Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Quality of life

I'm part of an online moms group - a bunch of us whose babies were born in October 2009 - and this week I was heartbroken to read about a family whose dachshund suffered a back injury just like Chickenbone's. The mom wrote that her 8-year-old daughter accidentally dropped the dog, who could not walk the next morning, and she wanted to know how to keep the girl from blaming herself for what happened.

The mom also wondered about the dog's suffering, and whether it would have to be put to sleep. For a moment, my mind flooded with the terrible memories of the night of Chickenbone's injury, his surgery, and his long road to recovery. I vividly remember us sitting in the vet hospital exam room as the surgeon explained that lots of people think paralyzed dogs are better off being put down. But she said even if Chickens recovered no leg function whatsoever, he could still live a long and happy life using a little wheeled cart. So that's the worst-case scenario we braced for, and we went ahead with the procedure.

For a long - and, you'll recall, mostly miserable - five weeks, we saw not even a flicker of leg movement. Even when he did begin to move them, it still took months before he stood properly, and more months before he became a real walker again. Now he runs, scratches himself and whips around in little circles when he's excited about something. As I wrote my advice to the mom, I realized that it has all been 100 percent worth it. Which I suppose is another way of saying that a few times along the way, I wasn't so sure about that. But Chickens brings such joy to our house, and particularly to our daughter, and I just couldn't imagine our life without him.

But an important concern for us is whether HE is happy. Chickens was an incredibly self-sufficient dog before his injury, and he had many ways of entertaining himself when we weren't around. Most of which involved jumping up on furniture. Well, obviously that's a thing of the past. But even though he has to remain on the ground, we have figured out a few adjustments that help him enjoy his favorite things from his "old" life.

Old Chickens loved to hop up on the couch and doze in the sun.

Now, when we see a "sun spot" on the floor through a window or the front door, we drop a blanket down and he races over to lay down and catch some rays.

Old Chickens also liked to jump on the loveseat and stare out the window all afternoon.

Sal used a bunch of couch cushions to invent the "soft shoe" (explanation on that term here) so that he can still enjoy the view, and the pillows create a barrier that keep him from leaping off the couch when a cat wanders by.

Luckily for Chickens, there's someone else in our house who's on the floor a lot, and even has toys to share.

When she's not on the floor, he just needs a little boost to give her a kiss.

And now that it's summertime, we can just plop him down in the back yard where he can sniff the grass, chase squirrels and take long afternoon naps. I'd say this is a dog who's glad he stuck around, wouldn't you?


Molly said...

Looks like a VERY happy boy to me :-)

Amy G. said...

Awww, thank goodness for Chickens! And I especially love that the pregnancy pillow can be part of the soft shoe.