The other day we went to the beach with friends and brought our two dogs along. The north shore of Lake Ponchartrain at Louisiana’s Fontainebleu State Park is a great place to spend a hot summer’s day
We had been there before, but this was the first time we had taken the dogs.
Lucy, our rat terrier, is the veteran of our dog team, having just celebrated her tenth birthday. We have had her since she was six months old, and she has never been much of a fan of water – getting her to wade in past ankle depth was an accomplishment. Sadie, our blue heeler-spaniel mix on the other hand, supposedly loves the water, though we had no first-hand experience. Sadie joined our household last August courtesy of some friends of ours, who needed to ‘dog downsize’ as they have health issues which made a big dog problematic for them.
Hence, a wonderfully goofy canine addition to our family, which has really re-energized a had-become-fairly-complacent Lucy. They are great playmates and companions.
So we packed up to head to the beach with all the required accoutrements for two dogs, a mom, a dad and two teenage boys would need, adding (for good measure) eldest son’s girlfriend. We were also joined at the beach by our good friends Terri and Rae – Sadie’s previous family. We got to the beach and set up all of our stuff, Lucy curiously sniffing around the shoreline, Sadie straining her leash to get into the water.
A wonderful day was had by all. Sadie indeed, loves the water. For five solid hours, she left the lake only for a brief break at lunch time, and when being handed off to someone else, as dogs must always be on their leashes in a state park, and we had forgotten to bring her tie-down stake.
Not that anchoring her to the beach would have been all that successful. Sadie spent the entire time plodding and dogpaddling the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain, pulling at one time or another, every human member of our merry little band around on our various floating devices, proudly channeling the spirits of Iditarod champions. As you can be a couple of hundred feet from shore and still be in chest deep water, Sadie had a lot of ground she could cover – and she did.
Meanwhile, while Lucy spent a considerable time in the water, she rarely got in past chin level, and when she did, her furious dog-paddle and facial expression seemed to question the sanity of all concerned. She happily spent the bulk of the day roaming the beach and lounging beneath one of our beach chairs.
Finally tuckered out after a day in the Louisiana sun, we all piled in the van for the hour-long drive home. It was an uneventful trip, and once home we immediately took the dogs into the backyard for a shower, us humans doing likewise indoors. Everyone was satisfied and relaxed.
But a few hours later, Sadie began whimpering and favoring her hindquarters. Any attempts at trying to touch her in the tail area was met with yelps and cowering; her bushy, perpetually wagging tail was curled underneath her, and she walked like a tired old dog. We could find no wounds, or any visible hint of injury, nothing was swollen. But even offering her a treat could not coax Sadie’s tail into action, though she did snarf down the offered goodies in quick order which we took as a good sign. Deciding that a visit to the E.R. vet was not needed, we decided to see how she was after a good night’s sleep
The next morning, a still-pooped pooch was actually (sort of) wagging (twitching?) her tail, though with nowhere near her usual exuberance, but she was sitting down and getting back up again a lot less gingerly, which had me thinking it far less likely that a costly visit to the vet would be in order. But to be on the safe side, I spent some of my usual early morning web surfing time to check out dogs with sprained/broken tails.
The marvels of our technological age.
In very short order, I learned that sprained tails are very common (the bigger the dog, the more common the ailment) and can be caused from a wide range of basic, dog like activities. I learned that big dogs quite often sprain their tails doing everything from wagging their tails too vigorously, to striking them on something (kitchen counter or furniture) while wagging, often in anticipation of a treat. But my favorite tail sprain reason? Some dogs apparently injure themselves as such simply by chasing their tail too vigorously. Finally, I learned that big dogs (Sadie is 61 pounds of pooch) that aren’t generally ‘working dogs’ are also prone to spraining their tails by simply overdoing a cherished activity.
The more I read, the more big dogs seem like middle-aged males, who have kept the Tylenol and Bengay folks in business for years by straining, pulling and bruising various bodily tissues from simply overdoing certain basic behaviors, or, as they say, having their ‘egos write checks that their bodies can’t cash.’
Just for the record, while I have at times succumbed to such physical over-enthusiasm, I have never sprained my tail doing so.
Of all the items I found (at reputable sites) on the topic, this one nailed our situation pretty well. From the ‘Ask a Vet’ column on dogster.com; “Trauma to the tail is, in my experience, the most common cause for a tail to dangle limply from its base. In these instances, strains and muscle injuries are more common than broken tails. For instance, many dogs use their tails to help them paddle when they swim. If a dog engages in an especially big day of watersports, he may wake up with a really sore tail the next day. This condition, which I affectionately call swimmer’s tail (a term that is not an official medical diagnosis), lasts a couple of days and usually resolves on its own with rest.”
At this writing, Sadie’s tail movement is getting better, though it is still more awkward sway than ‘Yay!’ and her model-runway swagger is more drunken-sailor stagger.
Maybe the next time we go to the lake, we’ll just rent her a kayak.