By Jamie Balke
Explore Big Sky Columnist

When I first adopted my dog Finn last year, I didn’t know why he lacked energy. The vet estimated that he was between 8 and 9 years old, but he walked slowly and then, disturbingly, started losing hair.

For the first few months, we attributed Finn’s slow walking pace to a lack of cardio training. But after the sudden hair loss, we took him back to the vet and blood tests revealed he has low thyroid function.

Luckily, there is a medication that can address this issue, and Finn is like a new dog. He’s still the slightly neurotic, 80-pound lap dog that we fell in love with, but now that he’s feeling better, we’re getting to know the true Finn.

Apparently he can bark. Previously, he rarely made a peep, but now is making his opinions known. It’s a rather quiet, awkward bark – kind of like a person trying to sound like a dog – and Finn employs this newfound skill to herd us around the house. He doesn’t like it when we’re not all in the same room, under his loving, protective gaze. Now he can tell us about it while shepherding us around, ensuring compliance by applying his mighty frame oh so gently to the back of our knees.

Finn is also applying his new barking talent to wake me up and assist him into my bed. He usually decides around 4:30 a.m. that his fleece-lined, memory foam dog bed simply will not do. This requires hoisting his back legs onto my mattress, because he still hasn’t the knack for jumping.

Finn doesn’t limit the use of his newfound energy to barking. He also chases me around after I get out of the shower, trying to lick my legs. I‘m not sure why he’s taken up this particular hobby, but given what a thoughtful caretaker Finn is, I suspect he’s trying to help me dry off. Either that, or he enjoys watching me sprint from the bathroom to the closet, trying to dodge him as I get ready for the day.

These interesting quirks aside, it has been tremendous to see Finn transform into a happy, healthy dog. Right before he went on his medication, when he was at his lowest point, he could barely walk around the block. Now he’s able to go on day hikes with us, and recently we scaled the five-mile Triple Tree trail. He happily hiked for more than two hours on this beautiful trail south of Bozeman.

At the dog park, Finn used to look intimidating and was mostly uninterested in other dogs. Now he’s Mr. Social. He never enjoyed water before but now plays in the streams and ponds he used to avoid. Occasionally, upon our return, he vomits up the untreated water all over the living room floor.

We couldn’t be happier.

Jamie Balke will be forever grateful to Finn’s wonderful veterinarian and her technician for bringing Finn back to life.