The high cirrus clouds yesterday evening had been a warning, so with equal reluctance, we crawled out of our shared toasty-warm down bag at 1 in the morning and set off for Kurobegoro. There was only the sound of snoring from the other tents.
I picked my way past the guy ropes, turned around to check on Hana, and felt sick. The dog’s back legs were wobbling. A little stiff from almost 30km yesterday, perhaps? The sharp light of the headtorch showed a couple of small flecks of blood on the two hind paws. Mmm. See how she goes. Within a few minutes, the stiffness had gone and she was keeping pace right behind me. Subsequent checks showed no fresh blood, and she did not flinch when I touched the pads.
The original plan had been to do the full loop – Yakushi – Kurobgoro – Washiba – Suisho – and back to the Yakushi campsite. But the hiking map time was 21 hours or so. From the top of Kurobegoro, the sullen red sky of the morning was a shepherd’s warning, perhaps for his dog?
The lure of two more peaks was strong, but it would be a major commitment. If Hana’s feet started to show problems, I could be 20km from the tent.
Muttering aloud “I don’t do risk”, I turned around and headed back. By the time I got back to the tent, I was miserable not because of the steady rain, but because Hana was struggling. I used some cloth tape to bind the raw red pad. She did not complain. She gamely kept up as best she could, hobbling on three legs. I tried picking her up, but she preferred to walk herself. We moved slowly, and I kept stopping to encourage her, feed her, check her. Those last 7 kilometers of descent were not easy.
According to the breed guidebook, “Border Terriers must be able to follow a horse … have gameness … will not show or admit to pain”. These sound like ideal characteristics for a working dog, but make it difficult to judge the degree of any injury and pain.
I had hoped to bump into cjw today around Washiba, followed by Wes on Tsurugi tomorrow. The timing would have been perfect, but further hiking was inconceivable.
At the trailhead, there was a boot-cleaning block, so I gently hosed down the dog, cleaned up and dried her wounds, fed her to make her sleep in the car, and drove the long way back, past a solid line of cars heading for Kamikochi on this Saturday morning. I went straight to the vet, an unflappable gentleman. He gave her two injections of anti-inflammatories and painkillers, and in his understated way, said “Rather inflamed and painful. Rest for quite a while. When’s your next mountain?”
Hana doesn’t care about 2008, doesn’t know the name Fukada Kyuya. I hope she’ll be bouncing around and game in a couple of weeks, but perhaps we’ll have to finish the last ten in 2009. All the self-inflicted pressure of the last 6 months has evaporated. So, signing off for “a while”…