Safety First!

I broke my GorillaPod late last week. They don’t seem like the sort of thing one should be able to break, but unfortunately I have a superhuman ability to break stuff. I replaced it yesterday.

Where I’m going with this is that when stuff breaks, you can repair it (in the case of misaligned handlebars on a scooter that was pulled into a tree by wayward squirrel-chasing scooter dogs) or replace it (in the case of a mysteriously yet irrevocably broken GorillaPod), but the same doesn’t necessarily go for people and dogs.

Scootering isn’t exactly BASE jumping or cliff diving, but there are some obvious dangers, falling off being the most obvious of all. There are so many ways to fall – the scooter can skid out on an unstable surface (loose sand, leaves, or ice) or  just banking around a turn too tightly. The line could tangle up in the front wheel and bring it to a dead stop. You could lose your balance. The dogs could forget what “On By!” means and go careening after a squirrel, turkey, or deer. You might go over a bad bump. Or you might just be going too fast to control the scooter.

Along those lines, I only took this video this morning but when I showed my husband a similar one from last week he said “wow, they’re going fast” – and we were actually going slower in that one, slow enough that I didn’t feel the need to say “Good Lord!” Seriously, the can get going pretty fast, especially on long straightaways. It can be intimidating, especially on pavement.

 

 

I’ve only taken one bad fall off the scooter, the first and last time I actually fell off before I learned to sort of strategically eject myself off of it. Fortunately, it was on a dirt trail rather than pavement and I was wearing my helmet at the time. It was one of those things that somehow seemed simultaneously to happen in slow motion but way too fast to do anything about. As far as I could tell, I was readjusting my grip at the same time that we must have gone over a little bump or soft spot in the dirt and I just lost control of the handlebars. Once the process got started, I couldn’t get control back and rather than go down with the scooter I tried to fling myself off to the side – which was more or less successful except I probably should have tried harder not to land on my head.

It’s a little hard to see, but here’s what happened to my helmet.

My noggin, on the other hand, was fine, despite landing mostly on my temple. I was stunned for a minute, then ecstatic when I saw that the dogs had stopped only about 20 feet down the trail and were looking back at me, then realized my shoulder was going to be very very sore soon, then wondered if I’d be dead if I hadn’t been wearing the helmet.  The funny thing is, up until that point I had been pretty cavalier about the helmet and wore it fairly intermittently. You can be sure I wear one every time, now (and yes the one I fell on has been replaced).

It only took that one time before I learned to hop off much more gracefully. I’ve abandoned ship a handful of times but never actually fallen (knock wood) since then. Once the line got tangled in the front wheel and locked it, another time a squirrel ran out about 10 feet in front of the dogs, once we skidded out on some fall leaves. The trick is to let go of the handlebars and hop off the very instant it becomes clear things are about to go south rather than waiting for confirmation, or the confirmation will be your head hitting the ground. Trust me. And eventually you’ll get good enough at it that it almost seems graceful, you just let go, hop up and slightly to the side, and the scooter keeps on going without you.  The dogs generally stop once they realized you’re not on board anymore or, in the case of the squirrel, when they hit a tree.

The other lesson I’ve learned is that if you brake too fully and/or too abruptly, you and the scooter will still obey the laws of physics. Either you’re going to keep moving forward (I’ve never flipped over the handlebars, but I have smashed into them) or the rear tire is going to whip around so the base hits you in the leg thusly:

I still have a little knot there from the center of that monstrosity, where the edge of the base actually hit me. The edge is surprisingly painful and injurious to be hit by, it’s essentially a skateboard although slightly shorter and narrower, so it’s very hard and somewhat thin which is a rough combination to get hit by. I get little minor bumps from it all the time getting the scooter on and off the back porch and into and out of the car, but nothing like this. That was pretty magnificent if I do say so myself.

So what people sometimes don’t realize is that there are dangers for the dogs, too. The big ones I worry about are overexertion/heat stress/dehydration, foot pad injuries, muscle strains/sprains, and skin abrasions from the harnesses. I check the dogs’ feet and chest/armpits/sides where the harness lies before and after every run. They get water before and immediately after a run when I’m getting the scooter reloaded into the car, and I have rules about how often/how long we will run (as per yesterday’s post). Their harnesses are padded and kept clean and dry.

For example, today everyone was back to their chipper selves, so I decided to do a little Gee-Haw work. Because we don’t cover much distance when that’s my focus, I don’t mind that it’s on pavement, but pavement really is harder on their paws than soft ground. It’s is fine for long leash walks or even canicross where they aren’t actually pulling as much, but when they are pulling the scooter there is a lot more force and friction put on those paw pads and surface matters. There are trails I won’t use at all because they are packed dirt covered in small gravel – which would be like running on sandpaper. I don’t reject paved surfaces out of hand, but I do limit their time and distance on it.

Anyway, here’s the kind of thing I’m looking for. These pads aren’t actually injured, but if we don’t cool it that’s where they could be headed. It didn’t photograph well at all and it’s hard to see, but there are a few round pinkish spots where the top layer of the pad has been a bit worn on two of the toes. I want to stress that he is not limping or painful or having any problems, but continuing to run these paws right now could be bad news. That’s the whole point of checking their feet so frequently, to catch “hey this minor thing maybe could turn into a problem” before it actually turns into a problem.

 

So that’s at least a week off from scootering for Squashie, then I’ll check his feet again. If he’s good to go we’ll have to stay on soft surfaces and/or use some protection – booties, Musher’s secret, or athletic tape. Like the unsightly calluses that humans spend so much time and money obliterating from their feet while our skin dutifully insists on building the protection up again, his pads will toughen up over time as we are going more regularly, we just have to be careful with them.

I don’t really have a way to end this, so here’s a picture of the dogs riding home from the park today.  (Don’t worry, in the spirit of Safety First we were stopped at a stop sign.)

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