A Look Back At 2012

As I sit here at my computer, on the eve of New Year’s Eve, I can’t help but reflect on the past year as 2012 draws to a close. 2012 was some year, and I will surely always remember it.  It started out as a mild winter in Erie, PA where our family enjoyed outdoor activities all winter long, like walks around the block and walks on trails in the woods. I can remember one walk in particular where our family was walking in Asbury Woods in the middle of winter and the ground was dry and we weren’t even wearing winter coats.  This ultimately ended up being Sophie’s last walk on all four legs.  Then on March 22nd, Sophie had her tragic disc herniation that left her suddenly, unexpectedly and completely paralyzed, and was followed by spinal surgery in a desperate and expensive attempt to fix her injury.  As she was recovering from her surgery, we waited for her cure, regaining the function of her legs, bowel and bladder, which never came.  But what did come was an unexpected and very inspiring comeback that taught us to have faith in her life and let her continue being a part of our life and our family.   I felt compelled to share her story and a few weeks after her injury, I started Our Dachshund Sophie, my first blog, and have been sharing our journey ever since.  I wanted to thank you all for being a part of this journey with me and for your overwhelming support you have given me through this experience.  The online community that I have come to know has been truly wonderful in helping me cope with Sophie’s injury and new way of life.  I am looking forward to all that 2013 has to offer both Sophie and me, and I am excited to continue blogging and sharing our journey.

I wanted to share some of my favorite photos of the past year.  I hope you enjoy.  Happy New Year!

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The Last Walk

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Sleeping Dachshunds

I just can’t take how cute a sleeping dachshund is. This morning, Sophie was sleeping on the couch, arguably her favorite place to be. She was wearing her drag bag, which not only protects her skin from her condition, but it also protects the furniture and floors too. When she is wearing her drag bag, she can lie anywhere she wants. To be truthful, she is almost always in her drag bag, unless she is in her wheels or sleeping at night. We use the Walkin Wheels drag bag, which I purchased at Handicappedpets.com. I always double up with a Pooch Pad diaper underneath. I hope you enjoy her cuteness. Have a great day.

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A Wedding Celebration

I’m not really sure where to start.  We have had a whirlwind of a weekend.  We traveled out-of-town to celebrate my cousin James’s and his new wife Jill’s wedding celebration.  They are a match made in heaven and I am so happy for them. I was so honored to be a part of their wedding and that they welcomed and included Ben in the wedding as their ring bearer.  He did a great job walking the rings down the aisle, and it brought tears to my eyes seeing him so grown up.  He took his responsibility as the ring bearer very seriously, and I am very proud of him.

The Ring Bearer

The Ring Bearer

Because we were a part of the wedding, we needed to be there all weekend, so Sophie came along for the ride.  On Friday, Sophie traveled in her crate to the rehearsal dinner, and napped while we practiced for the ceremony and then dined.  She was less than thrilled that I left her in the car and went in without her, so on Saturday, because we would be gone all day and well into the evening, we left her with my mother-in-law who agreed to watch her for us.  I was really nervous about leaving her behind, but we really didn’t have any other choice.  As it turned out, Sophie did fine, and actually really enjoyed the company of my mother-in-law’s dog, Lucy.

A little cuddle time during the rehearsal

As we were leaving for the wedding on Saturday, we took a quick family photo in my mother-in-law’s yard.  We were in such a hurry, I didn’t realize that Sophie scurried her way out the door with us, and followed us all the way into the front yard and into the picture, just in time for the photo to be snapped.  When I looked at the picture after it was taken, I exclaimed, “Sophie is in the picture!”  She surely is part of the family and she made sure she was part of the family portrait. It’s been a while since we have all been so dressed up and looking so nice as a family.

A Family Portrait

In an effort to prove to myself that I can still hang with the 20 somethings, I went out and bought myself a pair of black stiletto heels. These shoes have been calling my name, speaking to me in my dreams after I walked past the shoe display twice earlier in the week on my way through the Bon Ton to the children’s store. The night before the rehearsal dinner, on a whim, I found myself at the mall buying them for myself, just in time for our weekend getaway.  Even though they looked amazing, they really were quite uncomfortable, and despite the fact that I was determined to wear them, I had to resort to my good old standbys shortly after the ceremony.

Ben and Lina brought the party, and they were on the dance floor before all the guests even arrived.  They continued to dance the night away until we left late in the evening. I think I will now have to figure out a reason why we can’t go to a wedding every weekend, because they will surely be asking to go to a wedding again.  We had a great time, the wedding was absolutely beautiful, and Sophie managed on her day away from me.  We got back last evening.  My husband and I are exhausted, and it will probably take us all week to recover and unpack the suitcases.  But is was all so worth it.  I was so happy to be a part of such a beautiful celebration and to spend time with my family.  I will cherish the memories.

My children behaving at their finest!

The Drag Bag

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I have a lot of interest on my blog regarding Sophie’s drag bag. It is a product that most people have not heard of until they are confronted with the circumstances of having a paralyzed pet, and then it seems like it is essential to have one to go on. It is true. In my experience, this is the most important product to buy for your newly paralyzed dog. The drag bag serves three very important functions. It protects your dog’s skin from breakdown associated with dragging. It helps your dog drag more effortlessly and smoothly, making dragging easier. It protects your floors from the incontinence associated with having a paralyzed dog. These three functions are critically important to your dog’s and your own quality of life and this product does it’s job beautifully. It is expensive, I know. At around 50 dollars a piece plus shipping, it is hard to purchase this as a gamble as to whether or not it works. I am here to tell you that it does work great, and out of all the products out there, this is the one worth purchasing. We have one drag bag, and we use it every day. Don’t worry about buying multiples if the cost is an issue. You can definitely get by with just one. Personally, I would like to have two, and I am thinking about ordering another one within the next couple of months because ours is showing some wear in tear. But for a solid 6 months, I have been able to get by with one. Many people are interested in making one of these from scratch, and I say go for it, and please let me know how it works out for you. But I can attest to the quality of the store bought kind and it has been worth every penny for me. This product is not a fluke. If you are on the fence, go for it. I know the product is designed for dogs, does anybody have any experience in using it with cats? I am curious to know. I purchased ours from handicappedpets.com.

A Bed Fit For a Princess?

We have always considered Sophie to be our princess, and she has long-lived up to that name. Through the years we have tried different sleeping arrangements with her but it always seemed like no matter how comfortable we attempted to make her cage, she preferred to be in bed with us. As difficult as it is having a long dachshund sleeping in bed with you, especially since they always insist in the horizontal position, there was a draw to take her to bed with me that when it came time to go upstairs to bed, I wasn’t able to resist, and she was always more than happy to comply. We started this tradition early on as a puppy, when she made her position known, she had no interest in sleeping alone. Sophie the puppy was one of the cutest and cuddliest things I have ever experienced and I would nuzzle into her and cuddle with her all night long. She just simply wanted to be with me, and I with her. Since she injured her back, we have had to change this arrangement somewhat. We have been strongly encouraging her to sleep in her cage, mostly because of her incontinence issues. There are still many a nights though that she is tucked in underneath the blankets with me, fully equipped with a diaper and drag bag for protection. But for the most part, she has learned to accept her cage and will spend the night in there. We have purchased her two different pet beds, especially made for pets with incontinence for her to use. I wrote an article referring to these beds called Dog Beds for Pets With Incontinence, and I now have a follow-up to share.

The first bed is from the company Pooch Pad. I bought this bed first, and used it for a little over a month before I bought her another one from Kuranda. I really like both beds and feel like they both have a place in our routine, and they both have their pros and cons. The Pooch Pad bed has a special fabric that absorbs urine, making the surface Sophie is laying on dry the second the wetness occurs. I did not buy the crate pad, I bought the pet bed because I felt like it looked more “cushiony.” The problem with the bed is it is a little too “cushiony” for Sophie, and she has a tendency to flop off of it. It works great when she is laying on the floor in the living room, but in her crate, she will flop off and get wedged between the crate and the pillow, laying on the metal tray. For a bed to be used outside of the crate, it is very nice and I really like it. If you are planning on using it inside of a crate, unless the crate is smaller than the bed itself to prevent the bed from sliding around the crate enabling the dog to flop off, I would get the crate pad instead. I especially like it as a bed for her to use when she is in her wheels, as it is the perfect height for her to rest the front part of her body on as she rests in between wheeling around. The fabric works just like the company says it does, and it launders very well and holds up to multiple washings. When I bought the bed I didn’t buy any extra bed coverings, and having only one, there where many days when it was soiled and waiting to be washed and I couldn’t use the bed. So I would recommend, if this is to be your only bed, buying at least two coverings so you have an extra. I used this bed exclusively for about 6 weeks, but I couldn’t keep up with the laundry. Having two kids, the last thing I need is more laundry, so I really wanted to try one of the mesh beds.

I purchased her mesh bed from Kuranda because of the great reviews the company has received. As I was reading through the reviews, I discovered they have a fabric especially for pets with incontinence that they don’t advertise on their website. I called and placed the order over the phone and got this special fabric that seemed to be made especially for us. The Kuranda bed is wonderful for me because it like a godsend when it comes to cleaning it. There is no laundry to clean other than her blanket that she will burrow herself under. You can wipe it clean with a cloth or spray it with a hose, and I have done both. It is durable, holding up well to daily assaults. Initially, my kids thought it was a trampoline, so we almost lost it right away, but that was averted and Sophie has been using this as her bed that is in her crate. We will say this, she is getting used to it. She doesn’t like it as much as the initial bed I bought for her from Target, the one that has been soiled beyond belief because it wasn’t designed for incontinent pets. Initially she wasn’t tolerating it well at all, but after figuring out the air conditioner was blowing up from underneath the bed at night making her cold, we covered the vent by her cage, she has been doing much better. She is adjusting, and as long as she has a blanket covering her and something soft to lay her head on, she is doing okay with it. Both of these beds have found a place in our routine, and I am grateful I have them both. Both have virtually eliminated the use of the puppy pads, so they are green products as well, by producing far less waste. My impression is, if you have a pet with incontinence the mesh bed is so easy to clean it is worth it, but if you are going with the Pooch Pad for comfort, buy more than one covering, and realize you will be washing the cover all the time. Also, be aware of the size of the bed in relation to the cage, because we have the problem of the bed sliding around and Sophie flopping off it.

The only bed that is truly fit for our princess, at least in her eyes, is my own. In that sense, she isn’t too much different from my kids. But from the human perspective, both of these beds are really nice, and I hope my experience in trying both of them is helpful to you if your situation is similar to ours.

Sophie on her Pooch Pad bed

Sophie on her Kuranda bed

The Drag Bag

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Having some sort of drag bag is essential when you have a paralyzed pet, especially when skin breakdown starts to occur. Initially when Sophie had her injury, I used it all the time. As time has gone by, I do use it less frequently, but when she starts to have any sort of redness or skin breakdown, I put her in it. I will put a diaper on Sophie before I put her in it to prevent from getting soiled. This allows me to wash it less frequently. I only have one, and I feel like that is enough. There are days when I wish I had two, but really, I don’t feel like that is necessary. Try purchasing one first to see how that works for you. I purchased mine from handicappedpets.com. The product is great and the company has excellent customer service. Here are some picture of this amazing product.

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Sophie’s Great Adventures

Our family just returned from a wonderful visit to Deep Creek, Maryland and Johnstown, PA.  Sophie was with us for the entire trip.  We were invited to Deep Creek by my aunt, who rented a gorgeous lake front cabin for the week, in honor of her son’s, my cousin’s, upcoming wedding.  The cabin was pet friendly and she said all dogs were welcome.  The offer was too tempting to pass up.  We joined them for a couple of days and could have stayed forever.  Initially, I was nervous about taking Sophie, for various reasons.  Although I have become very proficient and comfortable with her incontinence issues, I had never attempted a situation quite like this.  I really didn’t want to show up with Sophie and announce she was incontinent, so I decided to keep it a secret and see how it went.  It went off without a hitch.  We were there for 2 days and were given the master bedroom suite.  I was able to use the bathroom in our bedroom privately to express Sophie’s bowel and bladder.  When she was out and about in the cabin, she was in her wheels.  When she was on the boat, she wore her drag bag with a diaper underneath.   We all had so much fun, and I couldn’t be happier how smoothly it went with Sophie.  There were no incidents.  I really don’t think anybody would have guessed she was incontinent, but it is not uncommon for people to connect the dots with a spinal cord injury.  So I was asked, which is not unusual.  I answered honestly, but at the point when it came up, everybody was comfortable with it because they had already seen how much of a nonissue it was.  I just feel so elated that we were able to take her there and handle this situation like we did.  There are plenty of options where our family can get away and have some fun, and we don’t have to feel like our situation holds us back from having fun and socializing.  In 4 short we have gotten pretty good at this thing.

Sophie had a great time on the boat.  She nuzzled in and relaxed on somebody’s lap the entire time.  There was no shortage of people who wanted to cuddle with her.  Everybody there seemed to really love her, which was not much of a surprise to me.  I come from a long line of dog lovers.  The only time she got anxious was when I decided to go in for a swim.  The people on the boat had to hold her back from coming in after me to rescue me.  We spent two afternoons on their boat enjoying the beautiful weather and scenery.

After we left Deep Creek, we went on to Johnstown, PA where my husband is from.  We visited with family and went on a day trip to Bedford, PA to let the kids go fishing with their grandpa.  Sophie came along and really enjoyed the afternoon we spent on a spectacular private property.  She even went swimming in the pond.  I had seen her wade before, but had not seen her swim.  She was in her wheels and decided to into the pond to cool off.  It was shallow but she kept walking in further and further until she was actually swimming!  Who knew a dog in wheels could swim?

We are back now and happy to be home, but we had a great time.  And my dear Sophie was such a good sport about all of this.  She truly had fun, but home sweet home has never rang truer than it does for her.

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Rehab Doggie Diaper Wrap From Sam’s Dog Hut

When Sophie first came home from the hospital, we bought her a pack of disposable diapers for dogs.  They fit very well, but when your dog has fecal incontinence, they just don’t work.  The hole for the tail leaves an opening right above the rectum and the stool comes right out of the diaper.  There is a company called Sam’s Dog Hut that makes products for pets. They have a product called the Rehab Doggie Diaper Wrap that is for dogs with fecal incontinence and the diaper design keeps the stool in.  I have two of these, a small and a medium.  Sophie is actually in between sizes a little bit but the medium works better for her. If I went by her weight, they would recommend a medium for her, so if you are ordering one, I would stick with the weight range they give you.  I use my rehab diaper wrap everyday.  It is a great product and their customer service is excellent.  I don’t think it took more than two days for it to arrive in the mail.  They also come in a wide range of patterns.  I like to put this on Sophie underneath her drag bag.  She really doesn’t need to wear a diaper when she is in her wheels as long as her bladder and stool are expressed before she is placed in them.  She rarely ever has any urine overflow when she is in her wheels.

I have found that I really do need to use both the rehab diaper wrap and the drag bag.  If I use only the diaper, when she is dragging she will drag it off.  If I use only the drag bag, she will inevitably end up with urine and stool in it and then I have a big mess to clean up and the urine and stool gets on her skin.

With the Rehab Doggie Diaper Wrap, you do need to use something to absorb the urine.  They sell pads on the internet, but I have not tried these.  I am sure they are great but I don’t like to spend a lot of money on shipping so I have been using pads from the grocery store.  Here is my method.

I start with a thin pad with wings.

I cut it in half with scissors.

I stick the two halves on each side of the hole on the diaper.

I place the diaper on Sophie.

After placing the diaper wrap on her, I put her in the drag bag.  This method works out great.

This is an everyday product for me.  I consider it to be an essential.  I hand wash it when it gets soiled and hang it to dry.  I have two of these and I will be ordering more when mine wear out.

The Drag Bag

The drag bag is a product that I came across while searching handicapped pets on the internet. I found two different websites that have their own version, handicappedpets.com and k-9cart.com. They both looked very nice but I decided to order from handicappedpets.com because it was 5 dollars cheaper.

Sophie dragged her legs for 5 weeks before she got her wheels. She started really trying to make a move for it around 1 week post-op and at 2 weeks post-op you couldn’t hold her back. By 3 weeks, she was doing what I was calling “drag running”, and my husband aptly nicknamed her “The Drag Queen.” You definitely couldn’t just let her sit in the front yard anymore because if a dog or a cat came by, she would be chasing after it in a heartbeat.

It takes some adjustment seeing her dragging her legs and this is how many of our neighbors first learned of her injury. It took them aback initially and some really had pity on her. I think it was the first time any of them had seen a dog dragging their legs. With a little reassurance from me, I think our neighbors accepted her condition. All of the children in the neighborhood were very interested in what was going on with Sophie and they would ask about her all the time.

Although dragging is a great way for her to get around, there were a couple big problems with it that needed to be addressed. Her skin became very fragile in her groin area. It did break open once when she drug herself unexpectedly across a small amount of cement, but otherwise I did a pretty good job of keeping it together. But if I would have just let her go and drag as much as she wanted, her skin would have broken down terribly and I would have had a big problem. The other problem was the urine overflow. As much as I tried to keep up with it, I was cleaning up urine all day. Not big puddles, but small smears of it on my hardwood floors and I knew it was on the carpet as well.

Diapers sounds like the obvious solution to the urine overflow but when she was dragging the diapers came right off. I kept thinking about the drag bag and I wanted to order it, but I was trying to only buy the necessities because our bill for this was really starting to add up. After the surgery, as you can only imagine, our bill was already in the thousands. We tried a homemade version of a drag bag thanks to my mother in law and her expert sewing skills, and it was very nice, but I needed the real deal. I finally broke down and ordered it.

I ordered it from handicappedpets.com. I ordered it on a Thursday afternoon and it was on my doorstep on Saturday morning. I was really impressed with this, so much so that I wrote a letter of thanks to them. I put her in the drag bag right away.

It took a little while for her to adjust to it. For the first couple of days, she would pretty much stay in the same spot when she was wearing it. After a couple of days, she accepted it and started dragging away. This product changed our life. She now is able to have freedom to roam. We can pick her up and cuddle with her and let her lay on our lap. She can sit on the couch, supervised of course. It was an exhilarating moment when she was able to lay in her old spot on the couch again. She has laid in bed with me a couple of times, and she will just wear it all night long. We have been trying to encourage her to sleep in her crate at night, but every now and then she just insists on coming with me.

The drag bag has saved our carpets from urine and stool, but it doesn’t save her skin from it, so it is definitely necessary to wear a diaper underneath, especially for Sophie due to her urine overflow.

It washes up very easily. I have been hand washing mine and letting it either dry in the sun or line drying it overnight. The fabric is breathable and lightweight.

Needless to say, I love our drag bag and I consider this to be an essential item for a paralyzed pet. If you are dealing with a newly paralyzed pet, order one right away without hesitation!