakes .5km early, I tried to really push the pace and make sure Yuna and I were good and tired by the end of the run. I was happy with the result.

Saturday: 9km

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This was our longest training run so far. Things are going pretty well as we continue to slowly increase our distance. Since Yuna is a husky it should come as no surprise that she loves to run, but any dog has the potential to be the one that defies a breed’s “norm” so I’m happy when, at the end of every run, she still seems to be having fun.

After our Tuesday run I let her off-leash in the yard and she did zoomies, and Friday evening post-run her buddy Rocco was in the yard and she had more than enough energy to engage him in play. Her stamina amazes me, and I’m happy to see her play because I see it as an indication that she’s enjoying herself and not in any discomfort.

Now that we’re doing longer distances I’ve started carrying a water bottle on our runs. My favourite is a 21oz Camelbak “Podium” water bottle that I love for its spillproof design. It was actually included with the purchase of my Delaney Running Belt (which is still my go-to when I’m doing long distances on my own). It’s a bit tall for the water bottle pocket on my canicross belt, but luckily there’s an elastic cinch on the pocket that I can tighten around the neck of the bottle to keep it from bouncing free. Now I need to find a collapsible water dish that I can carry for Yuna. She doesn’t like drinking from the spout of the bottle and if I squirt water on the ground it means she can only get a lick at a time. There are plenty of good collapsible dog dishes available — I’ll have to try and few and figure out what works best for us.

Do any of you run with your dog or dogs? How do you carry water for them?

How do you carry water for yourself when you run?

During our long run this morning I discovered that I was curling my toes on my right foot as I ran. I was never aware of doing it before, but I thought about it for a while and I think I’ve been doing it subconsciously for quite some time. My right foot suffers from black toenails and other minor impact-related injuries far more often than my left; I’m not sure if the toe-curling is a reflexive reaction to protect it, or if that’s what’s actually causing the problems. In any event, as soon as I noticed I made a conscious effort to straighten my toes and run without tension in my foot and it made a huge difference! My stride changed and I felt a difference in the way my foot struck the ground as well. I’ll have to keep it in mind when I head out from now on and see what kind of changes occur over time.

Right back at it

Yuna and I were right back at it this morning with a 6.5km run.

We are both still a little fatigued from running yesterday afternoon, but since I work an afternoon shift today running at dinner time again isn’t an option. I decided to give Yuna a bit of a break by going for a free run today instead of harnessing up for canicross, so we got our exercise but she didn’t have to pull. We also kept the pace a little slower than usual because I don’t want either one of us to end up suffering from overtraining. It’s a crisp, cool morning and sky is lovely and clear. All in all, it was a pretty enjoyable run.

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Toebeans

Most dog owners have to trim their dog’s toenails periodically to keep them from getting too long. I… seem to have the opposite problem. I have had Yuna for over two years now and never once have I had to trim her nails. I think this is mostly thanks to the amount of walking we do, as the sidewalk seems to keep her nails worn down. However now, for the first time, she seems to have one nail that has worn right down to the quick! I noticed when we got home from our evening walk last night that she had a bloody toe. I thought perhaps she had stepped on something sharp and I immediately checked for cuts, glass, blisters, etc. Thankfully, there was nothing like that. The blood was coming from the toenail, not the toe itself.

Needless to say it gave me quite a scare, but once I got it cleaned up and discovered that there was no trauma to her foot I calmed down.

Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to be causing her any discomfort. She’s a pretty sucky dog and she generally doesn’t hesitate to communicate to me when she’s in any kind of distress. All through the process of me cleaning up her foot and then dabbing at the nail with a Kleenex to clot the blood, she just laid calmly on the floor and soaked up the attention. I poked and prodded at the nail a bit to check for sensitivity and she had basically no reaction until she finally just decided she was fed up and pulled her foot away.

I don’t want it to wear back further and turn into a problem, but she still needs her daily exercise. We took it easy on our walk this morning but afterward it was bleeding again so I decided some kind of protection would be required. I cleaned her foot and made sure there was no dirt on her nail… and then I used nail polish to seal it. This afternoon when I got home from work it still didn’t seem to be causing her any discomfort so we geared up for our run and headed out with high hopes and low expectations. I kept an eye on the sidewalk as we ran and didn’t notice any blood spots, which was encouraging. When we got home I checked and the nail polish seems to have done the trick. Most of it was worn away from the run, but it had stopped the nail from bleeding any more. I’ll re-apply in the morning and keep it up for the next few days while the nail heals. I’ll also start looking into alternative routes that have places where Yuna can run on grass or earth instead of cement so that this doesn’t turn into a problem. If I can’t map a route that keeps us in the parks for longer I’ll have to look into alternatives like the soft nylon booties that sled dogs wear.

We didn’t run yesterday and I opted to sleep an extra hour this morning instead of running before work as usual. The extra rest seems to have done wonders for the achiness and fatigue I was feeling by the end of last week. We did 7km tonight at a pace that I’m happy with, and the run felt good.

If you’re still at all concerned about Yuna or her foot, have no fear: she was enjoying herself too. We got some snow on the weekend and there was still plenty of it hanging around when we ran tonight. She was leaping from drift to drift and when we went along the park trail she got so excited we almost had an accident. She’s a huge suck when anything is wrong so if her toe was in pain, she would have refused to run. So don’t worry! I’m not making her do anything against her will and I’ll be checking that toe nail before and after every walk and run to ensure it heals.

 

Wrapping up this week

Friday morning’s run was damp and mucky. It rained Thursday night and everything was still pretty much soaked when Yuna and I headed out for our 5.5km so I wore my waterproof Salomon Speedcross 3’s — and boy, was I glad I did! When we got to the park the ground was a soggy, squishy mess. I was glad for the waterproofing and doubly glad for the great traction those shoes have. Not only was the trail muddy and slippery, but Yuna took off like a rocket in an effort to get away from the wetness. The nice deep treads on the Speedcross 3’s kept me from going ass over applecart when she suddenly decided it was Full Speed Ahead time between one stride and the next. Long before we arrived home Yuna was filthy and I was spotted with mud from the thighs down.

I was still a bit sore from pushing so hard for a new PR on Tuesday, and I haven’t been sleeping well all week so I was pretty tired, but we made respectable time.

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This morning was another story. We were scheduled for a 6.5km run and I was determined to complete it, but despite sleeping an extra hour I was — and am — just feeling exhausted. A hectic week and lack of sleep have finally caught up with me. On top of my own fatigue it was windy out this morning, and I hate, hate, hate running in the wind. It was an altogether unpleasant run. We did a full 7km, but our pace was off.

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On top of the fatigue and wind, it didn’t help that my left knee was feeling a bit sore. Not from over-training, I think; just from general tiredness. We have a couple of rest days coming up and I’m very much looking forward to them.

Sunny afternoon 6.5km

Normally I’m a morning runner, but I slept in this morning and didn’t have time to run before work. Instead, I geared up with Yuna when I got home this afternoon and we went for a 6.5km run instead of just playing in the yard.

She seemed really eager to go! I guess she missed our run this morning as much as I did, because as soon as I told her “Let’s go!” she leapt into full stride. She maintained a good steady pull through the whole run and thanks to her help we set a new PB for 5k!

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I tried to take a post-run victory selfie, but I’m a little out of practice. The first attempt didn’t work so well:

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The second one was a little better:

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I live on the fifth floor of my building, and I make a habit of using the stairs instead of the elevator unless I’m carrying something particularly heavy just for a little extra exercise.

I mention this because, I swear, the farther Yuna and I run, the more energy she has! After our run today we started up the stairs, and I was still huffing and puffing from exertion, but Yuna wanted to race to our floor! She bounded up every flight of stairs in two leaps and was literally bouncing off the walls of each landing (because apparently my husky has a secret talent for parkour?). She would wait ’till I caught up with her (the rules are she can’t be more than one full flight ahead of me) and then go leaping onward again. She’s the best! I’ve never had a better running buddy and I wouldn’t trade her for the world.

Unrelated:

Here are a couple of pictures that I took a couple of days ago. They’re from the park that we walk through almost daily and often run through as well. It was just a pretty morning with a light dusting of frost on the ground so I snapped these on my phone while we strolled along.

 

Easter weekend 8k

Saturday is Long Run day, and today Yuna and I did 8.05km as we continue to gradually increase our distance toward a 10km goal.

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Since 8km is the perfect distance for a river run, we headed across Sheppard Ave and joined the Don River Trail at Leslie St. Both of us love running along the river. I like being away from traffic and having an opportunity to see some wildlife while I run. I think Yuna just likes all the new, interesting smells.

There were lots of other walkers and runners out on the trail this morning, who reacted with intrigue, amusement, and curiosity to our canicross gear. The sport hasn’t really caught on in Southern Ontario, and it was our first time running the trail since we got our new gear. For many of them it was probably their first time seeing a team rigged for canicross, so I waved and gasped good morning to everyone, no matter their reaction. There are plenty of other people who run with their dogs, and I keep hoping that maybe someday one of them will show interest and I’ll start seeing more people participating in my sport.

When we set out, I was worried that the trail would be icy because of the storm, but thankfully most of it has melted in the sun. We hit a couple of patches in shady areas that were still treacherous, but Yuna is pretty canny when it comes to finding a safe trail so I just kept her pointed in the right direction and let her find safe footing.

She was amazing at following my directional commands. When we run familiar routes I’m never 100% sure if she actually knows the commands or if she just remembers where to turn. These less familiar routes are her opportunity to shine and so far she hasn’t let me down.

East Don Parklands – Toronto.ca

I’ve more or less decided that I’ll sign up for the Sporting Life 10k race in downtown Toronto this year. It was the first 10km race that I ever did and I had a lot of fun when I participated. It’s one of the biggest/most popular races in the Toronto area, and it gets a ton of support and is really well organized. The course is mostly downhill so the race is both easy and fast, and new PB’s are likely.

Sporting Life 10K website

EDIT: I did learn something about my canicross belt today: If I want to take a water bottle, I’ll have to use my little 10oz handheld FuelBelt one. My 21oz Camelbak bottle is too tall for the water bottle pocket on my belt and it bounced right out after just a few strides. I don’t see this being a problem, but I was surprised to say the least!