Life’s Never-ending Lessons from Our Companions

By isak, February 28, 2023

If we ever think we know all there is to know about our companions and their various personalities, a new lesson will always pop up that we did not expect, even after years and decades of experiences and thinking you’ve seen it all. Sometimes I am equal parts humbled by the new lesson and exhausted by yet another one. But we must never give up.

In the words of Dougal Robertson, a man lost at sea for 37 days on a tiny boat with his wife and four children:

I have no words to offer which may comfort the reader who is also a castaway, except that rescue may come at any time but not necessarily when you expect it; and that even if you give up hope, you must never give up trying, for, as the result of your efforts, hope may well return and with justification.

Yes, it would be unfair to equate my recent experience with that of the Robertson’s, but I found his words about never giving up to be inspiring.

Sasha is a shepherd mix who adopted me about 12 years ago. In more recent months, she has developed a progressive decline in her hind quarters. At first a slight gimp, then some knuckling on one foot, followed by knuckling on both feet, loss of bladder control, then a significant sway in her hind end while walking or standing.

We were working out in the yard a few Sundays ago — actually, a tree had fallen on the house and we were doing cleanup. At the end of the day, she was unable to get back into the house on her own. I tried a few things in the days following — including a sling to support her hind end — when a friend suggested a wheelchair. Great idea, but those can be pretty expensive. So I looked at several articles and videos about building one with pvc, etc., but I just do not have the time right now for another project. Especially one as important as this.

I found a website, Handicapped Pets, where they were selling their camouflage-colored wheelchairs at 50% off — in honor of veterans, the site said. Honestly, I like the camo-colored one best, so I ordered it. It arrived the next weekend and two Sundays ago, we gave it a spin.

The instructions I read and the videos I watched were kind of frightening. They said you need two people to adjust the wheelchair and two people to load her into the wheelchair; they suggested putting her in the wheelchair for one minute the first time (it will take me longer than one minute to get her in and out!), then gradually increase the time. My advice: adjust the wheelchair as best you can, put your dog in it, and turn them loose. Take photos from various angles, then compare the photos to photos of dogs using a wheelchair (even photos from the instruction booklet and website where you purchase the wheelchair) and make further adjustments.

The photo above is from Sasha’s first day in the chair, actually in her first few minutes — before I made additional adjustments to the chair. It’s the first time in some months that she has stood up squarely. Looking good!

I am happy to say that Sasha has a new sparkle in her eyes. She seems quite happy to be “on the move” again.

As her hind end was weakening, I had rebuilt the steps into the house — widening them and making them shorter. Instead of being about 6-7 inches high, I made them about 3 inches high and about 18 inches deep. It’s similar to a ramp, but requires less space. A couple days ago, Sasha walked out the door and down the steps in her wheelchair. Her idea, not mine!

I guess that’s what happens when you never give up!

What do you think?

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