Sunday, 7 October 2018

Northern Europa: Smeleden and the dog bite

I, Sif and Sophie
After the Berglagsleden the E1 follows some rather obscure local hiking trails that are not very well or even non-existant. The landscape isn't that fascinating either so this was a good time to make some kilometres - despite the heat. The little town of Smedjebacken was my next rest day. There I encountered not only a supermarket but also a very charming and incredibly cheap (for Swedish standards!) guesthouse: Lotta's Krog. To my even bigger surprise I met two Danish girls there who turned out to be E1 hikers, too! Because of the high amount of snow they had not started at the North Cape but further South in Sweden. They were definitely not ultralight, but very interested in my equipment, so I ended up doing another private ultralight hiking workshop. We were hiking in opposite directions so we had to say good bye the next morning. 

The fresh bite
 I left Smedjebacken around noon in wonderful sunny weather - and had no clue what bad surprise was waiting for me. I was passing a big farm outside Smedjebacken when all of a sudden a pack of dogs came running towards me barking aggressively. First I was not afraid too much: I have had so many dog encounters during my hiking career that I just reacted as I always do. Stand still, tell them in a loud voice to back off and use my trekking poles to keep them at a distance. But these rather big dogs came closer and closer circling around me. Still I was not too worried because I could hear the owner rushing towards us. But the five dogs did not react at all to their owner's commands. The started jumping up on me and became more and more excited - until one of them bit me in the leg. I started screaming - not because the bite was so painful but because I was now really scared! The dog owner, a woman my age finally got control over the situation. Excusing herself profusely she took my arm and led me to the stables where she locked up the dogs immediately - who behave perfectly well by now! Only then did I take a look at the bite and was shocked! I did not feel much pain, but the bite was deep!

One of the culprits - a Rhodesian ridgeback
Lotta, the owner, was shaking more than me. She explained that she had been training the dogs and had just been bringing them back to their kennel when I passed by her property - and the situation got out of control. She was breeding the dogs: Rhodesian Ridgebacks - they were bred for lion hunting in South Africa! I started to think the bite could have been much worse considering what kind of dogs they were ....
Lotto who had been living on farms all her life  long was used to all sorts of emergencies and immediately took care of the situation. She gave me pain killers, cleaned and desinfected the wound and dressed it up with sterile bandages. And she gave me her contact data offering any help I would need.

First Aid in Lotta's stable
Later I was asked many times why I did not report this incident to the police. I really had the impression that this had just been a very unlucky coincidence - I had been at the wrong place at the wrong time. And Lotta will never ever have her five dogs running around free so close to the public foot path again. Also she had immediately taken responsiblity for the incident and had even offered financial compensation - which I refused. I think that shit happens - and now it had hit me but I did not want to take advantage of it. I just hiked on half an hour after the incident. The pain was tolerable and luckily I still had an active Tetanus vaccination. But unfortunately this was not the end of it....

At Falun hospital emergency room
My best German friend and trail manager Wulf has a medical background and when I consulted him via phone he also advised to hike on - but keep a close eye on the wound. I sent him photos of my leg every day and unfortunately on day two after the bite he told me to go to hospital soon. The entire leg was red and swollen. Apparently the wound had gotten infected. By then I was in the middle of nowhere and it was Saturday - and all doctors closed. I walked to the next road and decided to hitchhike into Falun, the next big city with a big hospital. I was incredibly lucky because the young couple that picked me took pity on me and made a big detour to bring me directly to the emergency room! There blood tests and samples were taken and a very friendly doctor prescribed antibiotics to treat the infection.

The antibiotics prescription
Whether I liked it or not I now needed a rest. The antibiotics and the infection made me weak and the summer heat did not improve my situation. There was no cheap hostel available so I had to stay in a rather posh and expensive hotel - but what the heck! Already after 24 hours the swelling had disappeared and after two nights in Falun I decided to hike on. The hospital doctor even called me on day three to tell me the result of the samples: I had had the classical dog bite infection with a bacteria called Pasteurella which grows in animals' mouth. He then officially allowed me to hike on - although I was already on the trail again .... 10 days I had to take antibiotics - but the wound would cause my trouble for much longer ....

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