Thursday, April 23, 2009

The New Car Ride

After months of struggling with the decision to amputate or not, it is a sigh of relief now that it's done. It's still too early to know in just how many ways the removal of Popeye's legs will change his habits and my routine, but the deed is done and that is one less thing my mind has to spin in circles about.

One thing I am thrilled about already is Popeye's ability to ride in the car now. It's something nobody would ever think to think about, unless you actually experience it. For the past couple or so months, as Popeye has reached his full size, car rides have been increasingly difficult for him. My car seats, like most car seats, are dipped and contoured for the comfort (supposedly) of the human body. The contouring has made it difficult for Popeye to rest in the seat because his back legs were so long and unbending. His legs could not conform to the curvature of the seats, so the legs sat like straight rods, only partially supported. This wasn't a problem when he was younger and smaller but became one as he reached full size.

Most dogs' center of gravity is at their rear when they are laying down in the car. Since Popeye's back legs could not fully rest on the seat, he had to continually hold himself up with his front legs, meaning his center of gravity was at the front of his body, propelled forward. If he sat in the back seat, any slightly sudden braking would cause his body to propel forward. Sometimes this would cause him to "stand". But since he didn't have control over his back legs, he couldn't sit back down as his back legs would be stuck in a propped up position. One time recently, I even had a scare as I had to brake quickly and he was actually thrown halfway between the front seats. I started using the seatbelts on him after that but if he shifted his position, his back legs would get caught in them.

So then I started putting him in the front seat again. I placed one of those folding lawnchair cushions in the front seat so that we wouldn't have to deal with the curvature of the seat. I faced the cushion backwards, so that half rested on the seat, while the other half was propped up against the glove compartment. This way, Popeye would have some cushioning if he was thrown foward. But the seat still dipped down. Again, that dipping made it difficult for Popeye to rest his rear fully on the seat so he would have to sit up, with the weight of his body on his forearms, during the entire car ride, which could be and often was over an hour long. But with him in the front seat, I could at least hold his rear down if we had a sudden stop (not ideal as it only left me one hand to drive) and he had that forward cushioning.

But today, for the first time in a long time, I was happy with the way Popeye could sit in the seat. On top of the lawnchair cushion, I also placed a big round dog bed, which would provide some "scrunching" which I hoped would cushion him in. With his back legs gone, he could finally fully rest his rear in the seat. The vet office also provided him with a Ruffwear harness which has a handle so I can help support his body when he tries to walk as he recuperates. Well, that handle was the perfect size to loop the car seatbelt through so on top of being able to rest more comfortably in the seat, Popeye was also securely seatbelted.

It was the first car ride in a long time where I didn't feel anxious or sorry that Popeye had to be so uncomfortable. He was actually able to lay down and nap, just like he did when he was a puppy.