Having a disabled dog is not the end of the world! They still love, feel, play, and care about us. It's just our chance to give back all the unconditional love they've given us.
Dogs with Disabilities:
- Don't feel sorry for themselves, we do it for them
- Don't know they're disabled
- Are accepting of what life has to offer
- Accept as much help as their pride can take
- Take each day as it comes and smell the flowers they can reach (and sometimes eat them)
- Have more patience than we'll ever have in the same situation
- Don't worry if we love them, they know we do
- Do worry if we'll take care of their needs - and shouldn't have to
- Don't say what if, they just do what they can
- Enjoy life just like other dogs, just not as rambunctiously
- Worry about their status in the pack, it's our job to reassure them they still have it
- Don't fear the future or worry about the past
- Make every effort to do what they can to their maximum potential
- Are not a burden, but a joy and a reason to slow down our own hectic lives
We can learn alot from dogs with disabilities! They can enjoy life to the fullest with just a little help from us. We are on our fourth dog with a neurological disease that wastes the rear legs and eventually renders them useless in old age.
Degenerative Myeopathy came on our first guy, Homer, fairly quick (or maybe I just didn’t realize what was happening) – I had no idea what was going on but if you could help him up he could walk so we’d stand him up and point him in the right direction and he’d wander the yard until he sort of sat down. If he flopped in a shady spot, I’d just let him hang out there awhile. If he sat down in the sun, we’d go out and help him up again. Riggs was a puppy then, and he would sit and talk to “Grandpa” for hours – very unusual for a puppy – it was like he was getting wisdom from the elder dog. To keep Homer safe in the house from the other dogs he had a comfy bed in an x-pen. This went on for about 8 or 9 months when Homer must have just decided he didn’t want to get up anymore. He gave up. I used rubber backed rugs that absorbed the accidents and gave him traction. He enjoyed the last year of his life wandering the yard and hanging out with the grandkids (Riggs was his fav). Knowing what I know now, I know we might have hung in there longer with a better system of coping with the pee and poop. He made it to almost 12.
Shadow was a handful. He had aggression problems early on because his owners were idiots, so we took him back. Most of his life he was hell-on-wheels so I was really surprised when, as the DM got worse, he actually let us help him. The aggression subsided which was very unexpected, and his separation anxiety got worse. The DM started with him peeing down the hallway as he walked. Not a big problem as we don’t have carpet .I just kept bleach water and a mop ready. Eventually it progressed to problems standing and eventually the typical paralyzed rear end, but he was ok as long as he could be near us. I made my office in the living room and he had the vestibule with a baby fence around him. Riggs befriended him and they’d sit and “talk” for hours just like with Grandpa Homer. The other dogs would visit and he’d yell at them for fun. He did well on the rubber backed rugs. The biggest problem is he needed to keep his mind busy – he was a VERY intelligent dog and sitting still and doing nothing was difficult for him. At the time I didn’t know dog wheelchairs existed. Most of the summer he spend on the front lawn under a huge beach umbrella – he loved this because he could keep an eye on the neighborhood and even kept a neighbor’s dog who was pooping on our lawn away (I think he liked being the “tough guy”). The dog that used to try and attack the UPS guy made friends with him. He made it to 14 when the average mal lifespan is 12.
Hoover was a dream! This site was created in his honor. Hoovie even went on vacation with us up north with 5 other dogs. He “ran” in the sand dunes (with me trying to keep up holding his rear up) and enjoyed the beautiful scenery in a grassy spot while the other dogs got walked nearby. I took a bunch of towels and rugs and we made a Laundromat stop halfway through the trip. I brought plastic to put on the hotel room carpet and he was the darling of the hotel staff. (He was incontinent too). I think that trip was the best time of his life – he enjoyed it so much. I made him a wheelchair from an old people wheelchair but he preferred me to hold up his backend with a lift. Eventually he even lost use of his front legs, but was a happy guy right to the end. He also took up residence in the “doggie nursing home” in the vestibule and would talk to the other dogs, play with his squeakie toys and be nearby. He was a joy because he was so patient and accepting of his disability. He made it to almost 12. By then I had it pretty down pat – the incontinence and poop wasn’t even a problem. He was the first one exhibiting the characteristic hoarse “woo” when he talked (a trait of DM).
Now we have Riggs – he’s very early in the disease – I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the signs except for the other guys. Slight toeing under, unsteadiness when he turns – and the hoarse “woo”. After the tests at MSU he was having a rough time standing for a day or so because it stressed him out so much, but has bounced back pretty good. Right now kidney problems are more of an issue, but no accidents yet. He just has to go out more often and preferably when the 1 yr old puppies aren’t driving him nuts. I think the kidney problems will probably get him before the DM does…He still has the respect of the others and is still keeping his spot as “alpha” for now. Even the young upstarts aren't challenging his authority. Funny to hear his “straighten up your act – boy” voice in that high-pitched woo, directed to the upstart. He enjoys watching TV (medical shows – always has liked them) so his routine hasn’t changed much yet. If he has to move to the “doggie nursing home” I guess I’ll be buying him his own plasma LOL….
In caring for them all we've learned a lot about what works and what doesn't when it comes to assisting and living with a disabled dog. And with each dog we've been able to find solutions that assisted the dog to live longer, and more comfortably. Every dog is a challenge, but also a learning experience - but most of all, a disabled dog is a joy - they appreciate everything life has to offer and never say "why me?".
Coming Soon: I'll be posting a couple of very new sites that will be of great interested to those of you with disabled dogs. I have a couple of really interesting ideas in the works that should be complete in a few months....I think you'll find them very useful! Stay tuned!