I had foot surgery on Friday. It’s been necessary for a while and honestly, a steroid shot enabled me to be two-legged throughout this last Iditarod. But, if I wanted to walk, much less run, on two legs without severe pain, I needed a big toe fusion. So, Allen and I thought seriously about the timing for such a major “inconvenience” and decided it would be best to have surgery immediately after Iditarod.

Well, “immediately after Iditarod” came and went. Being physically and emotionally drained, on top of surgery seemed like a bad idea… plus we had the two **FREE** Alaska Airlines award tickets from the Vet Care Award. So, we went to Mexico for 6 days. Mexico versus surgery – difficult choice?!?

I’m sure many of you have wondered why we have so many dogs with Spanish names. Well… Viva Mexico!

But, when we arrived home, got off the I.V. guacamole, quesadillas and margaritas, we became responsible again and scheduled the surgery for late April.

If you don’t think that everything in Alaska revolves around dogs… you’re wrong!

My Veterinarian, Dr T. Rose, originally examined my toe and her diagnosis went something like this:
How do you walk on this? If you were a dog, I wouldn’t let you walk on this!
With that information, I started to think that I should perhaps see some human medical specialists.

I had two P.T.s look at my toe — thanks Nicole and Claire — Nicole has met Allen and I at the finish lines of both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod for several years now (she knows what it takes to get there.) And Claire made about 15 pounds of sugar free protein bars that sustained me on the Iditarod.

Then, Leslie Dean, a hand surgeon in Anchorage, and her husband Don Hopwood, who have been Chica’s Dog Sponsors for many years told me the best foot surgeon to see in Anchorage is Ken Swayman.

During my appointment with Ken, I was greeted by his office dog, Jade, an Alaskan Husky from Iditarod Champ Dean Osmar’ kennel. Jade’s father is Dean’s neighbor’s dog, Lieutenant. Both my dogs, Clyde and Outlaw, were sired by Lieutenant. So, Jade is my dog niece… kinda, sort of…

The surgery went well — according to Ken — who drew husky faces on my now bionic right foot and showed us the X-rays on which you can see the hardware. The surgery basically removed the big toe joint (which was a mess) and then screwed the two bones together. Now they must fuse – like a broken bone would do. So, that means it will be 4 to 6 weeks of non weight bearing on my right foot.

Allen and I stayed in Anchorage for the surgery and post op appointment. Midnight, the wanna-be-sled-dog, and Linda Steiner got us a two-room suite at Extended Stay Downtown. It was perfect! Me, my crutches, 4 pillows and pill containers would rotate from the bed to the couch every few hours with a lot of help from my husband and nurse (same guy for both positions.)

The last day in town, we got out of the hotel, got an “OK” from the Doc (and Jade) and drove home.

Jade, Dr. Ken Swayman and Aliy Post Surgery; Allen is a very diligent third crutch!

The prognosis for full recovery is great. Basically it’s all up to my body now because the bones must fuse together as one. This will honestly take 4 to 6 weeks. No rushing the body’s mending process. I will check in with the Doc every week and send him photos of the incision. I will need X-rays at 4 week and 6 weeks.

As everyone can imagine, this will limit my physical activity substantially. I am, of course, planning on being very proficient on crutches very soon. (I will admit that going downstairs last night was a bit scary.) But, after “the OK” from the Doc, I hope to at least crutch up and down the driveway and out into the field.

After the Doc says so, then I’ll be able to work on my upper body strength… which is so desperately needed (HA!) Perhaps I can also work on a “summer 6 pack”… no, not beer! Maybe Allen and I will continue the SP Kennel’s Pull-up Protocol: this winter we asked most kennel visitors to do at least one pull-up before the left the premises. Who knows maybe I can beat Ryne in a pull-up competition this Fall?!?! I can dream.

Allen will not only be my nurse, but also take over all physical duties at the kennel. We have plenty of friends who have volunteered to help out. I can talk to all the dogs from my house porch, my living room window and my bedroom balcony. Plus, Allen will rotate my indoor canine companions daily. Only one rule… No lifting legs on my crutches.

42 Responses

  • I have had that same surgery, but unfortunately some years later I needed to have a bone in my outer ankle fused because the fused big toe caused me to shift my weight and walk funny…well anyway I love your story and I'm doing great now and soon you will be too. Yes, you do need to let your body heal in it's own time. Time spent now being cautious, frustrating as that is, will mean a good outcome and pain-free future.

  • Hello Aliy and Allen and pups!
    Great news that the surgery went great…Good Luck to Allen for being your nurse.. I love that the Doc has a related Husky.. Best Wishes for a Speedy recovery and get ready to read a bunch of "Get Well" cards from your fans.

    I got 1 pull-up in last yr. maybe I can do 2 next time…

    Ahwwoooll from Fairbanks, AK

  • you look great! glad you had a good vacation before surgery. Sending you lots of healing and good wishes so you can be back to being 100%p and in the dogyard doing what you love…. let me know how many pullups you end up doing 🙂 big hugs, Lidia

  • Aliy hope you have quick good healing dear girl . YOu are the epitome of bravery running the Iditarod on a bad big toe . A get well hug to you and one to Allen for taking good care of you one to the doggies also

  • Wishing you well, Aliy! I had surgery on a fractured ankle a couple of years ago and discovered that going up and down stairs on my behind was a lot easier on my armpits without crutches, and it strengthened and toned my upper body as I pushed myself up and down the stairs with my arms. It's a good option for those of us with stairs. ��

  • Oh, Aliy, all this and you finished THIRD in Iditarod!!!

    Amazing!!! Best of luck in your recovery and physical therapy afterward.

    Watch Clyde, he would really like to "own" your crutches.

    P.S. Re: Stairs and places where you might have accidents…in my experience, "grippers" (from medical supply store) should be installed in walls at significant spots so you can support yourself. This is a must. Plus stairs can be negotiated via the sitting position up as well as down.

  • Well, Mexico and Margaritas would top surgery in my book for sure. Best wishes for good healing. About those pull-ups, thanks for the warning. I will see Decaf in the flesh one day. Now to find a bar. Hmmm

  • Wishing you a speedy recovery, Aliy. I bet Allen was/is a great nurse. I think it's perfect timing for the surgery so you can have time to heal well before the season begins. I would've opted for Mexico before surgery too. Very cool about the Lieutenant/Jade connection.

  • Aliy you had me cracking up. Having veterinarian look at your foot, PT's then a hand doctor, dog sponsors, and putting your surgery off while you "run" the Iditarod and visit Mexico. Surely you required Ibuprofen to get through Iditarod.

    It's so funny because I'm doing the same thing.
    But, if Aliy can put her life on hold for a foot surgery that can't bear weight for 4-6 weeks….I guess I better see that Dr. about the hip surgery that can't "bear weight" for six weeks (no running for three months, yikes!).
    OK, but after my daughter's wedding! (my Mexico, this year that is)

    I have been wonder how Allen's foot has been since YQ, and what a surprise, it's Aliy's foot. Heal up Aliy, let those bones grown in. You still have many years ahead of you to catch those legs up to where your arms will be after this!
    I'm so glad you have Allen there to help you.

  • Foot surgery is a somewhat painful experience but once it starts to heal, it does so quite well (talking from my own painful experience).
    Best healing Aliy! Lots of love.

  • What a way to spend your summer! Heal quick so you can get back to your normal activities. At least you can still get the nightly howl going. Wishing you and Allen the best.

  • Aliy, I know by the end of 6 weeks you will have thought up all kinds of ways to do as much as is allowable. Mend well. Maybe Allen's daughter will give him a "nurse" badge to make it official.

  • I saw Claire at the pool this morning and she is a rock star. I have told her I am jealous of her visit to your kennel. 😉 as mom of girl who got off crutches this winter after foot surgery, no crutching down the stairs! Get a 2nd pair for upstairs and leave the stairs crutch free zone, just 2 cents. Also do what you can to keep strength up in the non weight bearing hip, it was more of a pain to rehab those muscles! Love your positivity, speedy healing!

  • No contest that Mexico and margaritas is much more appealing than surgery. Glad to hear it went well and that you are on the path to recovery! No doubt your regular house dogs and the rotating visitor dogs will take advantage of your sedentary state and lay with you on the couch demanding ear scritches and belly rubs – sounds like the best way to heal if you ask me.

  • Jeezum Crow Girl….OUCH….OUCH!!! Yup…you should listen to your Vet…I think her comment got your attention quick! And here we all thought Allen had the bum toe! Glad to hear the surgery went well….bones will heal if you just allow them to do their thing….dont push it! I LOVE the geneology connection back to Jade your "dog niece"!!! That was sweet! Wow, and Mexico too…its been a busy spring thus far for you….now time to relax and HEAL!!!

  • Sounds like you will be creative during your recovery. I personally liked the half crutch which hooks onto your arm instead of under the arm. I might still have my pair if you want to try them out. Barb Moore

  • Thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery! Glad you got some sun and fun before the surgery.

  • Oh my! Poor Aliy! Keep off that foot, young lady so it heals up nicely. We can't wait to see who your indoor canine companions will be! I'm glad you were able to enjoy Mexico before the surgery!

  • Sending get well wishes from Erie, PA. I worked in an orthopaedi group for 20+ years up until I changed jobs in Nov….one of them was a foot & ankle specialist, so I know the procedure and post-op process well…as well as knowing a few of the ortho guys all the way in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Small world, eh?! But, this is about you….FOLLOW DOCTOR'S ORDERS! Be patient and enjoy the down time as best you can. Good luck to Allen as he tends to his nursing duties! WIshing you the best. Of course Moira got out of town before all this went down, I see. LOL!!

    Lisa & Charlene

  • Damn, that is tough but I know you'll return to top notch mushing form – keep on keepin' on! You certainly have plenty of therapy dogs to help through recovery.

  • Sending prayers and lots of healing energies your way, Aliy. I know you will do what the doctor says and the healing will be full and not too delayed. I think I need to get very brave and get a mangled left foot fixed one of these days–stepped on by too many horses when I was young. Such an inspiring story but we all expect that from you no matter what happens. ((((Aliy)))) for being such an inspiration!! Relax, enjoy some down time and get back to full power by fall training time!

  • Hope you are up and easily around soon, but, not too soon!
    love the report of all the places you can talk to the dogs from!
    you are doing NOTHING to dispel the notion that EVERY person in Alaska has at least one sled dog
    Best Wishes!

  • Sending wishes for strength and speedy recovery. Loved the "dog niece" genealogy. Thanks for telling us more about you.

  • Wishing you a speedy and full recovery. Glad you got some time away in Mexico and that the surgery went well! Really give your toe time to heal. Hard to do, since you and Allen are so active. But you don't want to have it done again!

    Steve, Karen, Annaleigh, Kate, and William Laine (and Felix)

  • hey aliy,

    i just know it will be a smooth transition from "down-time" to " ground-time". you are strong and we are cheering you on.

    hang in there,cheers to you. – jason

  • Aliy,
    You are something else! Glad you were able to go on a vacation to
    Mexico and get away after some tuff times. Hay, Love the Jade
    connection! I was just looking at some of that the other day and
    when I saw the name Lieutenant–the light bulb lite up-SWEET!
    Thanks to Allen I'm sure he will make you a fantastic nurse!
    Now all the dogs can come in and give you some hugs and kisses!
    Be Good & Rest!

  • I am happy to hear that even the top dogs know that they have to take care of themselves. 🙂
    Thank you for including the picture of the xray. I couldn't have imagined that X.

  • Aliy,
    Wishing you a speedy recovery. Enjoy cuddling with the dogs. I am sure they will love it, too. Have a great summer.

    Maryalice Adams
    A Fan in Virginia

    Keep us posted on the pull-up competition this Fall. 😉

  • Best wishes for a speedy recovery Aliy. 4-6 weeks will fly by and you will be walking around on both feet before you know it.

    Glad you have a good nurse…it makes all the difference 🙂 not to mention the TLC you will get from the pups.


  • Wish you a speedy recovery. Hmmm….how will the cold affect your foot now?? I guess that's what foot warmers are for?? I guess Allen will have to help "putting the garden in." Wish we were there to help!

  • Aliy, you have all the ingredients for healing… a great husband aka nurse, chef, handyman, crutch, watchdog… and lots of pups for snuggling. Plus a great crew and lots of friends ready to help out. Use them ALL! The worse is finding the patience to go slowly those last few weeks. Love the idea of focusing on your upper body. I bet you will win the pull up award this year!

  • So glad you took the trip and had well deserved down time.

    Geeze, you had to be gritting through a ton of pain during the Iditarod, you are tough as nails!!

    It does take time for bone to fuse around the joint, I have a hard time staying still myself so I hope you are able to find something to preoccupy that time while mending. Wishing you a great recovery!!

  • Get MATSON to produce a V-neck version of their gorgeous blue T-shirt (with maybe a paw in white plus SP on the back) and you could sell TONS of these!!!

  • Sorry to hear about your foot Aliy and all the extra work for Allen! Sounds like your doing well as we all know that you will. Don't push the healing, enjoy the inside dogs because you will need both feet to win the Iditarod next year. It can only elude you for so long. Next year will be the year! Thanks for keeping us all up to date, it is much appreciated!

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