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Thanksgiving lessons from my paralyzed dog

As the holidays approach, I’m taking time to say thanks for the gifts in my life.  While that sounds like a cliché, the most cherished time in my life was pretty unique because it included the five precious years I spent taking care of Sophie, my paralyzed dog.

I adopted Sophie from a high-kill, municipal shelter when she was about six months old. Two days later my new puppy came down with Distemper and while she recovered she continued to have intermittent health issues for the rest of her life. In 2008, she slowly became paralyzed in her hind legs.

Being the caretaker of a paraplegic dog was a demanding job that included hand feeding Sophie, constantly lifting her from one room to another and making sure she had plenty of potty breaks. The experience was exhausting and rewarding and it taught me important life lessons that I wouldn’t have learned any other way.

Like other pet owners in my situation I poured over every piece of information I could find on the Internet that would give me information about keeping Sophie as healthy as possible. All of them gave me little snips of information, but none gave me a complete look at life as the caretaker of a paralyzed dog.

It took weeks to find the products I needed and even more time to learn the daily care techniques we needed. I taught myself how to express her bladder, prevent urinary tract infections and stop painful pressure sores.

All of this research went on while I was trying my best to take care of my sick dog.

After six months, Sophie’s paralysis was complete. She didn’t have any feeling or movement from her waist to the bottom of her paws. The two of us etched out a new routine and life was good again. It was at that point that I started to see Sophie’s condition as a gift.

I learned lots of life lessons from my paralyzed dog, but here are two of my favorites:

·         Life will change.
·         Don’t let that change keep you from recognizing a new opportunity.

I put those lessons into action by taking a fresh look at the activities Sophie enjoyed. Before her illness Sophie loved to walk the 3-mile loop around our neighborhood. Every afternoon she and her two housemates, Shadow and Cody would run in circles until I put on their leashes and we headed out the door.  All three dogs would run with me until their pent up energy was gone and then they would spend the rest of the walk enjoying the scents left behind from other dogs.

When Sophie couldn’t walk anymore, I didn’t have the heart to take away one of her greatest joys. Instead, I rounded up Shadow and Cody every afternoon, put on their leashes and walked the loop with Sophie safely tucked inside a large doggie stroller. She still felt the wind in her face and all the glorious smells around her. She even made some new friends because so many neighbors stopped to talk to her.

The ultimate lesson I learned from the experience was to make sure other pet parents had the information and support they needed if their dog was diagnosed with a mobility condition.

I started a website called Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog in Sophie’s memory. It’s a place that answers questions pet owners have when they are facing the challenges of taking care of a dog or cat with neurological, orthopedic or spinal problems.

 This holiday season I am grateful for the time I shared with my paralyzed dog. What are you thankful for?

Fetching Apparel is pleased to introduce guest blogger Sharon Seltzer. Sharon is an animal writer and the CEO of Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog.  She is also the pet parent to pup Cody and two semi-feral cats; Spike and Tiger.  She was the proud mom to Sophie and Shadow and Sport who died in 2013 and 2014.

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