Friday, January 22, 2010

They tried to make him go to rehab

Six weeks after Chickenbone's emergency back surgery and confinement recovery period, we got new directions from the surgeon: Time to focus less on rest and more on rehabilitation. Since then we have embarked on many adventures in doggie therapy. I thought I'd share them here, in case you ever find yourself nursing a feisty chugweenie back to neurological health. (But I really hope that never happens to you.)

I already mentioned the bathtub therapy. We fill it up with water up to about his chest, and then plunk him down and coax him to walk back and forth using treats. He really loves this. I try to break the Pupperoni down to the teensiest shreds possible so I can make the session last longer (he's already gained weight from having too many training treats, so it's two sticks only per session). I can't believe the effort he'll go to for one microscopic fiber of treat, but if it's at the other end of the tub, he'll clumsily make his way over there. He has not yet pooped in the water, but I have seen tiny bubbles float up from his rear, so I know this day is coming.

Another easy way to treat dogs with this kind of disk injury is to give them one sardine per day. There are lots of omegas and other things that help with spinal stuff. Oooh, see what an expert I am on this topic? THINGS THAT HELP WITH THE STUFF! Whatever. He thinks it is delicious, and I figure it can't hurt. Though it stinks to high heaven.

This tip we got from the rehabilitation person at the hospital: Put his dog food on a little riser. If it's higher up, then he's more likely to stand up when he eats, allowing him to work on his strength and balance. We also a put down cheap little rug down to help him with his traction.

This is the cool underwater treadmill they have at the animal hospital. It's a lot fancier than the pink bathtub! That girl in the tank is the rehab person, and Sal sat by the little window to cheer Chickens on. He did a great job and was walking on his own after just a couple of minutes. Everyone was very impressed.

OK, here's where we get a little ... you know. But we took Chickens to a holistic vet who does acupuncture treatments on animals. I wasn't sure if Sal would buy it - usually I'm the one in this family who gets into all the hippie crap - but he's a good husband and agreed we could at least try it. As you can see from the picture, Chickens was completely relaxed. Do you see the needles?! Crazy! He barely even noticed. She was so fast inserting them, and he just laid down on the cushion and waited patiently. Nutty dog. Anyway, who even knows if this will help, but as you know I'm quite desperate. I'll do just about anything to get this dog back to his old self again. Including...

... putting him on something called GREAT YANG RESTORATION. I had to try so hard not to look at Sal's you've-got-to-be-joking face as the holistic lady was prescribing this, along with another herbal supplement that supposedly helps restore neurological functions. I don't know much about Chickenbone's Great Yang, but if it needs restoring to get him peeing and walking again, well, here's my Visa!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Important announcement

I know this is going to sound kind of unbelievable, but I would like to report that Saturday, January 16, 2010, was a good day. The whole damned thing, good! Let me tell you.

It started at Weight Watchers, which I rejoined two weeks ago because I am carrying around one hundred eleventy thousand pounds of baby weight. Unfortunately I had a supremely lousy performance my first two weeks out. I didn't write down what I ate, I didn't weigh or measure my food, and I consumed a ton of junk and approximately no fruits or vegetables. But Saturday morning when I climbed on the scale, I didn't gain ANY weight! Good ol' breastfeeding! OK, that's the first good thing.

Then: We came home and cleaned up the house. Nothing makes my heart go pitty-pat like a clean house.

And then: Mia's grandparents stopped by, so we had them hang out with her while we took Chickens for a "sling walk" up and down the street. Not only did he spurt out some pee, but he also pooped. In someone else's yard, just like a real dog!

AND THEN: Sal, Mia and I went downtown to a comic book festival, where Mia had lots of fun staring at all the nice nerds and their pretty pictures. Afterward, we walked to Caffe Trieste to have coffee and a pastry. You know, just like leisurely, breezy people! Who have time to go to COFFEE SHOPS!

AND THEN! After we came home, I was changing Mia's diaper and singing her a song. I sing to her a lot, very theatrically, with hand gestures and a fake microphone and everything. She loves it. And I don't sing those goofy kid songs, either. Lately I've been on a Lisa Loeb "I Missed You" kick, which is what I was singing when she looked up at me and laughed. She unmistakeably, adorably LAUGHED! Oh, you guys. There's just no way to describe how cool that is. And I am allowed to sound all goopy and obnoxious-parent about this because, is it just me, or has this blog been a bit of a downer lately? There's just a bit of imbalance between depressing dog stuff and cool baby stuff.

We wrapped up the day with an actual home-cooked dinner. OK, it was for the most part Trader Joe's quickies: orange chicken, which we served over some fried rice made by my wonderful neighbor across the street, plus some pot stickers and steamed string beans. String beans might not have been the wisest side dish - snipping all those tips with a fussy baby in the Bjorn was not easy. But snip them I did, one damn bean at a time! It was the first real hot, healthy meal we have pieced together in I don't know how long. So I was very impressed with us.

The nice thing about a string of endlessly shitty days is that a good one feels downright miraculous.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The problem of poop

Last night we tackled a bad habit that has been going on far too long: Sal sleeping on the couch. This began shortly after Chickens came home from having his emergency back surgery. The dog had to remain on crate rest for 23.5 hours a day, coming out only for pee breaks, and this made him miserable. And barky. Which doesn't work very well with a sleeping infant in the next room.

We figured out that Sal sleeping on the couch helped the situation tremendously, as Chickens gives a very big damn about being alone in the living room at night. But a couple of times, Sal has tried to sleep in our bed again, and this never lasts longer than an hour or so because Chickens starts to whine and bark. Even though our bedroom door is RIGHT there, four feet from his cage. That's not good enough. There needs to be a warm body on the couch within sight of him, or else.

So you pet-owners might think, well, this is just a battle of wills with a stubborn dog. You just need to go all alpha on him, right? Show him who's boss! Squirt him with the water bottle, or rattle a can of coins, or some other training method to get him to quiet down. Yes, that's what you'd do normally. If your dog wasn't a cripple.

The problem here boils down to poop. Poop is a now very huge issue in this family, well beyond the 10-diapers-a-day infant. The thing is, Chickens' bowels move just fine, but obviously he isn't able to just trot out to the back yard when he has to poop. So he holds it as long as he can, sometimes trying to give us signals that we may or may not recognize. But when he can't hold it anymore, the poops just come out.

In fact, here's a story to illustrate what life is like in this house right now: A few weeks ago I was nursing Mia on the couch, and Chickens was relaxing with Sal on the loveseat while we quietly watched TV. All of a sudden, Sal leaps into the air and yells "He's shitting! HE'S SHITTING!" And I'm like "RUUUUUNNNN!" And as Sal races toward the door with the paralyzed dog in his arms, the poops are falling out of Chickens' butt, plop! plop-plop! right onto the hardwood floors. I laughed until I cried. This is just so completely ridiculous.

But my point is, the dog can't help when he poops. And when he accidentally goes in his cage, he is mortified and disgusted and wants it cleaned up NOW. And who can blame him?! I'm frankly glad my dog doesn't enjoy sitting in box with some shit. But this also means we can't scold him in the middle of the night for barking or whining, because half the time it means he has pooped. So when he cries, you have to turn on the lights, take him out of the cage, remove the 17 blankets he loves to sleep in, shake them all out and carefully check the (conveniently brown) floor of the cage. It's a whole huge process, and it's much easier for everyone to get back to sleep if Sal just sleeps out there. Especially since Sal on the couch usually eliminates the "I'm lonely" crying - in other words, it cuts the noise by about half.

Well, last night we decided enough was enough. We knew Chickens had pooped at like 7 p.m., so chances of a middle-of-the-night poop were slim. After Mia went to sleep, we had some playtime with him on the floor, and then we kissed him good night and put him in his cage. He burrowed into his blankets until we couldn't see him anymore, which is usually the sign that he's out for the night. But just in case, Sal starts building a Ferris Bueller-style decoy "person" on the couch, using my big pregnancy body pillow and some blankets. I think this is truly a stroke of genius until I see Chickens' head poke out of the blankets and whip around to glare at us. I swear to christ, this dog knew EXACTLY what was going on. So Sal pretended to sleep on the couch for a little while, and when Chickens appeared to fall asleep, Sal sneaked into our bed.

We both laid there awake for a bit, and sure enough, we heard Chickens start to whimper. But the TV was on, and I think that helped him go to sleep. Until about 3 a.m., when I heard him start crying. When I heard a bark, I sadly nudged Sal, who got up to check on him. Turned out the little weasel was just thirsty - he darted out of the cage, and when Sal picked him up to "tail-walk" him, he trotted over to his water dish. (And yes, we will be getting an in-cage water bottle just as soon as humanly possible. There just hasn't been much humanly possible around here lately.) So. After he had some water, Sal put him back in the cage and tried to fake him out again. But about a half hour later, as he crawled back into bed, Chickens started to bark and cry again.

We gave up.

I simply don't know how to handle this. One one hand, I can't have my husband sleeping on the dang couch for the rest of Chickenbone's paralyzed days. 'Cause, uh, that could still be ALL OF THEM. So we really need to just bite the bullet and win this war. On the other hand, and this is probably obvious, we need sleep. We need sleep so bad we could nearly lay right down and die of all the needing.

One wonderful resource on dogs who have had this kind of injury is a web site called Dodgerslist. Suggestions I have found there include bringing the cage into our bedroom at night (we can't, it's too big and heavy); getting another cage for the bedroom (the room is too small); and giving him benadryl or some other kind of sedative before we go to bed (um, we can't go around drugging the dog to sleep for the rest of our lives.) We also can't just bring him into bed with us because the risk of him jumping off onto the floor is just too great. I am telling you, there is no solution.

Though I suppose it would help if Chickens ever figured out HOW TO WALK AGAIN. Then we could let him be free throughout the house, and he would able to sleep in his regular doggie bed in our bedroom. I really believe that would help so much. He just wants to be close to us.

Last week we met with a rehab specialist at Chickenbone's hospital, and she is going to begin some work with him this Thursday. They have a great facility there that includes an underwater treadmill. While we were visiting with her, one of the two surgeons who operated on him popped into our room to say hi. He was so impressed with how well Chickenbone was moving that he grabbed a video camera so he could e-mail some footage to the other surgeon.

So everyone there is very encouraging, and they do believe he will walk and go to the bathroom on his own eventually. We are also going to be doing some acupuncture (yep, doggie acupuncture - totally a thing!) which will hopefully help him with peeing, another thing we're still taking care of for him. As for the sleeping ... well, this is why shortly after Chickenbone's injury, we doubled our weekly lottery purchases. Surely our luck is due for a change, and $4 million can probably solve just about anything!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Feeling a little frayed

I wish the bar on what constitutes a "bad day" would quit moving on me.

Six weeks ago, a bad day was listening to my paralyzed, stapled-shut dog sob for hours on end. Locked in a cage, unable to move his legs, drugged out of his gourd, and snarling and snapping at us whenever we tried to take him out to squeeze the contents of his bladder onto a pad on the kitchen counter.

Now that dog can darned near walk, he can wag his tail and play with toys, and he has even started to pee a little bit on his own. So how can things possibly still feel miserable?

Well, it turns out Chickenbone's progress somehow makes this situation feel worse. For one thing, while he can sort of manage a very wobbly walk on our big rugs, he slips and stumbles on the wood floors. So whenever he wants to go anywhere in the house besides the living room, he sits at the edge of the rug and barks for someone to come over and "tail-walk" him to his destination. (He moves his front legs, and you hold his back end up by his tail. After awhile, this feels REALLY great on your back, especially when you are hefting a 12-pound infant in your other arm.)

Also, now he wants to jump back up onto his beloved couches, where he spent 90 percent of his days before his injury. Uh, Chickens? Hate to be the one to tell you this, but you're still crippled. You ain't jumping anywhere. Plus, even if he could physically jump, we simply can't let him do that ever again. Never, ever again can he get on the sofas by himself because the risk of reinjury when he leaps to the floor is just too great.

But today, with Sal back at work after his 10-week paternity leave, I was sitting on the couch when Chickens got out of his doggie bed, wobbled over to my feet, and started trying to come up for a cuddle. We can't even let him ATTEMPT to jump, so I had to stop him somehow, but I was nursing Mia so I couldn't do anything but yell at him. It felt awful! He is like the kid who had to stay home from school with the flu, only now he feels all better and he doesn't understand why he still has recuperating to do. He just sat there giving me his pleading eyes, and moving his upper body pathetically up and down in an effort to jump. It broke my heart.

Meanwhile, breaking my eardrums today was Mia, who was suffering some tummy and sleep issues. For four hours, she wouldn't nap, wouldn't eat, wouldn't do anything but squirm and wail in my arms. A couple of times, thanks to wild swinging and shushing and pacing and singing and bouncing, I finally got her to doze off in my arms. JUST IN TIME to hear Chickens sitting at the edge of the rug barking for a "ride" to his water dish, waking the baby and making mommy cry.

Folks, life is not easy around here.

I guess I just got used to Sal being around all day to help with the Chickens stuff. He had his baby, I had mine. At least we could divide the work. But one person dealing with both Mia and Chickens is very, very hard. If you're not neglecting one, you're neglecting the other. Neither one of them appreciates this very much, and they aren't shy about telling you so.

And then there's the pressure of all the stuff I want and need to do. There are basics, like taking a shower, doing a load of laundry, eating lunch. When I'm lucky, I get to a couple of these things. But there's a second to-do list in my head, one that every single day I intend to tackle. And every single day ends with absolutely no progress. Answering 800 e-mails. Writing in Mia's baby book. Digging my non-maternity work clothes out of storage and pressing and hanging them. Uh, BLOGGING. Putting away Christmas. Going through Mia's drawers and removing clothes that are too small, which is, like, everything. And don't even get me thinking about the third-tier list, stuff I'd just really like to do, but since they aren't necessities, they flat won't happen. Like going to a yoga class, cooking a fun meal, or reading a book. The hours just seem to slip right through my fingers, and it seems nothing gets accomplished except getting through the day.

That's a lot of whining, I know. Sorry. We just really need to get to the next part of Chickens' progress soon. So much of this will be solved when he's strong enough to walk through the house on his own. To that end, next week we are going to have a real physical therapy session at the hospital where he had his surgery. And we'll keep working on the pee thing. We take him out for a sling walks now - me holding the regular leash attached to his collar, Sal holding up his back end with a homemade sling (made of a leash, an old sock and rubber bands) and Mia in the baby Bjorn. We're quite a sight! And during these walks, we have seen many little spurts of pee come out, meaning there has been some neurological healing with his brain and bladder. (And can I just say, I never in my life thought I'd spend this much time squatting down to stare hopefully at a dog's penis. Not my most glamorous moments.) We still have to manually express most of his urine four or five times a day, but that's still improvement.

I guess I just need to dig a little deeper and find a lot more patience, because that's the only thing that's going to get us through to the other side of this mess.

Here, let's look at some fun pictures. Here's photographic proof of Chickens walking. He was eating a sardine (he gets one per day - they contain lots of good vitamins that can help with things like a back injury) and every time he licked the bowl it would move, so he'd walk to follow it.

Here is Chickens during his bathtub therapy. We plop him into the tub and wave treats back and forth across the water, and he walks trying to get them. He finds this setup terribly convenient, since if he gets thirsty, he just sticks his face in the water and drinks!

Speaking of baths, here is Mia's favorite time of day: bathtime with dad. Even if she is screaming her face off - as she often is at night - stick her in the tub and she's all coos and smiles.

Obligatory mohawk shot.

I love this one. I just wanted a picture of the cute outfit Mia's nana gave her. But it ended up being such a perfect snapshot of our life right now. Check out my messy, unwashed hair, and that big, wet spit-up splotch on my shoulder. And in the background, you can see the sad dog watching all the fun from his cage. Oh, poor everyone!

Christmas morning, Mia surrounded by a bunch of her presents.

And here is an exhausted husband and wife, staying home on their favorite holiday of the year. After Mia went to bed, we had a party for two, sitting in the back yard listening to a live mariachi band that was playing at a party down the street. We made it to midnight and well beyond, enjoying champagne and cocktails that resulted in my first hangover since January 2009. And that little Mia, she decided to sleep for 10 hours straight that night. So I guess life isn't all bad!