May 3, 2008

The Worst and the Best of Recent Days

Life goes on, doesn't it, when you're not looking. I can't believe it's been so long since I've updated this blog. The simple fact is I've been busy closing one chapter of our lives and starting another.

If you're not an animal lover you may not understand how attached people get to a family dog and how difficult it is to have that pet put down after living with him for nearly sixteen years. That is the chapter we just closed. Cooper was a challenge to get through puppyhood but he was as smart as a whip, a character, and he became Don's constant companion these last eight years since his stroke. He will be missed.

Before the decision was made to put Cooper down, it was getting depressing watching him go down hill and knowing that we couldn't do anything to change that. In the same time frame we had also visited a relative with the most aggressive form of Early Alzheimer's. Seeing how fast she had deteriorated both physically and mentally in such a short time had put Don and I both in a funk that was hard to pull out of. Seeing a woman years younger than me, as close to being in a fetal position as one can get in a wheelchair, unable to even make eye contact or hold a conversation was shocking. Especially since just a few months ago she was walking around and physically strong at least. Between the dog and thoughts of our relative our funk felt like imminent death was surrounding us.

But life goes does on and the new chapter we started is with a new puppy, a miniature schnauzer who was thirteen weeks old when we got him. Along with all the normal puppy stuff little Levi has to learn, he also has to be taught to have a healthy respect for Don's wheelchair without fearing it and to learn how to sit-stay when ever Don transfers. The former being a safety issue for Levi and the latter being a safety issue for Don. The puppy is doing well with both. I won't go into details here about our new puppy, though, because he is well documented in my dog's blog. (Find the link in the right hand column if you're curious.) It's enough to say that it's been fun having a new life in the house. Sometimes I can't contain my smile when I look down at the sleeping little imp.

So along with all our other comings and goings, we've added puppy socialization classes to our schedule and later this summer, obedience classes will come. Levi probably will also get us out to the nature trails this summer. It's something we've wanted to do for a couple of years and now we've got a four-legged obligation to spur us to act on that desire. He'll need to learn about things like birds and bugs and playing with blades of grass and not to bark at the wind. If only we could teach him to use a credit card and order flowers for Mother's Day..... ©

P.S. One of the entries in Levi and Cooper's blog touches on Don's aphasia, if you're interested here is a link to that entry. Click here.



Jellen said...

So sorry to hear of your recent loss, but pleased to hear you have a new pup to make you smile. About those doggie walks...does Don hold the leash while you push his chair? How do you plan to keep the pouch away from the wheels? Or will they teach that in obedience school?

The Aphasia Decoder.... said...

With Cooper I used to use a dog collar to attach the handle of his retractable leash to the wheelchair's handle. He instinctively knew not to cross in front of the moving chair, probably because he'd been to obedience school and that's how he was taught, to never cross in front of the person walking him. So, I'm thinking Levi will first have to learn obedience training before we try him with the chair. I'll ask the instructor for help on that when we start classes, maybe even have Don and Levi take part in the classes when Levi gets to the intermediate class.

This first five weeks of classes is teaching things like handling housebreaking, barking, biting, chewing, meeting other dogs, and learning to communicate with your pet.

But already Levi has learned how to walk half way decent on a leash, to come and sit when asked so I think he's going to be easy to obedience train. I'm giving him five minute lessons five times a day.

The Aphasia Decoder.... said...

To add to my above comments, our niece who is wheelchair bound walks three dogs at a time. One sits on her lap and two are attached to her chair and they all seem to do fine.

BookingAlong said...

Jean - Having put down a cat in the last year, one we had for many years, I admire your courage in getting a puppy so soon after making the decision to put down Cooper. I'm working on the courage part, thinking of taking on another pet. I have to work on the heart of one son, too, the one who most loved that cat. Right now, we are working on transitioning one family member to a wheelchair, an adventure I'm sure you know much about.

The Aphasia Decoder.... said...

Jane, When we got Cooper, I had let a lot of time go in between getting him and his predecessor's death. There really isn't any right or wrong way to do it, and getting a new puppy or not getting one doesn't make it hurt any less. Levi has given us something to focus on and we're happy we did.