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Forty Years with Birds and Dogs 

Six Weeks on Dog Trails

This is the story of DeeDee (See blog of October 13.), the dog spayed at three months before her bones capped off. I wonder how many dogs will have to suffer bone problems until spaying is postponed to after the first heat. The procedure could be paid for at adoption with the owner's promise to have it done then. I recognize that there are too many unwanted pregnancies in the canine world, but we adoptive dog-lovers can be responsible and have the spaying done when it doesn't commit a dog to a lifetime of unfinished bones.

When DeeDee and Scooter were still young dogs, I took them for daily walks into the steep canyons that dive between our Pinon/Juniper mesas and zig-zag the flow of traffic around town. I didn't know that professional search and rescue dogs are often carried down steep inclines to save wear and tear on their joints. My dogs loved to race up and down the accessible canyon walls full speed ahead--until the day DeeDee suddenly started limping. The x-rays showed that she had split the condyle on her left elbow. We had no choice. Arthroscopic surgery was available in Albuquerque, complete with color photography of the procedure and a $2000 bill.

DeeDee was a good patient. She understood that she needed to heal, that she was not to run around our half-acre full steam after the crows. She respected the leash, without me telling her to "take it easy" on the other end more than a few times. I was amazed at how many dog trails there were around and across the yard, how many favorite spots off the trail she could find to poop, how many things there were to sniff on the way through the wild grass and clover, how many wild elm had found root in the drought.

Six weeks ended without a limp, and I missed our walks for a while. Of course, DeeDee was delighted to be free of her bandages and supports, but a few years later, at age nine, she began to find it difficult to get up--arthritis in her back hips. Though she has never complained, has never even whined, she is obviously in pain the mornings after husband Don takes the dogs on an easy-going hikes in the nearby canyons. Pills help, but we are doing without the pills now that I enforce the dogs job as bird-sitters. It keeps them outside most of the day, reacting to the occasional passing coyote or hiker and chasing the crows away. DeeDee is like a new dog, at least with newer hips, and she hasn't had a pill in weeks.

Would all this pain have been avoided if she had not been spayed at 3 months, long before her bones had a chance to harden, "capoff" they say? I think so. Yes, dogs should be spayed to avoid unwanted breeding, but not until they have had one heat. Adoption can be done with a payment and a credit for spaying,. to be done when it doesn't create cripples.

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