Yesterday my dear friend Steve (Ali’s too!) spent the whole day building a ramp for Ali so he can get up the 6 steps to the porch at my new place in Petaluma. I am tremendously grateful for him for building this for us – it was a big job and took hours! But now it’s all set up and all that remains (besides painting it) to be seen is whether Ali will be able to get up and down it okay in his new wheels (which won’t arrive for another [long!] two weeks). It should be fine, but of course I am nervous it will be too steep. Anyway, it is a tremendous relief to have the ramp built. Thank you, Steve!!! The materials cost about $200, but at least I didn’t have to pay someone to build it (and thank you again, Steve, for also donating the paint!).
I spoke to my good friend and SF roommate, Courtney, tonight. They have started reluctantly interviewing people for my room and are sad about it – as am I! I looked up the listing for my room on Craigslist and it bummed me out; I remember us all writing the description together when we were looking for another roommate six months ago. This time it’s me being replaced – although nobody wants it! It will be hard when I go back to pack up my things once and for all. I have not been back there in over a month – ever since I left that morning to pick up Alec from the vet hospital. Right now it feels like I am just temporarily “away.” I don’t want to go back and say good-bye forever! Still, I can’t overemphasize how happy I am that Alec is here with me and doing so well all things considered. I am grateful I have this chance to take care of him and that is my one and only focus. While all this is true, saying good-bye to my old life will be sad too.
Last night after I turned off the light and tucked myself under the covers of my air mattress, I heard Ali rustling around on his bed. I thought he was just changing positions but the next thing I knew there was a shepherd face inches from my own – he had dragged himself across the room and pulled himself halfway up onto the bed. It was so cute! Even though he really shouldn’t be dragging himself like that. It really startled me at first and then I started to laugh and helped him onto the bed. I guess he wanted a change of scenery. He slept with me all night. It was a restless one (there is barely enough room on that mattress for the both of us!), but I didn’t care.
I placed the order for Alec’s cart from Eddie’s Wheels (http://www.eddieswheels.com/
) but now we have to wait 3 weeks for it to arrive. They take 2 weeks to build and a week to ship from Mass. to Calif. It is definitely a relief to finally have the order in. The measurements for these carts have to be exact and they are not the easiest to obtain. Juli, the rehabilitation specialist, and I measured him on two separate occasions (with another set of measurements done by myself and two friends for good measure) before we were comfortable that we had the precise numbers. We had some trouble getting accurate measurements across the top of his back, which is a part of the cart that is welded and definitely cannot be adjusted after the fact. If the cart does not fit right it has to be sent back and another cart built, meaning another 3 weeks and you have to pay for the new cart. So I really hope it fits him when it arrives!! My credit card has not been charged yet, but I think it is going to cost around $600.
And Alec is still going to the bathroom outside a lot so I haven’t really been expressing his bladder. I tried once early this morning but did not try for the rest of the day – I just let him go outside on his own. To see how well he was emptying (or not), I asked Dr. Leavey to stop by on her way home this evening to check his bladder with a catheter and she extracted four tablespoons of urine, which is not very much. So signs seem good that he is mostly emptying on his own, which is amazing! Fingers crossed that this continues.
I started Alec on Rimadyl and Ciproflaxin today. The Ciproflaxin is an antibiotic for a urinary tract infection – which I knew dogs in his condition were prone to but I was kind of bummed he contracted one so soon – and the Rimadyl is an anti-inflammatory to help with his front legs, which are becoming swollen and painful from his putting so much weight on them. He is already showing signs of arthritis. I can’t wait for his cart to arrive since that should help balance out his weight more evenly. The good news is that Dr. Leavey (my amazing local vet from Animal Hospital of Cotati) just had a bunch of Rimadyl donated and she said we could have it for free! I had just ordered another brand of anti-inflammatory from PetMeds.com that was going to cost $100 for just a few weeks supply (why are all the medications he needs so expensive??), but luckily I was able to cancel the order after talking to Dr Leavey, who was has truly been our angel throughout this ordeal. She has been making house calls to check on Alec ever since his surgery and has not charged me once (in the beginning she was coming almost everyday). I am so grateful for her compassion! I really don’t know how we could have managed this far without her, especially during those first difficult weeks after surgery when I was struggling so much with expressing his bladder and had no idea if I was doing it right.
The photo: Juli the rehab therapist brought by a p-nut ball (aka physio-roll) to try to help with Ali’s standing exercises. Someone (in this case, Maggie, my friend, co-worker, and future roommate) holds a peanut butter kong while I (try to!) hold his back legs in position and gently rock him back and forth to try to stimulate his nerves to “remember” walking. It’s harder than it looks.
Since I have to leave my house (and fabulous housemates Courtney, Nicte, and Javier [and Courtney’s dog Usha, who was Alec’s best friend]) in San Francisco, I have been looking for a new place with my friend and co-worker, Maggie, who also found herself needing to move recently. We had not had much luck until we found a really gorgeous place in Petaluma, the bottom floor of an old Victorian house just about 15 minutes from work and in a nice neighborhood with two parks close by (also right across the street from a really good Thai restaurant, where we will never be able to afford to eat!). We had looked at some less expensive, but sketchier, neighborhoods in Santa Rosa and while I would not have minded these types of transitional neighborhoods “before,” when Alec was mobile, I would just not feel comfortable walking around a bad neighborhood with a disabled dog in a cart. Ali has been more protective of me than ever since his injury – I’m sure it’s because he cannot get up and check things out so he is trying to preemptively deter everyone through rather indiscriminate barking. Well, it seems indiscriminate to me, but in his mind I’m sure it serves a purpose! So, the anxiety it would cost me to live in the more gang-friendly neighborhoods is not worth the few dollars of rent it would save. Plus, I really did not want to move further north if I could help it. Petaluma is to the south of the ALDF office and closer to San Francisco, so this makes me happy as I am planning to go back and visit my old roommates a lot once Ali is good to go with his new wheels.
It all sounds good, right? Yes, but the place, although it is on the first floor, has 6 steps leading up to the porch. I didn’t think it would work because of this fact, but my good friend Steve said he could and would be willing to build a ramp if the landlord would be okay with that. I then checked with his rehab specialist and she said a ramp would be fine once he gets his cart. So, we went ahead and signed the lease tonight because everything else about the place seemed really great (well, obviously except for the fact that it’s not in San Francisco, but there is nothing I can do about that right now so am trying not to dwell!) – but now I am really worried. What if the ramp situation doesn’t work out? Did I just make a huge mistake?? I have had to make so many big decisions lately about me and Ali and our future and his well-being; it can be overwhelming at times. Hard to think we were cruising along enjoying a relatively uncomplicated life just 6 weeks earlier…
I stopped the Phenoxybenzamine completely today. I have been expressing him less but he has been going to the bathroom a lot on his own, so things seems to be going well in that area – for now.
My friend and co-worker, Paula, posted a sweet blog about me and Ali on the Animal Legal Defense Fund website. You can read it here.
I started walking Alec outside briefly with a sling to support his back end 3-4 times a day and it has been working! He is actually going to the bathroom outside and he has not soiled his bed once (knock on wood!) since I took him outside for the first time Tuesday evening after our re-check appointment. I couldn’t be happier and I know Alec is too. As soon as he got outside and started sniffing, he began to go all on his own… I couldn’t believe it! This is going to make things so much easier for us if he is able to continue. I also started feeding him three times a day, standing up at an elevated food station (cardboard box I found in the supply room), and this has been working great. Thankfully, he has been excited about his food (before, he was more of a picky eater), and having him stand while eating and drinking is good therapy, as he should be standing and bearing weight on his back legs for several minutes a day. Then about 10 minutes after he eats I sling-walk him outside and he goes to the bathroom. I have been trying to keep to a strict schedule each day so that he gets into a regular routine. It is so much easier not having to change his bed several times a day – not to mention trying to keep him clean and dry! I am so happy about this. My back has been hurting quite a bit (the hind end of a paralyzed shepherd is heavy!!) but I am hoping the pain will subside and/or i will get stronger.