"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Help Kenai

Kenai is my favorite Husky. He belongs to Liz Stout of In Omnia Paratus, whom long term readers will recognize as one of my best friends.

I "met" Liz through my blog back in September of 2012 when I posted about my first horse Lucero's death. She was the only reader that commented at the time and I was incredibly touched. I checked out her blog and started reading. And commenting. And then a few months later by a pure stroke of Fate, Charles and I moved to the region, only 4 hours away from her. And the communication with Liz moved on into Facebook, then cell phones via text, and then in person, when I finally met her in real life the summer of 2013. 

We got out of the car that day at Liz's parents' house and were greeted first and foremost by Kenai, whom I instantly loved. You don't see a lot of Huskies with brown eyes. He has a tiny fleck of blue in his left eye, but otherwise they are a rich brown color.

You can see the fleck of blue in this photo.
I was impressed with how well behaved he was. In vet med, we see a lot of crazy Huskies that are neurotic, unpredictable, poorly trained and are known for their high-pitched screams when doing anything to them they don't like. 

And then I meet Kenai, who was a polite gentleman of a dog, who accompanied Liz everywhere like her shadow, going where she went and staying where she told him to stay.

My first impression of Liz in person, before seeing her in action with her horses, was of her as a dog owner.

And she is one hell of a dog owner.

Working dog breeds like Huskies require a tremendous amount of activity, stimulation and discipline to get them to be civil citizens like Kenai is.

He's even more mature than my husband during car rides...
They have been bred for centuries to have jobs: they need an active lifestyle or they go crazy. The dedication that Liz has for her dog was immediately evident to me simply by observing Kenai's behavior.

He completely changed my opinion of Huskies.

Liz worked hard to install a solid recall on Kenai so he could accompany her on the trails off leash. While she rides.

He goes hiking and running with Liz.

He goes rock climbing with her and waits patiently for her return when he can't follow.

He accompanies her every day on ski patrol, where he has turned into quite the celebrity.

Who else's dog can ride on the ski lift??!
Among his many fans.

He's even gone boating.

He is the best crew dog at endurance rides.

Kenai in ride camp with his #1 groupie and associate crew member, Charles.
And even accompanies Liz to the office, where he is one of the staff's favorites.

Dogs like this aren't born. They are made, through sheer dedication and love from their owners.

But active lifestyles like this can take their toll on even the healthiest, strongest dog.

In March of 2013, Liz noticed that Kenai was alternately limping on both hind legs. He was ultimately diagnosed with partial tears of both of his cruciate ligaments (the ligament that allows the patella to slide up and down across the front of the stifle/knee). By August he wasn't getting better despite cage rest and controlled exercise, so Liz chose to have bilateral cruciate repairs done on both stifles at once. Between her and her vet they decided to go for what is called a lateral suture repair, where the stifles are stabilized with heavy suture placed on the lateral aspects of the knees. Of all of the cruciate repair options, it is the least painful and the least invasive, with the fastest recovery. Even then, having both stifles done at once can be a bitch to rehab, but Liz went with this option so Kenai wouldn't have to be anesthetized twice. And she rehabbed Kenai from it all on her own!

He was still on controlled activity by the time winter rolled around, so he missed a lot of the fun of ski patrol with Liz, but once spring arrived he was back at it, accompanying Liz on all of her adventures just like before...until April of 2014, when he came up acutely lame on his right hind, completely nonweight-bearing on that leg. He lost a surprising amount of muscle in a very short period of time, and it was determined that he had either a groin pull or strain. He was cage rested again and Liz devised a rehab program where she slowly brought him back into full activity with plenty of hind leg strengthening with activities like slow hiking, walking through deep water and swimming over the course of two months. He made a full recovery by late summer.

But he came up lame again in November of 2014, again on his right hind. When he didn't improve with cage rest, Liz again took him in to her veterinarian, who took x-rays. The images revealed what seemed like a fractured fabella, the tiny bone behind his knee to which the lateral suture from his cruciate repair was anchored. His cage rest and limited activity continued for the next 2 months. He missed all of his usual winter play yet again.

None of this. 
Just a lot of this. :(
He wasn't improving. In February of this year, Liz had him assessed yet again by her vet and another round of x-rays were taken with Kenai under heavy sedation to allow for full manipulation of his leg. While it looked like the fabella had healed, it now appeared that his meniscus on the right hind leg was damaged. Further examination revealed new laxity in the stifle joint: the lateral suture repair had failed altogether.

The solution? Another surgery. A more invasive, harder-core stifle surgery + meniscus repair done by a boarded veterinary orthopedic surgeon that will require hospitalization on IV pain medications and a longer recovery. The goal of this more complicated surgery is that the stifle will be able to hold up to Kenai's very active lifestyle and give him many, many more years of full mobility to continue to enjoy his life as Liz's adventure dog.

The drawback of this kind of surgery is the recovery. He will need physical therapy afterwards and canine rehabilitation is very expensive. It can be several hundred dollars per session.

It is unfair that a dog this active, who has so much to gain from his life, has to go through a second surgery in two years.

Liz is a responsible pet owner. She has an emergency fund for her animals and can afford the surgery but needs help with the hospitalization and physical therapy. She worked 3 jobs this winter and has cancelled all of her competition and travel plans for the year so that she can make this happen. His surgery is already scheduled, with the goal of having him back to full mobility by the time the next ski patrol season rolls around.

My life was forever changed the day that Liz walked into it, with that first comment on my blog. I would not be who I am today, nor would I have dreamed of even trying so many of the things that I have achieved over the last two years, if it hadn't been for her support, guidance and friendship.

Kenai is an extension of my friend. He is her shadow, her canine soulmate, and I consider him as much family as I do my own animals.

The least I could do to help was set up a GoFundMe account for Liz in the hopes that we can save up the additional money she will need for Kenai's care post-op.

The power of the Interwebz and the love for this awesome dog have been magical. In 24 hours we already have $545 towards Kenai's medical fund.

He is, after all, the coolest Husky around.
Let's add some blogger magic to this cause.  If possible, please share the link so others can see it. Donate if you can. Every tiny bit helps!

Help Kenai go back to being The Go Everywhere Dog!


  1. In Australia the owners do the rehab, it isn't that difficult. After a tibial plateau levelling surgery (which I assume is what is happening) they have six weeks of home therapy followed by optional use of a hydrotherapy treadmill once the six week post op rads are clear. Outcomes are great, quicker and better than the lateral tie.

    1. Thank you for the comment Delwyn and I totally agree.

      Liz wants to do the veterinary rehab this time around: while she has brought him slowly back into activity each time just like you would a horse with a soft tissue injury, this is the 4th time Kenai has a hind limb injury and she wants to set him up for success as much as possible to minimize as much as possible the chances of this reoccurring. The goal is to strengthen all of the right muscles so as to eliminate compensation that might cause re-injury. The longest stint of unlimited, painless activity the poor dog has had over the last two years was maybe 6 months. He is still on the young side: he just turned 5. I don't think it's a bad idea to go the veterinary physical therapist this time around.

  2. Thank you for all of your kind words. <3 I loved this post. The photo of Kenai and Charles cracked. me. up. I'm impressed with the sheer number of Kenai photos you've drummed up, too! I'd forgotten about many of them.

    Love you lady, and so happy blogging brought us together to share adventures. May there be many more...

    1. Love you too lady. Amen to many more adventures together!

  3. Friends like you are one in a million, Saiph (:

  4. Love Kenai and really hope the goal is met!

  5. Excuse me... there's something in both of my eyes... a lot...

    :( :(

    Obviously I knew this already, but I am crying into my coffee over here. You are an incredible writer, and Liz is an amazing friend and dog owner.

    1. Awww Dom thank you! <3
      Liz really is an amazing human being.

      And I LOVED your post too!

  6. I am so sorry to read this. I love the Kenai pics on FB, he's such a cool guy with a cool owner. Thanks for posting this, I will definitely make my way over and donate. I thought of Liz last weekend when we did our Intro ride because Mochs' "number" was Q, so it made me think of her Q mare.

    1. He really is one cool dog. Thank you Stacey!!