Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Latest on Popeye

Now that Bandit's gone, Popeye doesn't have a tireless play buddy anymore. Our boy, Boomer, never a fan of little puppies, only just barely tolerates him most of the time, so I don't think Popeye will be getting much lovin' from that corner anytime soon. Our pittie girl Phoebe, is starting to warm up to him a little so there's hope that they may become friends down the road.

But Popeye isn't starved for attention, not by a long shot. He gets noticed almost everywhere we go. This morning, while at a nearby park, we came across 2 beagles, a little boy, and his dad. Popeye wasn't too sure about those beagles at first and would bounce up to them, bark, and bounce away. But after a while, he started to follow them as they walked along.

Yesterday, we spent a little time in front of the UC Berkeley campus, where he attracted much attention with his enthusiastic bouncing across the vast lawn to greet everyone.

During Labor Day weekend, he went to stay with another fosterer in Sacramento.

There, Popeye had his first encounter with house cats and did surprisingly well with them. He got to hang out with the resident dog, also from Taiwan, as well as the fun-loving foster dog, Gigi, rescued from the Merced Shelter.

And today he got to hang out with Oliver, a 16-month old. Popeye appears to love small children. He followed Oliver everywhere around the house.

Popeye also got some new gear. Now that I've got the diaper thing down like a pro (if I do say so myself), I've been starting to look for other ways to improve the way I care for Popeye. I've always had a bad lower back so the next order of business was to reduce the amount of strain on my back. I used to change Popeye's diapers on the floor, which required a lot of bending. At first I considered using one of the tables or counters but didn't find that very appropriate. Then I thought about buying a little cart or end table for that purpose but it was difficult to find one the right size for Popeye and the right height for me. Then I discovered something called a "changing station," which is apparently used for babies. I couldn't find anything affordable or that looked stable enough for a growing puppy Popeye's size.

Then I came across a baby crib at a garage sale. Let me point out that I never would have thought in a million billion quadrillion years that I would ever be purchasing a baby crib, because me and babies just don't mix. But here I am now, with 2 baby cribs in the house, purchased for $40 off Craigslist (a great bargain!!). Since the mattress can be elevated and the side rail lowered, it's works really well for me as a place to change Popeye's diapers.

It also ended up solving another problem for me. I used to have to bend over quite a bit to put Popeye in his crate or pen, but since the crib is high, it takes away the need for me to bend so much. Popeye can now also look out the window and watch the world outside, which I remember wishing a while ago for a way to allow him to do this.

The other piece of equipment I got for Popeye was a baby stroller. I don't usually carry him long distances, but as he grows (from 12.5 lbs 5 weeks ago to 16 lbs now!), even carrying him from room to room or to the lawn outside puts a strain on my back. At first I looked for a pet stroller but they were too much trouble to quickly put a dog in and take out. So I started looking into baby strollers. Again, I knew nothing about baby strollers so spent one Saturday going from garage sale to garage sale to study them and determine the features that would or wouldn't work. I ended up getting one for $15, also from Craigslist.

I have to say these strollers are such a life-saver. Not only do I use them inside the house to move Popeye from room to room or to take him outside to the lawn, the stroller allows me to take him with me on walks to the park or through the streets. Also, the tray that's attached in front is the perfect height for him to eat from (I previously had to stack his bowl on boxes), and he also likes to curl up and nap in
the stroller.

One downfall of the stroller that I haven't figured yet how to overcome is the embarrassing fact that people on the street think I'm playing dress-up with a puppy. They don't know Popeye is paralyzed and they think I'm one of those overly zealous petowners who go too far and treat their pets like actual human babies.

One time I was wheeling Popeye to a park next to an elementary school which had just let out. On our way back, the streets were empty except for an older man crossing guard. I've often been taken for being much younger than I am. (Side note: everyone keeps saying I'll appreciate that one day. I'm still waiting for that day. So far, I've just found it to be undignifying and embarrassing.) I'm sure the crossing guard made the same mistake, thinking I was some kid trying to play mommy because he told me to look both ways before crossing the street, which by the way, had no cars in sight.

I'm thinking of posting some kind of sign on the stroller, to let people know that Popeye has special needs, but I haven't figured out what yet. Suggestions are welcome.

I've also been working on other improvements. Two things I always worried about with Popeye's mobility as it is now are 1) scraping his legs as he drags them across the floor and carpet, and 2) hurting his bum from all his bouncing since his rear end lacks the cushioning that would have been provided by muscle or fat.

I had actually purchased something called a Protect-a-Pet suit from K9carts, but they ended up being too short for Popeye's long legs.

So I decided to make my own. Now, I don't sew. I took one mandatory sewing class for 8 weeks when I was about 11 years old and have not touched a sewing machine since. So my initial attempts on Popeye's behalf were horrifying to say the least.

The above was done (badly, obviously, though it took me a couple of hours and a lot of sweat) with a combination of 2 articles of clothing, purchased from Goodwill. The top piece was a pair of toddler pants. I then cut off the sleeves from a long sleeve jersey and sewed them to the bottom of the pants to make the legs. The picture shows the back of the "creation" and all the white stitching around the bum (I was too lazy to try to color coordinate the thread) was my attempt to sew cushioning on the inside. I made a couple of these but they didn't work very well (my measurements were off--well, I didn't actually take any so that may have been why) and they were somewhat difficult to put on and keep on properly.

So after much thought, I realized there was no need for me to make actual pants for Popeye. Something like a sack would be sufficient. I started looking for nylon bags to use but couldn't find any big enough so I ended up using a pair of my boyfriend's old shorts (yes, he gave them to me, I didn't just knick them--though I'm not above that either). I actually fitted them on Popeye first this time and took measurements. I call these "mermaid sacks" because they are wider at the waist and then taper as they go down to the paws. By tapering them, the sacks don't get in his way as his uses his front paws to push himself off the ground, one problem I had with my original attempt. The shorts didn't reach far enough so I just used extra fabric to extend the bottom (which is why it turned out being uneven--but close enough).

I then lined most of the inside with cushion. I found that just lining the rear area didn't work because the pants would twist as he moved so his rear would often end up NOT on the cushioned area, so lining the entire inside solved that problem. As far as apparel goes, this is probably one of the worst made in history, but I'm proud of myself for this one anyway because it fits properly and works as I intended.

My next project is making belly band wraps based on the cloth diapering system used for babies, in order to reduce the amount of waste all these disposable diapers are resulting in. We'll see how that goes.

In the meantime, here's a new video of Popeye:


Sugar said...

Absolutely wonderful! Popeye has thrived under your loving care and ingenuity. And what a bark! Regarding the fools who wonder about the baby carriage etc... Popeye would be adorable in a bright blue bonnet, with pink flowers. Maybe ribbons on the handles? Seriously, don't worry about people who pass judgment. They're not worth your time and energy. Just stay focused on Popeye's amazing grin and obvious enjoyment. If they give you any trouble, crazy lady promises to "stare them down" (she can be scary, that way)

L. Muggli said...

You are an angel. Popeye is an amazing dog and you are providing him a wonderful life. About the baby carriage - how about place 2 Red Cross type signs, one on each side - this might inform people that it is an emergency vehicle!!! Best Wishes