Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Day 2 Cross Canada: Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario to Thunder Bay, Ontario

 Some stressful stuff with the dogs closed out Day 2 of our drive across Canada.

Arrival at the hotel. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

On day 2, after the roach motel stay, we were in Thunder Bay, Ontario. We were staying at a pet-friendly hotel, in a room on the second floor. We were near an exit door, which is good for us with the dogs, as we need to spend as little time in common spaces/stairwells/corridors as possible.

If you are not familiar, we have a 2 year old yellow Lab cross Ella, and an aging Great Dane, Schultz (he's about 7-9 years old). Both are rescue dogs. Schultz was abused badly before we adopted him and he has certain extreme behaviours and aggression triggers that we can't seem to help or overcome with him. If anything, I think he feeds off of my anxiety and that I have made it worse for him. If only Cesar Milan knew I am simply not capable of "calm, assertive".

Now he wears a wire basket muzzle that he can pant, drink and bark safely out of. It's the best way to keep everyone from trouble, though we regularly get dirty and/or terrified looks from people. I understand that it must be intimidating to see him coming towards you...

Schultz got the cargo area and Ella had to share the back seat with our clothes. She consistently moved the bars on the barrier to always end up nose first in the centre arm console between us.

When we tried to get him down the stairwell at the hotel for a bathroom break in the evening, he was absolutely terrified to traverse down the tile stairs, and he resisted and splayed his legs out to hold steady.

There was no elevator, so we knew we had to get him down. We assumed this would happen with a little reassurance and cooing. He was not having it. We had to move him ourselves, as gently and kindly as possible.

Somehow, we made it to the landing. Half way there.

We had to move quickly to get him out of the stairwell before others could come in and have the shit scared out of them. Plus, Ella was waiting for me in the room and you're not supposed to leave the dogs alone in the room at any time. I was high strung and my heart rate was up.

Following the landing on the landing, he braced himself with all his might. And his paws slid. And as we moved to the first stair, something went wrong.

He wouldn't move any more.

He couldn't move any more.

And he was in full panic mode. It took a minute for us to realize that his foot wouldn't move because it was stuck in the steel stairway framework. Somehow, he pushed his foot hard enough, and just awkwardly enough, that it somehow got stuck below his back ankle.

He was full out shuddering and we couldn't figure out what to do. My normal panic reaction is to  forget where I am and piss my pants  cry, but I knew I didn't have the luxury this time. We needed to free him, and fast. "Man, I wanna cry, holy shit what do we do? I really need to cry. What do we do?" : A brief glimpse into my brain functioning during panic.

Then a man came charging through the main floor stairwell door. Me and the hubs both shouted out. I  begged  asked the stranger to please give us a minute. If Schultz even started to bark or jump in the position he was in, he would break his leg. The man waited for a moment, cursed us, then went another way. Thank you strange man at the hotel in Thunder Bay. We owe you one, for real.

What could we do? We tried pulling on his leg. The stair depth was too deep and his leg was at such an awkward angle, it wouldn't come out. We both tried various angles. I was in full fledged panic, and feeling so bad for him because he had no idea what was going on.

If we broke his leg, not only would it be horrific, but where the hell were 24 hour vet clinics in Thunder Bay? What do we do with Ella? How can we ensure he doesn't get hurt?

So I actually thought under pressure. It may have been a first for me. Nothing short of a miracle.

I climbed under the stairwell on the right side. The stair was sealed off, so we were screwed. I tried climbing under the left side. Lo and behold, there was his foot pad and all his Great Dane toes. I tried to be as careful as possible as I pushed one shaky toe up and out, along with the others. There was still a risk of his leg twisting or breaking, but we had to try.

We were fortunate. His toes came out eventually, with the Hubs engineering the front, while I pushed below the stairs. That sounded really dirty... sometimes you really shock me with the way you think, people...

He was free... but he still had several more stairs to get down. It was f_cking terrible. When a 140 pound dog is terrified and shaking, and you can't soothe him, it's pretty easy to feel like a shitty owner.

I had to basically push his bum down, while trying to keep his paws going forward. The Hubs was so good at staying calm-sounding and reassuring Schultz, while he led him down the front of the stairs.

I ran ahead to check just outside the door, then cleared them to exit, and ran back upstairs to get Ella.

And now for something completely different: The moose look REALLY angry in Northern Ontario.

Outside, with Ella on leash around my waist, she darted to the right. The leash slipped up over my hips onto my stomach and back. Without warning, she darted left, as if the flower bed had the opposite magnet to her within it. Maybe she saw nail clippers... Who knows? I flew after her, totally unprepared, and she did something painful to my lower back. I ended up bawling my eyes out right there on the boulevard. 

Not five minutes later, as we tried to get to the grass behind the hotel, she saw something else interesting, and as I tried to run her forward, she went full stop, and ran the other direction, making direct contact with my shin bone via her skull.

I dropped and was in a LOT of pain. I was bawling as the Hubs tried to calm Schultz down (a lady had come out of the hotel with two small yapping poodles), offer to take Ella, and make sure I was KO  ok. I imagine he was pretty stressed then, too.

I'd like to think that my getting hurt was the trade-off to the Universe for Schultz not breaking his leg.

After several minutes of being unable to get up, I couldn't take the mass of grasshoppers jumping on and around me. The pain was intense. Between my back and my leg, I couldn't breathe quite right.

Fast forward to sleeping in one position all night in my clothes, and I was much better the next day. My shin still hurts, and that was over a week ago.

So pretty in Northern Ontario. But it really smelled like dogs.

We still had to get Schultz up the stairs, and back down the next morning. The dread hung between us like one of Schultz' massive drools...

Anyone have a towel? And an appetite still? No? Okay.


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  1. Holy panic attack Batman! What an ordeal. Glad nobody broke anything. And in Thunder Bay too. 700 horrible K to Winnipeg. Well, maybe only about 600 till you break out of the trees into a change of scenery.

    Any individual part of Northern Ontario might be pretty, especially near the lakes. But driving through endless K after K of nothing to look at but rocks, trees, and varying degrees of swampy water, at only 80 Kph, is enough to drive anyone almost bonkers. I don't think you could pay me to do it again.

    And the moose. You don't know the half of it. We nearly hit one on 11. All we could see was knees. We both nearly needed to change our pants. We backed up to give it some space hoping it wasn't mad at us.

    1. @Keith - Indeed a long drive to Winterpeg... that got worse before it got better. :(

      Parts were surely pretty, but too many animal warnings and not even remotely enough rest stops for comfort. Good news is that many sections are 110 km/hr now, which makes it faster.

      My goodness about the moose!! I kept saying I wanted to see one FROM A SAFE DISTANCE. It never happened, which is probably for the best. That must have been so scary.

  2. You are absolutely, positively hilarious!!!
    In spite of all the "obstacles", your humour
    shines brilliantly.
    Glad everyone finally arrived safe and sound.

    1. @Betty Bo - But *did we arrive safe and sound*??



  3. Aw, man. Poor pup, and poor you!

    At least you can say, "It's the dog's fault that I have all these bruises."

    I end up having to say, "I ran into the car. No. It wasn't moving. I was putting something inside and clonked my head so hard I still have a scab a week later. No, my boyfriend doesn't beat me, I really ran into a car." *sigh*.

    1. @Leauxra - I keep meaning to post about laser hair removal, around the time of staging the house, so moving a massive CRT TV and armoire out of the house, etc.

      I looked like I had seriously been abused. The tech was even telling the receptionist that she didn't think it was from moving, etc., which I overheard on my way back down the hall.

      It looked bad. So... yeah. You and I can run into cars/bruise often and easily together.

  4. Oh my God, poor Schultzie! And I hope you are feeling better now. I can't imagine what Ella might have done to cause you *that* kind of pain...

    I spent last New Year's hugging a 100-pound female Rottweiler, who was shaking like a leaf because of all the fireworks outside. The jaw that could snap my leg in half in the blink of an eye was chattering and buried in my lap. Ah, those loveable gentle giants...

    Sending happy thoughts and looking forward to the next installment of your adventures :)

    1. @Chris - Ella is a champ at finding ways to injure me. And I am injury-prone, so it's a real match made in heaven. ;)

      So you know EXACTLY what I mean about not being able to calm them or explain to them. Poor doggies.

      Thanks for the happy thoughts! Hope to write the next installment today.

  5. so glad your doggies are okay, and I'm sorry about your shin!

    My guy and I will be driving across Canada from Kelowna to Southern Ontario at the end of October, so you posts are of great interest to me!

    I have seen those "charging moose" signs in Northern Ontario (actually just last month when we were at a family reunion there) and they always freak me out. I'm like: "Really? They're going to come out fighting? This is TERRIFYING."

    Looking forward to your next post!

    1. @The Management - Thank ye!

      I can give you all kinds of non-pro tips, based on my experience. We essentially travelled the same route.

      Seriously, I know! The signs instill terror! Those moose look piiiissed!

      Writing the next post today, I hope.


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