Monday, August 11, 2008

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!