I am happy to report that the move went very well! Except for the unfortunate accident I had involving a beer bottle, my wrist, and a lot of blood. No, I wasn’t drunk! I wasn’t even drinking. I swear. I was unloading my van, trying to get Ali’s big orthopedic bed out, when an errant 6-pack started tumbling toward the door (in that weird combination of slow and fast motion). A couple bottles hurtled past me to the ground and smashed in the gutter and in my panicked attempt to keep more from falling somehow I caused another one to crack open and the jagged pieces hit my wrist on the way down. What a mess…glass and beer everywhere (hi, new neighbors)! Once the blood started gushing and I saw where the three main cuts were (one was right in the suicide place, scarily near my vein, and the other was so deep it would more accurately be described as a “gash”), I started to get faint and called my roommate Maggie at work, just so someone would know where I was in case I passed out and bled to death, and she came immediately with our dusty ALDF first aid kit and bandaged me right up. She is awesome!! Why is this relevant to my Ali blog? Well, it was my right wrist and it was really painful (not to mention disgusting) for a couple days and I need both my hands and arms to deal with Ali without hurting us, so it was tricky. But a little over a week later I am completely healed and trying to be much more careful around glass. Although I think I may be accident prone.
To get to the raison d’être of this blog, Ali is doing really well and has settled nicely at our new place in Petaluma. He is using the ramp successfully and the park across the street is very convenient for us. I take him there 3 times a day (2 on work days) to exercise, go potty, and do ten minutes of standing exercises in his cart. He and Rita, Maggie’s dog, are getting along great and I couldn’t ask for a better canine roommate for him right now. She is pretty low key which is good, because he wanted to play immediately when he met her, and when Ali plays he throws his whole body into and even likes to spin around (his infamous “play spins”), so I had to watch him pretty carefully to make sure he did not overexert himself. It has been interesting adjusting to life outside of one room, because of course he sometimes wants to travel from room to room, or greet Maggie and Rita when they come home, and meet new people when they come over. I have to watch him so he does not drag himself, which he definitely was trying to do a lot at first (and still does sometimes) and when he wants to get up I run over and grab him by his Walkabout rear harness (aka his “shepherd handles”), which I leave on him all day until we go to bed, and assist him by lifting his rear legs so he can walk where he wants using his front. The rest of the time he is on one of his beds. Getting to and from work has been a challenge (obviously compared to the convenience of living in my office, ho, ho, ho). Everything takes so much longer, getting him in and out of the car is kind of tricky (and making sure he doesn’t get himself into some weird position while I am driving), but we are getting into the new routine. Last week we were able to join in our first staff dog walk since his surgery over two months ago, which was great. The other dogs were not quite sure what to make of his wheelchair at first, but it didn’t stop Alec from his favorite activity while walking with a group dogs – trying to pull to the head of the pack so he can be the first one in what must appear to onlookers like a dog parade.
I still need to keep his walks short and it’s better for his joints if he walks on grass (hence the park across the street being so convenient), but Juli, his rehab therapist, says eventually he can take long walks in the cart. For now though, she emphasizes that physical therapy is the most important thing I can do with him in the cart, more important than going on walks, and I need to keep doing his exercises throughout the day. She showed me a new exercise where I assist him to sit and then stand several times throughout the day for one minute. She came by last weekend to help with his cart problems and showed me a way to get him to urinate in the cart and it is working so I am very happy about that! Moreover, she believes she see some slight movement at the top of his back legs, where they meet the rest of his body (this is called “proximal motor”). She also believes he has deep pain perception (I pinched his tail once in front of her and she saw him react – the reaction I could not get for the neurologist during our initial re-check exam back in March). Since Juli believes Ali is showing some improvement, she suggested I make an appointment at Animal Care Center with the Dr. Tieber for another re-check. She said because she is not a doctor she can only “assess” Ali’s condition but not “diagnose” and thinks I should get a neurologist’s opinion on what she believes she is observing (i.e. some return of motor function).
After we see the neurologist, Dr. Tieber, we are going to have a rehab appointment with Juli and put Ali in the hydro-therapy tank for the first time. I really hope Dr. Tieber confirms what Juli is seeing. I feel like he is improving too – it seems like I can see his legs moving slightly sometimes in the cart – but I am afraid to get my hopes too far up. Our appointment is on Friday morning. Wish us luck!!!
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I am trying not to completely freak out, but moving is always and inherently stressful. Throw in a paraplegic German shepherd with a brand new wheelchair and a new canine roommate and I imagine things can get real interesting real fast. There is also a park right across the street that appears to be a de facto off-leash dog park. It will be nice to have a big grassy area in such close proximity for Ali, but I am not sure how he will be about meeting other dogs in his wheels. He is usually fine at dog parks (as long as he is off leash), but I also need to be concerned with him not moving too much, so I’m not quite sure how this is going to be. My new neighbors also have two dogs who are outside a lot, so…lots of unknown factors, which are making me oddly reluctant to leave my cozy known quantity of an office/dorm room. We have a nice routine here that is working. But it is time to go. I can see how people become shut-ins, though, sort of. I am taking the day off tomorrow to make the move just so I can take my time with Ali and all this newness. Tonight though, I am going to pour myself a glass of wine and stop worrying.
Because I have been kvetching about Eddie’s Wheels all day and I am tired of it, just a quick update about Ali’s inability to urinate in the cart. Juli, the fabulous and amazing canine rehabilitation specialist, came by today and rigged a soft saddle on the part of the cart that was pinching his urethra. It seems to be working part of the time. I will know more soon. But it’s nice to know she is willing to help us. I don’t know what we’d do without her! Oh, and she let me know I am not the only person who has had problems with Leslie from Eddie’s Wheels. Apparently, another physical therapist she knows refuses to work with her because of her attitude. But she also told me that Eddie’s Wheels carts are the best on the market and far superior to other brands, in her opinion. So hopefully we can make this work for Ali. But if anyone stumbles on this who is considering a cart for your dog, beware the urethra-pinching saddle if you have a male dog! They won’t tell you about it beforehand but it can be a serious problem. I am afraid Ali may have developed another urinary tract infection from not being able to properly urinate those first couple days in the cart. So this is a serious flaw for which they should take responsibility and be compelled, from a purely ethical standpoint (unbridled capitalism not withstanding), to start disclosing. This not a chair or an ipod they are manufacturing; it is a wheelchair – a ticket to mobility, freedom, and life – for a living being whom somebody loves very, very, very, very, very much.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Her reply: “Most dogs can urinate with no problem in our carts, but a small percentage of males do have problems. I am sorry that your dog is one of them. Usually shifting the dog in the saddle solves the problem.”
Well, gee thanks! I only spent $500 on a cart that my poor dog, who has been through so danged much, can’t even urinate in (a serious problem given that a not-empty bladder virtually guarantees a urinary tract infection), which might be fine except for the fact that it says this on their website:
"Your pet can easily relieve itself and perform its normal bodily functions while in the cart."
No mention of the "small percentage" of males who have problems, which of course would be helpful for customers to know before purchasing their cart, a rather expensive item. I can’t believe they would not even mention this “little problem” – a potential risk that the cart will pinch his urethra, thereby making it impossible for him to continue to urinate normally. And then act like it’s MY problem after they sell me the cart! Rrrrr. Yes, I am pissed off. Because Alec has had to deal with so much already and I really thought the people at this company actually cared about their clients’ companion animals. I guess once the sale is made, things change.
Luckily, Juli the rehab specialist is an angel and has been so helpful to us. She encouraged me not to return the cart – which they were only going to refund 2/3 the price of anyway…if I returned it in “new condition.” After paying shipping costs, I probably would have gotten $20 back. Not to mention no more walks for Alec until I ordered another cart and that we wouldn’t be able to move out of the office for several more weeks…ugh! Juli is convinced we can make it work and she even offered to come by tomorrow to see what she can do. We are so grateful for her. She is so much more helpful than the people who actually sold us the product. Thank you, Juli!! Tonight I shifted him around some and he was able to get a stream going, so maybe I will be able to fix this problem on my own. I hope so. No thanks to you, Eddie’s Wheels! I really hope they add a disclaimer to their website so other people will be aware of this potential problem before they put their dog in it.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Some things just sound better in French, n'est-ce pas? Anyway, after my exuberant post of last night, I realized we had a potentially serious problem. Alec had not been urinating well in the cart, and I thought he just "needed time" to adjust. Well, that was a bad call, as I noticed he had peed all over his bed, literally right after I posted about how great everything was with the cart. He has not had an "accident" in his bed in over a month, ever since he started going to the bathroom outside... I even took the wee wee pads off his bed last week (is the universe smiting me for letting my guard down?). So it was a giant mess and all over him too. I could tell he felt really bad, he didn't want to go in his bed; his bladder was just full. And of course he was reacting to my distress. I didn't get angry but I did almost start crying - it was just such a mess and I felt so bad! Not to mention confused. Why is he not going? He pooped fine so it's not some psychological "I don't want to go in this weird contraption" type thing. And I noticed he was going over to his usual spot and lifting his tail (which I have come to recognize as the bladder pump), but nothing was coming out. Juli said she never had a problem with a dog not urinating in the cart (of course!) and that maybe it needed adjusting. She suggested I call Leslie at Eddie's Wheels for their advice. So I emailed Leslie photos today of Ali in the cart and she said it did look like a perfect fit, which I was happy to hear. But that means nothing to adjust in order to fix the problem. She said they "occasionally hear of male dogs who cannot urinate while in the cart. We suspect that their urethras are being pinched off by the way they fit in the saddle. The usual solution is for you to gently lift the dog’s rump - using the tail is ok -and see if he can urinate when you elevate his rump a little bit." So I tried that this evening and the first time it didn't work, but the next time it did... althought I don't know if he was able to empty. I will keep trying. If this doesn't work, I don't think anyone has other suggestions... and he just has to be able to urinate in his cart.
The better news is that he is loving his wheels and enjoying his short walks outside. If only we can solve this little problem...