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!


Molly said...

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.

Um, no, that's NEVER what I'd think, for a sick or healthy dog.

Honestly, how big can a crate for a chihuahua be? There's no way one couldn't fit in a bedroom. I've turned dog crates into nightstands where need be in order to fit them in bedrooms. I really think that's your best bet at this point.

Amy said...

Hi, Molly. Yeah, they weren't our favorite training tools, either. But back when Chickens was a puppy and we were crate training him in our condo, that's what our dog trainer suggested. They were very effective last resorts, thankfully not used often.

And he's more doxie than chihuahua, and he's about 15 pounds. So his crate is bigger than the smaller travel crates. Our house is also very old, so the bedrooms are tiny. Interesting idea on the nightstand, though - I hadn't thought of that. We've basically already done that in the living room where the coffee table used to be!

Sheila said...

Oh Amy - I laughed until I cried. I feel your pain - our dog had his tail operated on, and in him painkiller, cone-headed state, he peed on our bed one night, and barfed last night. I can't be too mad at him because he's miserable with the cone and won't fit in his kennel.

Maybe after the baby is a little older, the dog can bunk in her room. Our dog loves the kids, and we put his kennel between our rooms so he can see into both rooms at night. That's when he's not druggedly peeing on my bed.

Katie Johnson said...

I found your blog today from a link posted on the "Additional Jesus" blog. I seriously laughed until I cried too. I'm so sorry for your problems with your little dog, we went through something similar this past spring.

Your blog is awesome, I'm looking forward to reading all the achieves.