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Sawyer Retires Again

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Sawyer Retires Again

Postby Inky6900 » Tue Aug 16, 2011 1:47 pm

Hey guys,

My dog, Sawyer, has been in physical therapy for one month now. Many of you have read my posts about him over the years as we have attempted to become the second dog/man team to climb all of Colorado's 14ers. This weekend I was able to meet with Soy’s vet and the physical therapist separately. Both have indicated that it would be in Soy’s best interest to stop climbing with him now. Even without these “professional” opinions I had come to the same conclusion. I have done EVERYTHING a person can do to help Soy improve, keep him healthy and extend his overall fitness level. There is truthfully nothing more I can do. I’m not God and I don’t have His powers to heal.

For those of you that have followed Sawyer’s quest to climb all of the 14ers, he finishes having been within 25 feet of Mt. Wilson and having never attempted Capitol. On all the other summits we reached the top. This summer is the first in his life that the two of us have not climbed at least one 14er. Sawyer has climbed every mountain I ever climbed. We started together and now finish together. I am counting (in my mind) that we climbed all but Capitol Peak because hail stopped us on Mt. Wilson (only 25 feet shy) the two times we attempted it. Had it not been for that, we would have made the top on either occasion. Perhaps my love for Sawyer is best described not in the 59 we climbed to the very top, but in 25 feet not gained on Mt. Wilson and the fact that we are not attempting Capitol. I can walk away from my dream, even though we are so close, because I know it is in Soy's best interest and I have too much love and respect for him to push something when his body and the conditions are not right.

Ultimately Soy has a few issues going on physically. He is arthritic from head to toe but his lower back is his Achilles heel right now. He has spondylosis causing neurological issues. In simple terms, it means two or more of the vertebra in his lower back are in the process of fusing together. This is causing a narrowing of the spinal column and is also putting pressure on some of the discs in his back. This pressure causes the nerves in his rear legs to lose sensitivity after extended usage.

In only four weeks of physical therapy, Soy has improved and I am very happy with his progress. He had his seventh session yesterday. The specialist said he was improving at a rate 95% faster than most dogs at first, and now about 60% faster. Because of his active lifestyle he is very muscular and fit for a dog of his age. But he is no where near the place he would need to be in order to climb mountains. The PT specialist said yesterday these types of problems take four to six months to treat. Even so, it is highly unlikely a dog will return to its previous state of health because the problem is genetic, degenerative and not caused by mountain climbing or other activity. Basically, this makes climbing with Soy not possible because in November or December it will be far too cold to climb.

Soy is now 11 years old. His PT specialist did say there’s a 1% chance he could climb one more mountain but it would have to be next summer and she did not believe it would be something to plan on, hope for or expect. This would require an excellent recovery in PT over the next several months, followed by three to four months of sustained health without regression or other injury setbacks. Then we would have to x-ray Soy’s back to see if further degenerative processes have taken place. If all these things went perfectly, then we could “attempt” Capitol but it would require a week long trip that allowed him rest days along the way. The PT specialist, the vet and I feel this is not a likely scenario.

Overall, I am fine because I have had some time to deal with this over the entire summer. I have waited to post this as long as possible but the writing has been on the wall for a while now. Even so, it has been very difficult to accept for many reasons. We are so close to our goal, we have been totally dedicated for more than a decade, we have sacrificed so much of our lives to accomplish this and the two of us have overcome obstacle after obstacle, again and again and again. It is frustrating, disappointing and sad on many levels. But it is important to remember that everything in this life has a starting point and an ending point. Even though you guys know I believe in God, I would be lying if I told you all I’m not questioning Him on this and in some senses even mad at Him a little. I have been wondering for the last few months now how I would finish my book if Soy and I did not finish the peaks. After all, this is not the ending I expected to write, wanted to write or the ending I hoped for. But, just the other day I read this quote that may have given the answer. It read, “God wants to turn your test into a testimony; your mess into a life message.” Hopefully the story Soy and I have shared all these years can be one that inspires people to know that God will help them overcome the “mountains” of their lives. If our story can make that kind of impact, then all of this is worth it in the end.

Josh
With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

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Re: Sawyer Retires Again

Postby sgladbach » Tue Aug 16, 2011 2:44 pm

Did you guys have fun, keep each other safe, solidify your trust/loyalty relationship??

Mission accomplished!! =D>
"We knocked the bastard off." Hillary, 1953
"It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves." Hillary, 2003
Couldn't we all use 50 years of humble growth?

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Re: Sawyer Retires Again

Postby kushrocks » Tue Aug 16, 2011 2:50 pm

From one dog lover who is attempting to climb as many 14ers with his dog as possible to the next - thank you for your story that was truly inspirational. I can't wait to read your book
" The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why." - Mark Twain
"Danger in Alpinism is just part of the game. As soon as you eliminate the danger you have just every other sport." Febrizio Zangrilli
“The best climber in the world is the one who is having all the fun.” – Alex Lowe
"To travel, to experience and learn, that is to live" - Sherpa Tensing Norgay (first person to Summit Mt. Everest)
"Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit" - Edward Abbey
" Don’t be afraid to move out of your comfort zone. Some of your best life experiences and opportunities will transpire only after you dare to loose."

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Re: Sawyer Retires Again

Postby smrcka » Tue Aug 16, 2011 2:56 pm

I really appreciate your story and the obvious love you have for Sawyer. You have already accomplished so much together as a team. If Sawyer is not physically able to climb Capitol now, maybe someday he can climb it with you in spirit!!
It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err. - Mahatma Gandhi

To be aware is to be alive!

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Re: Sawyer Retires Again

Postby oldschoolczar » Tue Aug 16, 2011 3:26 pm

What a great story and a GREAT dog! I'd love to meet Sawyer.

I admire you for letting Sawyer retire gracefully to bask in the glory of his accomplishments. Sawyer doesn't know he's 1 peak shy of completing the CO 14ers, he only knows he got some badass climbing in during his prime years!

Out of curiousity, how does Sawyer get up some of the unavoidable Class 4/5 pitches on some of these mountains? Do you carry him up difficult parts or something? I'm just curious because I'm looking to my first Class 4/5 stuff soon and I'm amazed that a dog can get up some of this stuff!
"Tonight I'll shave the mountain
I'll cut the hearts from pharoahs"
-Tom Waits

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Re: Sawyer Retires Again

Postby tbaileymd » Tue Aug 16, 2011 3:41 pm

You have sacrificed a lot, and you are frustrated that you came up just short. I doubt that Sawyer feels frustrated at all. He got to spend years with his person, and in the mountains. Those were his goals, and he achieved them well.

My opinion, as someone who has ended up with eleven dogs, and had to put the original one (Jenny, 13 year old beagle) to sleep five years after a neck surgery had corrected a bulging disc. The injury recurred and she couldn't walk anymore, though we wanted so much for her to be her old self. They'll follow us anywhere and give unconditional love. But they grow old before our eyes and the day comes when they can't follow anymore and then we owe it to them to give them the retirement or rest they deserve.

Sit with your beloved dog and dream of the mountains. Give yourselves credit for Mt. Wilson. And then one day (when it feels right) climb Capitol in his honor.

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Re: Sawyer Retires Again

Postby Inky6900 » Tue Aug 16, 2011 3:43 pm

oldschoolczar wrote:

Out of curiousity, how does Sawyer get up some of the unavoidable Class 4/5 pitches on some of these mountains? Do you carry him up difficult parts or something? I'm just curious because I'm looking to my first Class 4/5 stuff soon and I'm amazed that a dog can get up some of this stuff!


Sawyer is 70 pounds so it was not practical to carry him or put him in my pack. Doing so would have been far too dangerous for both of us. Mostly we learned together at a slow pace, easing into the more difficult peaks, just like any other climber(s) would. So to answer your question, we climb these peaks just like everyone else does - one step at a time, one maneuever at a time. I've always thought Sawyer's mental capacity was really his true gift. And that is not a slam to all the incredible physical gifts he had. He could analyze routes and take the ones that worked for him and me. In his young days, seeing him in action was truly a site to behold. He respected heights but never really feared them. In his older age, climbing became less athletic and more mental. Again, I was always amazed how he overcame the odds even when his body wasn't as fast or springy anymore.
With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

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Re: Sawyer Retires Again

Postby smrcka » Tue Aug 16, 2011 3:52 pm

tbaileymd wrote:And then one day (when it feels right) climb Capitol in his honor.


My sentiments excactly.
It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err. - Mahatma Gandhi

To be aware is to be alive!

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Re: Sawyer Retires Again

Postby Presto » Tue Aug 16, 2011 3:56 pm

How blessed you were to share such wonderful times with a willing companion, Josh. There's many people in this life that have not even benefited from such a trusting and loving relationship.

I have been wondering for the last few months now how I would finish my book if Soy and I did not finish the peaks. After all, this is not the ending I expected to write, wanted to write or the ending I hoped for. But, just the other day I read this quote that may have given the answer. It read, “God wants to turn your test into a testimony; your mess into a life message.” Hopefully the story Soy and I have shared all these years can be one that inspires people to know that God will help them overcome the “mountains” of their lives. If our story can make that kind of impact, then all of this is worth it in the end.


You have found the answer, my friend. And, it is all worth it in the end. Mission accomplished.
As if none of us have ever come back with a cool, quasi-epic story instead of being victim to tragic rockfall, a fatal stumble, a heart attack, an embolism, a lightning strike, a bear attack, collapsing cornice, some psycho with an axe, a falling tree, carbon monoxide, even falling asleep at the wheel getting to a mountain. If you can't accept the fact that sometimes "s**t happens", then you live with the illusion that your epic genius and profound wilderness intelligence has put you in total and complete control of yourself, your partners, and the mountain. How mystified you'll be when "s**t happens" to you! - FM

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Re: Sawyer Retires Again

Postby smitty » Tue Aug 16, 2011 4:31 pm

Great stuff - Sawyer kicked some butt! Spoil the hell out of him!

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Re: Sawyer Retires Again

Postby Rockymtnhigh69 » Tue Aug 16, 2011 4:31 pm

Thanks for sharing this story of Sawyer.. I have been following you guys for a while on this site.. Jeter my lab (whom many on this site have met before) climbed his 25th 14er (Huron) last week at 7 years old.. He was great in the morning, but a little sluggish on the descent.. He was very sore for a day or two and I was wondering if I should stop climbing with him now and not ruin him.

Sawyer is an inspration to me and my buddy. Jeter. I look forward to reading your book as well.. =D>
On my first take-off, I hit second gear and went through the speed limit on a two-lane blacktop highway full of ranch traffic. By the time I went up to third, I was going 75 and the tach was barely above 4000 rpm....
And that's when the Ducati got its second wind. From 4000 to 6000 in third will take you from 75 mph to 95 in two seconds - and after that, Bubba, you still have fourth, fifth, and sixth. Ho, ho.

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Re: Sawyer Retires Again

Postby oldschoolczar » Tue Aug 16, 2011 5:23 pm

oldschoolczar wrote:What a great story and a GREAT dog! I'd love to meet Sawyer.

I admire you for letting Sawyer retire gracefully to bask in the glory of his accomplishments. Sawyer doesn't know he's 1 peak shy of completing the CO 14ers, he only knows he got some badass climbing in during his prime years!

Out of curiousity, how does Sawyer get up some of the unavoidable Class 4/5 pitches on some of these mountains? Do you carry him up difficult parts or something? I'm just curious because I'm looking to my first Class 4/5 stuff soon and I'm amazed that a dog can get up some of this stuff!


That is awesome! You and your dog have inspired me!
"Tonight I'll shave the mountain
I'll cut the hearts from pharoahs"
-Tom Waits

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