Dry Feet

Lesson: If you're experiencing the problem, they probably are, too. Anticipate.

Problem: Dry feet.

More precisely: the pads of the feet.

I've noticed for months now that the skin along the outer edges of my heels is very dry.

Scratchy, catch-on-my-socks-when-I-put-them-on sort of dry. Starting to form deep fissures sort of dry. That cracked dry skin you hate seeing on someone else's heels when they wear flip flops.

This is new to me. Living in the Seattle area most of my life - where one worries more about moss growing between the toes, or skin wrinkling from too much moisture - I've never had dry skin. Especially on my feet.

I've now become a big fan of moisturizing feet and hands at every opportunity.

So I shouldn't be surprised that the cause of Maia's recent episode of limping turns out to be dry skin. Or, dry pads. Watching her lick her right foot frequently, I finally found a pad tear. Tucked way in toward the center of her foot, on the inner portion of the big pad, a pretty deep tear.

My initial reaction was happiness. I was selfishly happy that the cause of her injury was something as easily remedied as a pad tear, not something permanent and long term like joint arthritis. I'll have my running and walking companion back in a few days. It's just not the same without her. Meadow agrees.

But...ouch! Poor Maia. She's such a trooper.

I should have been paying more attention to the girls' pads, just as I should have paid more attention, earlier, to my own dry skin. We now live in a very dry climate, with this summer in particular being extremely dry. It's no coincidence that they both, for the first time in their lives, have had pad tears from running on dry trails covered in dirt, rock and sand. Right in sync with my own dry feet problem.

I had thought grass seeds and burrs between their toes were the only concern.

Our canine companions are, in so many ways, like us. If we're experiencing something - dry skin, fear, anxiety, joy - they probably are, too. I often tell people that if they think of their dog like a furry toddler, they'll better understand their behavior and also treat them with patience and benevolence. Centuries of breeding have left us with dogs with puppy-like looks, attitudes and behaviors. We've bred the adult wolf behaviors out of them. Is it any wonder they act like children much of the time? Would you leave your three year old home alone with dangerous objects within reach? Would you leave your toddler behind, outside, to guard your house and then wonder why he cries, yells, or lashes out at anything that comes close that scares him? Don't you get better results when you praise a toddler for good behavior, rather than yelling at her for bad behavior - especially if the bad behavior occurred outside your sight, or hours ago? Structure, consistency, and positive reinforcement work well with children and dogs.

We also have to anticipate their physical needs. We provide their nutrition and health care. Our dogs can't ask for pad lotion because their skin's feeling a little dry. I should have known, based on my own issues with dry skin. I'm learning. All the time, I'm learning. I'm just glad the girls are so patient with me.