Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bandit's New Sweater

I know there are some people who think putting clothes on dogs is cruel but well, I'm not one of them. My dogs have a wardrobe and while I don't dress them up regularly, I have no compunction about putting some threads on them for Halloween, when it's cold, or simply when I'm in the mood for glamour shots.

Here's Bandit wearing his new sweater, generously donated by No Apawlogies, a local small business that creates hand-made custom sweaters and coats for dogs. It's comfy, soft, super stretchy, easy to put on and take off, and doesn't bunch under the arms like most mass-produced doggie clothes do (I know my doggie clothes!).

A happy customer.


I pulled out the vacuum the other day. I think it was probably Popeye's first experience with a vacuum. You think he can't get around with just 2 legs? You should have seen him bounce for cover under the coffee table at lightning speed.

Bandit on the other hand, silly goofball, found the vacuum cleaner very interesting. I think he kind of wanted to play with it but wasn't quite sure so he just followed it from behind at a safe distance throughout the entire house.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Odd Couple

Bandit and Popeye are in many ways a very unlikely couple. Their temperaments are vastly different, with Bandit being very happy-go-lucky, even oblivious, while Popeye is tenacious and sometimes ferocious in his 13lb puppy way. Yet they have turned out to be a very good match, with their puppy playfulness a common bond.

Our own 2 dogs, Boomer & Phoebe, do not interact a great deal with Bandit because we don't want him to get too excited since he's still recovering from surgery. Popeye is the perfect playmate for him during this period because they can wrestle and tug and do just a tiny bit of chasing without Bandit over-exerting himself. And Bandit, ever good-natured, has helped Popeye to let his guard down and simply be a little puppy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Very Sweet Dog -- 85% of the Time

The major behavioral baggage that Popeye came with is some resource guarding in regards to food. He's already gotten better about it, and I think that once he realizes that food will come regularly, he'll be even better. He does not like to have his front legs held either, but I continually touch and hold them so he's getting better about this as well.

In every other way, Popeye is a great little dog. He rides so well in the car, always sitting quietly, although I have to remember to get him a cushion so that he's high enough to look out the window.

We go on walks, with me holding up his hind end with a sling, and he likes to sniff everything. He's extremely curious. We don't usually get too far because he's always stopping to smell things--a bush, every single leaf on it, a mailbox, mostly just the air. I can see his little nose twitching like crazy as he catches a whiff of this or that.

Popeye loves to snuggle once he gets to know you. He often hops over to me to rest his head on my lap. Sometimes I let him sleep on my lap as I work on the computer. (He's laying on my lap in these pictures.)

And of course he loves to wrestle with Bandit.

In most ways, he's your typical puppy. I'd like to keep him as socialized as possible, so if anyone would like to meet up with him, please feel free to drop me an email.

The Verge of Breakdown

Popeye had major diarrhea for 2 days last week. You want to talk quality of life? Don't question Popeye's, question mine!

When one of my german shepherds was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy many many years ago, I did as much research as I could. DM is a neurological disorder which affects a dog's hind end. The dog can completely lose the use of his rear legs and become incontinent. I was prepared to take on the responsibility of caring for Jasper when he reached this degree. I knew people who had dogs with DM who were still able live a full life. That's why I wasn't terribly daunted by the idea of caring for Popeye. Jasper's DM never progressed to the point where he became incontinent or lost mobility of his legs, but if I was willing to care for a 125-lb dog, there's no way I'd balk at caring for a 12-lb one.

Yet I also knew there would be a learning curve. How steep a learning curve I didn't fully realize, but I knew it would be difficult at first. And boy was it ever.

I had not yet gotten adjusted to caring for a paralyzed dog in general when we were hit by a major diarrhea episode. I thought caring for Popeye before that was tough? When the diarrhea hit, I was on the verge of a breakdown. I could not get any diapers to stay on him for more than 2 minutes, I spent hundreds of dollars trying to find something that worked, to no avail, so it was constant cleaning up of accidents on the carpet, towels, blankets, crate, on my own clothes, not to mention on Popeye himself. I'd give him a bath, clean everything up, do laundry, finally have a chance to take a breath, and the process would start again 25 minutes later.

I almost wanted to cry when at 4 in the morning (I had been awake since 6 the following morning), I had everything cleaned up yet again and was finally getting ready for bed. As I carried Popeye to his crate, he had another accident while in my arms. I think the only thing that kept me from just sitting down in the hallway and sobbing was knowing that I'd still have a mess to clean up afterwards and the time would be even later. I could not remember being so completely exhausted and frustrated and overwhelmed since Iris went missing and I used to drive to Golden Gate Park every day from Antioch, sometimes twice a day, to look for her at kinds of crazy hours.

But Iris' situation was worse, because I was sick with worry about her. I didn't know where she was, if she was even still alive. At least I didn't have that with Popeye. With Popeye, I realized it was nothing more than self-pity. And if I could survive Iris being lost, I could certainly survive some nasty, stinky poop, even as non-stop as it seemed to be.

Canned pumpkin & the discovery of elastic saved the day! 3 days later, the diarrhea was gone and thanks to an email from Dr. Lynne, I figured how to keep those diapers on. Poke 2 holes in the diaper, one at the front, one at the back. Slip some elastic through them and then tie to harness. It's still a bit time-consuming to do, but I know I'll get faster the more I do it and it's nowhere near as time-consuming as cleaning up after messes would be otherwise.

Onesie outfits also work for diapers, but not belly bands. It took me 2 trips to Target to find the right size (Popeye wears the largest they make--24 months). They don't work as well as the elastic strings, but Popeye is so cute in them.

Popeye has a bit of diarrhea again today (too many doggie biscuits from a visitor yesterday), but it's completely manageable now. I even have time to catch up on blogging!

A Dose of Reality

I waited to bring this up because it just bothered me so much. I took Popeye to see a local vet on August 1. My intent was to get him x-rays. But the vet examined me and pretty much said that x-rays were pointless. She recommended euthanizing him. The medical reason was that since he didn't have control over his bladder, he would be prone to urinary tract infections, which could then potentially lead to kidney failure. Incontinence is certainly nothing a dog has to die for! It can be managed! I have a feeling the true reasons she recommended euthanizing Popeye were these:

1) Finding him an adoptive home would be difficult. No duh. She actually had the nerve to say to me that I couldn't just give him to the first person who wanted him just because he was such a cute puppy. REALLY?

She obviously did not know this about me, though she would have had she taken the time to ask, but the dogs I usually foster are the ones that ARE difficult to adopt. They are usually the ones that are overlooked, that nobody else wants, either because of a severe emotional trauma, lack of discipline, or medical need. This is why I take them.

People ask me all the time about my foster dogs, "Do you really think you'll really be able to find her a home?" By now, my answer is emphatically yes! It may not be easy, it may take a long time, but I firmly believe there is a perfect home for every dog, and I don't mind waiting to find it.

2) The 2nd major reason the vet recommended putting Popeye down was that she is apparently one of those people who think dogs that do not have 4 functioning legs cannot be happy and therefore should die. She questioned Popeye's quality of life with 2 legs. Uh, hello, have you MET Popeye? Popeye has no understanding that he is any different than any other dog. He is typical puppy--eager, playful, and full of spirit. If anything, it was his bout with starvation while living on the streets that has a more profound effect on him than his disability.

I know there are dogs who are put down all the time because their mobility becomes impaired. In many cases, I don't believe this is for the benefit of the dog. I believe it's for the benefit of the dog's people, because frankly, it's usually the easier thing for them to do.

I received an email about a week ago, just 2 days after I got Popeye:

"You actually believe this is a quality life for this dog? I feel sorry for him, but do not believe this is good for him. Poor baby."

My reply:

"My god, yes! Have you never heard of Faith or Sugar, both dogs with 2 legs who have extremely happy & fulfilled lives?

Sugar: h

Just look at all the dogs who live and move freely with the use of a cart:

And have you never heard of the neurological disease called Degenerative Myelopathy? Dogs with DM eventually lose the use of their hind end as well, and they become paraplegic like Popeye is. I had a german shepherd with DM. He never progressed to the point where he completely lost his mobility (cancer took him first), but my own neurologist had a paraplegic dog with DM himself and had guess what, an Eddie's Wheels cart for him. And one of the women in my DM group also had a paraplegic dog with an Eddie's Wheels and they went on 5-mile hikes every week!

All too often I hear people put down their dogs because the dogs' mobility is impaired. It requires a lot more commitment and a lot more work, but a handicapped dog can live as happily as a handicapped person can--even happier since they usually don't even realize their impairment.

I'm really sorry you feel that Popeye should be euthanized. I'm sure you won't be the only one. I feel sorry for him too, but that's because I'd feel sorry for myself if I were in his position. POPEYE doesn't feel sorry for himself. I took him on 3 walks today, 2 with his makeshift cart and the last with a bottoms-up leash, and you should have seen him go! I had to run to keep up with him. And he's always approaching strangers, waiting to be petted and cooed over. Popeye has a zest for life, and just because he doesn't have the use of all 4 legs doesn't mean he can't be happy. He can be as happy as we humans allow him to be.

I really do appreciate your opinion. We all have different opinions on what's best for our dogs--it's because we care so much about them. I just wanted to share my point of view so you know where I'm coming from.

Even though you may not agree with what I'M doing, I know you wish the best for Popeye. And for that, I thank you very much."

I have no doubt there are many others who feel the way the writer of that original email does. Come meet Popeye, spend a day with him, and then tell me you think he's better off dead. People sit back and judge because all too often they hold on to narrow minded views of what things should be. Well guess what, lots of things in life aren't how they "should" be. But the ones who are happiest aren't the ones who cry and complain and just give up. They're the ones who deal with it, who adjust and struggle to turn it into something positive.

How 'Bout a Game of Tug?

Has it really only been 11 days since I got Popeye? I feel like I've gone through more in those 11 days than I usually do in 11 months. There is much to share, but we'll see how long I can sit here typing before duty calls again.

How about we start with some pictures? I had mentioned before that Popeye exhibited pretty bad resource guarding with both his food and toys, particularly towards other dogs. Particularly towards Bandit, since Bandit's the only dog here who wants anything to do with Popeye at the moment. Popeye used to do some major snapping and snarling if Bandit even came close to Popeye & his toy. Just look at what a difference a few days makes.

Now Popeye loves to play tug with Bandit. They're great buddies now, always wanting to play with each other. Not surprising considering Bandit loves just about any dog, and Popeye still has his innate puppy drive to play.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Night & Day

I won't pretend that that past few days haven't been extremely rough. Popeye is the first paralyzed dog I've cared for and I'm still learning the ropes. Bladder and bowel incontinence makes for a lot of laundry needing to be done and lots of rubdowns with baby wipes and cream. Diapers don't stay on because his body is upright rather than horizontal like most dogs, plus his drags his bum on the floor and that just pulls them right off. I finally found a belly band that seems to partly work but still requires continued adjusting.

I worry also about him becoming raw or swollen from dragging and bouncing across the carpet and tile floors. I've spent hours and hours and more money than I care to admit trying to figure out a solution for this problem but nothing successful so far. I'm starting to accept there may not be anything I can do about it. And Popeye LOVES hopping around. He goes crazy and moves like lightning.

I put him in his cart every once in a while, but it's a bit small for him so is time-consuming and awkward to put him in. I also have to put boots on his hind paws because the seat is too low and his back paws drag along the crown. Popeye doesn't seem to like getting around in the cart as much, so sometimes I just put a sling under him and lift his hind end as he goes. But he likes to run when not using the cart and it's hard for me to keep up. I hope some of these problems will be solved once he gets an Eddie's Wheels cart. And as for the others, I hope I get the hang of it after a while and become way more efficient because right now, there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to get even half of what I need done done.

Popeye looks cute, doesn't he? He looks like he wouldn't hurt a fly, huh?

Yeah, he suckered me too at first. But something I quickly learned about Popeye is that he's not all sugar and softness. He can be feisty and stubborn and isn't afraid to bare his little teeth. No doubt this was how he survived as a stray on the streets. Indeed, Popeye is the kind of boy who I could easily believe could take care of himself, even with only 2 legs. When I compare him to Bandit, it's like night and day. Bandit is goofy, easy going, and happy-go-lucky, sometimes even obliviously so. I have never seen Bandit display even an ounce of impatience, annoyance, or possessiveness. I've never heard him growl, even in play, and the only time he barks is when he's trying to get another dog to play with him. He is accepting of everyone and everything anyone does to him.

But the one thing they have in common is that they love to play. They are so disparate in size but neither seems to realize it. In fact, Popeye has more of a big dog personality than Bandit. Popeye growls and barks at Bandit, and Bandit just grins and lolls his tongue. Popeye sometimes says in dog talk, "You get near my food or my toys and I will CUT you!" And Bandit just replies, "Dude, let's play!" If Popeye had the use of all 4 legs, Bandit would be absolutely no match for him. As it is, Bandit only has a slight benefit owing to size--he is after all about 4 times as big as Popeye. They are truly a crack together.

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Very Eventful 24 Hours

Yesterday was a busy day. First, it was back to the vet for Bandit.

The doctor said he seemed to be healing great (whew!) and removed his sutures.

The vet also said that he was allowed 10 minutes of walking at a time, which was great news because that means Bandit can finally leave the house regularly. As far as he's concerned, he's already A-OK and is rearing to go.

As we were leaving and in the parking lot, another person came out with her dog. There was a car between us, so Bandit stuck his head with butt in the air under the car to watch the other dog. Typical Bandit behavior.

Since the stitches were removed, Bandit was also allowed to have a bath. His first bath here. He really did not enjoy it but sat calmly for it anyway.

To date, we have received $1,870 in donations towards Bandit's $4,093 surgery bill. Thank you!

Later that night, it was time for me to finally meet Popeye. I picked him up from the airport and when we popped open the top of his crate, he stuck his head out as if to say, "OK people, attention please. Popeye is here." He came with a little make-shift cart and on our walk back to the car, all eyes were on him.

Although the cart is useful, it is very difficult to get Popeye into it and it topples very easily. It's also already too small for him and gives him sores and some swelling in the thigh area. Our primary goal now is to raise $500 to purchase him a cart with all the fixins from Eddie's Wheels, but we also hope to raise additional funds to help pay for his medical care. Popeye will require help from a neurologist and possibly some physical therapy as well. So please consider making a donation.

I'm experimenting with something called which accepts pledges but will not actually collect any money until the goal is met. Even though I have our goal listed as $550, that is only for his cart. Anything beyond that will help to cover Popeye's medical care. All donations are through Walkin' the Bark Rescue, a 501c3 organization, so your contribution is tax-deductible.

You can also make an immediate donation directly to the rescue with a check or with Paypal by clicking on the Donate button on the right-hand column. It takes about 2-3 weeks for a cart to be customized for Popeye, so I am hoping to earn enough donations as soon as possible.

Please check back for another update. Videos & more pictures to come.