Maia's eyes have been bothering her, off and on, for the past three weeks or so.

Fairly rapidly, one eye (or the other, never both simultaneously) will become red, swollen, painful, and eventually cloudy. Eye pressure is low during the flare-ups. She always seems to respond to an eye ointment that contains both a mild steroid and an anti-inflammatory. But it keeps coming back. First the left eye. Then the right, followed quickly by the left again.

Yesterday I took her to see a veterinarian ophthalmologist in Boise. The girls and I spent nearly six hours in the car, round trip, for a one hour visit at the vet's, but I didn't want to leave any stone unturned in my effort to figure out what was going on.

The good news: it's not glaucoma. It's not a tick-borne disease. Nor is it an allergic reaction, which would affect just the surface of her eye. In Maia's case, the interior of her eye swells and fills with fluid (the cloudiness). There's no permanent damage to either eye, or her vision. Her lab work shows a very healthy dog.

The not-so-good news: we still don't know what it is. It could be an immune-mediated problem, it could even be a problem elsewhere in her body (e.g., cancer) that's showing up in her eyes. The vet said that often, with dogs, the eyes are the most visible symptom of something else going on internally.

Throughout this ordeal, Maia's appetite and energy have been normal, even good. We've continued to run some, and the running has no effect on her eyes, good or bad. Other than discomfort when the inflammation is acute, she's fine. I give her 1/4 Deramaxx for the pain, and she's fine.

I've tried a couple of times to get photos of Maia's eyes. She refuses. She seems to know how slow my camera is, and turns her head just as I hit the button; by the time the photo actually is taken, she's looking elsewhere. Meadow, my mellow girl, poses quite naturally, even staring right into the camera. The photos above were actually taken today, but it's always the same with Maia! I was struck, though, by how long her nose appeared in these photos.

A frustrating problem, Maia's eyes, with no clear solution at present. I'll keep watching her, treating her eyes with the ointment if either one flares up. Maybe try a stronger steroid if necessary. Meanwhile, I revel in every day she's feeling spunky and happy, like yesterday.

The girls and I went up into the forest. I anticipated a short hike, a quick romp in the snow for the girls on a nice cold sunny morning. To my delight, when we got to the top of a steep hillside that snowmobilers use as a shortcut, we discovered that the road had been packed and plowed! At the bottom, it hadn't, so this was a wonderful surprise. What started as a quick hike turned into a seven mile run in nearly perfect conditions.

And once again I received a lesson in the importance of change and newness. As we started running up the road, Maia and Meadow both were a little slow, lagging a bit, sniffing a lot, with Maia nudging my hand as if she wanted to turn back. I urged them to continue on with me. Soon we passed a common turnaround point and continued even higher, where we hadn't gone since New Years Day. Both girls perked right up and took the lead from me. Meadow started prancing in her playful loping stride, trying to get Maia to wrestle with her. Now we're talking! This is new - or almost new! This is interesting, with new smells! This is FUN!

I marveled at the difference in them. Just a relatively "new" trail made them so much more eager, enthusiastic. Their earlier lagging had nothing to do with tiredness. It was totally due to boredom. Same old same old.

Malamutes are not a breed willing to chase a ball ad nauseam, or run the same loop every day without complaint. And while that trait makes it a challenge for me to keep them interested, I'm much the same way, so we all benefit. Their enthusiasm for "new" keeps me looking for new trails and places to show them, and show myself - through their eyes as well as my own. Because I, too, get bored easily.