Monday, January 23, 2012

Sophie has been doing well since her vet visit, seems to be over pancreatitis. She's been taking a handful of supplements since her surgery in November '10, and now she is taking even more. But, she has a hearty appetite and pills are not a problem.

She's never had an easy time with stairs, with up being harder for her than down. She has not been up to the bedroom level in the house for about 8 years. They are very steep and narrow, and she doesn't even try to go up. But in the days when she did, we had to "spot" her when she was coming down.

She was terrified of going up the stairs from the kitchen to the living room when we first got her, and it took many weeks of coaxing to get her to do it. Then, for the past few years, we've often had to entice her to go up the stairs when she was in the kitchen. The difficulty is that the staircase has a turn at the top. That part should be easier, because the stairs are triangles, wide enough to hold her whole, long body - but there must be a psychological barrier.

We blocked the stairs to the kitchen with a baby gate after she had her surgery, but eventually she was able to go down there again. (And get back upstairs when there was a treat waiting for her at the top.)

Several months ago, we noticed that one problem was getting started - she had trouble with the first step. Years ago, we had a set-up that turned a twin bed into a couch. We still have the pillows, although we don't use them on the day bed any longer. But they are very handy, and one made a perfect booster for Sophie to use as a launching pad for the stairs.

Very recently, it became clear that she can't go up the stairs any more. She gets stuck at the turn, and even a treat isn't enough. She could be manually boosted, but if we are not here, that won't work. She is very calm and careful, but the risk of her falling seemed great. Then, after a few times where it was difficult, she decided she wouldn't even try to go up. She's fifty pounds, too heavy for either of us to carry.

Getting down is still no problem, but we can't leave her in the kitchen. It's a cold room, and she has never liked it, although she still wants to go down there sometimes. There's a water bowl in the living room and I feed her there too, so the main attraction is that the door to the fenced yard is in the kitchen. We have been leash walking her on the sidewalk in front of the house, but she's not satisfied. She wants to go in the yard.

This house is three stories, and the yard is down one from the street level. There is a steep staircase, and a steep hill. We arrived at a solution; we take her out of the fenced area on her leash, around the house, and scale the hill to street level. (She can't do the outside stairs either.) The slope of the hill isn't an issue; she's very low to the ground and sure footed, like a mountain goat. Watching her long body and short legs go up the hill in her coat with her serious face and those ears -- so precious!

So, since Thursday, this is what we have been doing. Another triangle pillow is blocking the door from the living room to the stairs, so that she can't go down to the kitchen unless we let her and are prepared to make the trek. We have the baby gate, but Bob isn't planning to put it up until tonight. On Friday, when I did the hill, the climb for me in the snow was so precarious, that I decided I would use the stairs in the future, and let her navigate the hill on her own. That was my plan for today -- but not until later this afternoon, once the freezing rain stopped.

Here's how my morning actually played out:

1) awakened by the sound of Sophie barking
2) it sounds like it is coming from the kitchen
3) she managed to scale the triangle pillow?
4) it was not at all disturbed
5) the action did not wake me up
6) check futon to be sure
7) yep, only a rumpled blanket
8) she was stealth!
9) Sam awakens and comes into the room
10) so he did not help?
11) Ted is asleep at foot of day bed
12) so he did not help?
13) scramble downstairs to be sure she is OK
14) wearing only sleeping shirt
15) no panties, sweatpants, socks, shoes*
16) she is fine
17) she lays on futon while I dress
18) give her SOD
19) have coffee
20) let Sam out & back in
21) mailman comes
22) I get her and my outdoor gear
23) she happily cooperates while I put on her collar, leash, coat
24) she considers going upstairs
25) makes it as far as front feet on triangle pillow, then changes her mind
26) Sam, Sophie and I go outside
27) Sam plays with plush devil squeaky toy
28) jumps over Sophie on his way in when she wants to go inside
29) I slam the door behind him
30) takes some coaxing,but we get to the gate
31) we do the drill to the garden
32) she does more sniffing than last time I did this
33) tries to pull me down the hill when we are at the corner of the garden
34) I have to hang onto the garden post, but eventually I win
35) we make our way to the really steep part
36) she gets started up
37) I scramble to the steps
38) they are not slippery, yay
39) so glad I shoveled them!
40) by this point she is already on the sidewalk
41) there she goes, up the sidewalk toward the front door, dragging her leash
42) I get to the sidewalk
43) it is a sheet of ice!
44) I can't stand up
45) I crawl on my hands and knees to the front door
46) please God, don't let the neighbors see me right now
47) Sophie is already waiting at the door
48) we come inside
49) she gets settled on the futon
50) Sam is not as upset as he has been by the appearance of her, but not his, leash
51) he knows the story now
52) I read the rock salt bag and determine it is safe for dogs
53) ask Sophie and she tells me that Mother with a broken leg is worse than sore pads
54) I salt the sidewalk

*this is more impressive if you know that for the past decade, I never go without socks, shoes and orthotics unless I am asleep.

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