Monthly Archives: June 2008

I really wish I had a picture of this!

Ali stood up yesterday by himself! I mean, it was only for a few seconds. Then he folded over sideways onto his bed like a drunken sailor. And his back legs were not in a normal position (they were too close together and kind of in a line, one behind the other), BUT he pushed himself into a standing position all by himself!! I was gathering my things to leave work at the end of the day and Ali was being his usual I-know-we’re-getting-ready-to-go-somewhere restless self and I turned around and he was actually standing up on his bed. Aghast, I said “Oh my god – are you standing up??” I wish I had my camera ready, but I didn’t. I don’t think I would have had time to snap a picture anyway. Needless to say, I was thrilled and he looked pretty pleased with himself! Lately he has been doing a good job pushing himself up with his left leg to change positions on his bed and a few times it looked like he was trying to stand for sure. But this is the first time he has actually succeeded. And I think that’s awesome…even if it was just for a few seconds!!

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Filed under Milestones/Progress

Over a Barrel.


Photo: Ali in the van waiting to go home after work today. Oops, his booties have holes in them! How embarassing. Seriously, I ordered a new pair and they are on the way…he goes through them fast!

So, I have to travel (for work) to Washington, DC at the end of July for the Taking Action for Animals Conference. I assumed I would board Ali at the Animal Care Center, where he was hospitalized and had his surgeries, because while he was there the techs had mentioned another German shepherd in a doggie wheelchair who boards there when his people are out of town. I was relieved to learn this was an option, as I obviously can’t board him at a regular kennel facility. Last week I called to ask the rates, knowing full well it would be crazy expensive, but in no way prepared for what they told me: “rehab boarding” (special rate for large, non-ambulatory dogs) is $120 per day. Holy CRAP, I say! How can they possibly charge that much (and keep a straight face)?? Well, my friends, because they have me (and others like me, I suppose…but more so ME because I am poor!) over a barrel. My work trip was going to be 5 days (2 days traveling, 3 days conferencing), which adds up to approximately… shoot, where is my calculator?… okay, got it…$600! For a work trip, mind you, not even some fabulous vacation I actually am choosing to go on. How can I afford that? Have I mentioned that I work for a non-profit?? Oh, and they charge per 24-hour period, not per hour. So if you are a few hours over, they still charge you the whole $120. Nice.

But can’t I get the “I spent $16,000 in your facility already, damnit” discount?! Yeah, no…um, that doesn’t exist.

So, hating to do it, I asked my boss if I absolutely had to go. In addition to tabling at the conference, ALDF is hosting an attorney/ law student reception for our members on Saturday evening and, as student liaison, she really wants me to be there for that, so she said I could just fly in for the reception, while Maggie is going to attend the whole conference and table in my place. So this reduces my trip to 3 days (2 days travel, 1 Saturday reception). Plus my mom offered, without my even asking, to pay half of his boarding fee, which was really, really sweet. Finally, Maggie really wanted to go to this conference, so I am happy for her that she gets to go now. Still it would be nice if I didn’t have to go at all, but this will cut Ali’s boarding time almost in half, so I have to be grateful for that. And I have to travel for work again in September and October, so this will be a recurring problem that I need to deal with.

But isn’t there anyone who can watch him for me? Good question! Many of the people who have watched him in the past are no longer options because their houses and apartments are perched atop stairs… now insurmountable obstacles for Alec. Kevin, who often took care of Ali before when I traveled, could be a good solution because he lives mostly on the first floor with just a few steps leading up to his house. Although the steps would be a problem for me (I can barely lift Ali high enough to get him in and out of the van), Kevin is strong enough to actually pick Ali up and carry him, so could probably easily lift him up and down the steps. But Kevin is out of town for two months…

Could I leave Ali home? Well, I thought so. Maggie offered to watch him without hesitation when she learned how much it would cost to board him. I really appreciated this; she has been so incredibly helpful ever since we moved in together (and even before) and has been simply the best roommate to have while dealing with Ali’s situation. However, Maggie shares with me the not-so-strong problem, with the difference being I am totally used to all the difficult little everyday things involved with taking care of Ali. Lifting his back end up and into his cart is no small feat (especially given his propensity to wiggle about!) and the ramp at our house is actually pretty difficult to negotiate given it is quite steep. There is just a lot involved with caring for my 67 lb. beloved baby shepherd loaf, stuff I have gotten used to.

Now, all of this could be learned by another person, right? Sure! That’s what I was thinking, until the day after her generous offer, when Ali completely tipped over in his cart while going down the ramp. This scared the heck out of me. It happened so fast; his cart just caught the edge of the bottom of the ramp when he tried to turn too quickly – even with me holding onto him – and over he went. Then he started flailing and I didn’t know what to do but struggled to stay calm and keep him calm so he would not hurt himself. I could not get him upright in the cart the way he was down so I had to unhitch the cart and get him out of it, which I did, and begged him to “stay!” lying down on the sidewalk while I righted the cart and then got him back in it. He seemed fine, but I was mildly traumatized. I kept having flashes of it happening again. If that happened on my watch — me, who guides him up and down the ramp multiple times a day — how many things could go horribly wrong while someone else was watching him?? This is not to say I don’t trust Maggie – I really do. The best way to describe it is that it felt like an ominous sign (especially given the timing). Not that I am superstitious (well, maybe a little… which reminds me that I heard an interesting piece on superstition the other day in honor of Friday the 13th on NPR and the psychologist was saying that there is not one set of traits superstitious people share but that they do tend to score higher on measures of anxiety – you know, superstitious beliefs as a way to maintain the illusion of control over one’s world. That makes sense to me and despite my penchant for rationality, being of the anxious persuasion I definitely fit the profile.), but for whatever reason that scary little accident told me I would not be comfortable unless I boarded him. So that’s what we’re going to do. But hot damn, why do they have to be so expensive?!!

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Filed under $$$, Doggie Wheelchair

Plan B

After Ali’s first successful session with the underwater treadmill, the plan was to go back once a week, gradually increasing his time in the hydrotherapy tank. I guess Ali decided he did not like that plan, because the next time we went back he refused to walk. Juli, the therapist, would not struggle with him, saying it is not good if he is fighting it. So we left and, feeling disappointed, I cancelled our remaining appointments. Ali had done so well the first time; I had really high hopes! But for some reason he was feeling stressed the second time. Because I had mentioned Ali liked to go swimming before his injury, Juli suggested an alternative to the hydrotherapy tank: taking him to a river to see if he would swim. So that weekend Kevin and I took him to the Napa River and, despite some stress getting him up and down an unexpectedly steep embankment and navigating the ridiculously rocky river bottom, it went really well. I started off slow, letting him wade (me holding his back end up) and then I gently tossed a tennis ball to see if he wanted to swim and he did… he was even kicking with both his back legs!

Each week since, I have taken him to Johnson’s Beach on the Russian River in downtown Guerneville, usually with a friend or three in tow, to swim for about 20 minutes. The Russian River is much better suited to the purpose of therapeutic swimming; it is flatter with a sandy bottom. Once we arrive, I load Ali up in his wheelchair and let him wade around with his wheels in the shallow water for a few minutes. Then I take him out of his wheelchair and, holding onto his “float coat” (life vest thingy) with one hand and rear harness with the other, I walk him into the water until it is deep enough for him to not touch, and then I toss a tennis ball until he seems like he is getting tired. At first we did this for 10 minutes but I have gradually increased the time to 20 minutes. I always expect him to crash after all that exercise and I need to be careful he does not overdo it, but surprisingly he never seems tired afterwards! Juli says anything that gets his back legs moving is excellent therapy, and swimming is great cardio and good for him psychologically. So that is Plan B. Out with the treadmill, into the river…stay tuned!

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Filed under Physical Therapy/Rehabilitation, River Swimming, Underwater Treadmill