- Disabilities & the Disabled
Does Your Dog Care About You?
If you are a good dog owner you take good care of your dog. You love him, feed him, train him, play with him, take him for walks and look after him when he's sick. But, how do you know if your dog cares about you? He trusts you, you provide food and shelter, he listens to you (most of the time) the question is does your dog do this because he is expecting something from you, is it "cupboard love" or is there something more - some greater something at work? There are all kinds of stories about dogs who have dragged their owners or young charges out of harms way. Dogs have stayed loyally by an ill or injured owner and dogs who have alerted their owners to fires. These are not the dogs from the movies, these are regular dogs, in regular homes who have never had to fend for themselves. If it is not love that motivates them to assist their people, to watch over children, to guard their homes then what? I don't have the answer to that one, but I do know that our dogs have returned every once of love and affection we have shown them and then some. This is the story of our "and then some."Read on and then you decide how you would answer the question, "Does your dog care about you?"
Pippin at Five Months
How A Three Dog Night Came To Be
With our three oldest children attending university and our youngest in high school I found that I was no longer able to keep up our home after my husband’s second stroke. There was nothing for it but to get into something smaller and easier to maintain. The thought of moving was daunting as years of accumulated living had to be sorted through and either discarded or packed. Dealing with real estate agents and showing our home plus looking after my husband was a lot to confront but confront it we did. We sold our home and then launched into a whirlwind of finding a new home and packing up the old one. Fortunately this happened in the summer so the children were there to pitch in or I never would have made it through. After much searching we found a town home that was in the early stages of construction. We were limited in our choice as most townhouses with a master bedroom on the main floor were in age restricted complexes and we still had our youngest daughter at home plus our nineteen year old son was with us from after final exams to the beginning of the next year’s terms.
While our town house was being completed we lived in a motel with our daughter and two cats. But that is not the only thing that lived with us because (somebody please examine my head) as though I didn’t have enough on my plate I brought a three month old Papillonpuppy into the mix. We named him Pippin. Eventually our new home was ready for us and we moved in along with our two cats and new dog. That is to say we got all the boxes and what furniture we had kept, through the door. My husband had suffered two falls between our leaving our family home and moving into the town house and for three days after we moved in virtually all he could do was lay in bed (that is mattress on bedroom floor). On the fourth morning he was unable to get up at all. I called an ambulance and it was six and a half months before he was able to join us again.
Pippin on Yet Another Car Ride To The Hospital
So there I was with a daughter just starting a new school, two cats who were not taking kindly to being shuffled about, a husband in the hospital and a puppy, not housebroken of course! By now it was wintertime and it snowed like it hadn’t snowed in years – and I do not drive in snow. Fortunately there was a school bus to get my daughter to school and back on the days that school wasn’t canceled due to the weather. We managed to stock up on food before the storm hit. Our mattresses were on the floor as new beds had not yet been purchased, neither had dressers, a dining table and chairs and my antiques were still off being refinished. We did have tons of boxes of this and that and everything else under the sun, all of which needed unpacking. Not only were we in a new home but we were in a new town about half an hour away from where we used to live, we knew no one. Our neighbours’ homes were still being built and no one at our end of the complex had moved in. The road still hadn’t been paved and there were construction crews all about the place.
I kept in touch with my husband by phone although it was difficult as he was on medications that made him very drowsy. I finally got into see him about five days after he had been admitted and that is when I learned that one could take a dog into the hospital. And that is how it came to be that Pippin became a “prescription puppy”. After I learned that he was welcome, Pippin went with me on every visit and it not only brightened up my husband but other patients as well. Pippin was so well behaved as though he knew that there was a time and place to be a puppy and the hospital was not it. Twelve days after my husband was first admitted he was transferred to another hospital over an hour’s drive away. We are still sleeping on the floor and still have no table and there are still more boxes to unpack. The older children are smack in the midst of Christmas exams. I have construction deficiencies to deal with, my daughter has no friends; the weather was horribly grim; two freaked out cats and a puppy that was not at all keen on going outside in the nasty weather – my poor new carpets. More than once I got a call from the hospital in the middle of the night telling me that my husband wasn’t expected to make it through the night and he was “asking for me”. Each time I would take Pippin with me, and each time my husband pulled through.
Pippin Stares On The Stairs
We live half way up a mountain and I had personally seen a bobcat around and the construction workers had all kinds of stories of running into the buildings with their lunches when the bears came down, I could hear coyotes howling in the not too distance and there were raccoons. One night just before turning in and having made yet another trip into the hospital via a three hour there and back drive in the pouring rain I just didn’t feel like taking Pippin outside for a Pippin pee. Instead, I tied him to the railing outside our front door, closed the door and walked into the kitchen where I immediately realized that a wee Papillon puppy made for a tempting morsel of coyote bait. I retrieved him immediately.
There was a bad flu outbreak at the hospital my husband was in and one had to apply hand sanitizer before going up to the wards. The hallways were wide and polished and went here there and everywhere within the bowels of the hospital. There were “do not enter” and “hospital staff only” and “authorized personnel” signs all over the place. I had Pippin on a retractable leash and with hands slippery from the sanitizer his leash slipped from my grasp as he excitedly pulled in eager anticipation of seeing “dad”. It did what retractable leashes do, it retracted and smacked him in the backside causing him to break into a run, with me in hot pursuit, seeing all those signs and thinking to myself, “We are so going to be kicked out of here!” Pippin had only one thing on his mind and that was to get to my husband, by the time I caught up with him he had navigated the twists and turns of the endless polished hallways, scooted through an open elevator door and was waiting for me to catch up to press the button that would take us to the ward. He would lay on the bed for hours, just a puppy, full of play he knew exactly how to behave in the ward.
The next hospital my husband was sent to was closer to home, about half an hour away but dogs were not allowed. Fortunately he was only there for a month before being transferred to a rehabilitation facility where dogs were allowed and Pippin’s visits resumed. My husband was delighted and so were the rest of the patients and the staff. Pippin brought smiles to everyone’s faces. When he was joined by my daughter’s little dog, Pooka, they really made a big hit. It was the same when my husband went into a care facility closer to home. People’s spirits immediately raised and those who tended to keep to themselves got quite chatty. Pippin sat on more laps than I care to count.
In the meantime, back at the town house, in between hospital visits and finding places to put “stuff” I had managed to squeeze in furniture shopping. The place was starting to come together and, oh did I mention our daughter was getting married? I threw a bridal shower, did all the mother of the bride stuff, her dress was beautiful and even managed to get an outfit for myself and my youngest daughter fitted for her bridesmaid’s dress. Although it was touch and go, my husband did make it out of the care home for the weekend of the May wedding and even managed to give a beautiful talked based on the Velveteen Rabbit. By the second week of June he finally got to join us in our new home.
Since then he has returned to the hospital on several occasions, two heart attacks being among the reasons and last summer he broke his left hip and had to have it replaced. Pippin has been through it all. He looks quite crest fallen when we drive by the hospital without stopping as he recognizes where he is the minute we get in the vicinity of it. I may have been crazy to get a puppy in the middle of all the chaos but I would have gone crazy without him and there is no doubt in my mind that he contributed much to my husband’s recoveries and to his well-being.
Our daughter, just over a year after her wedding, was diagnosed with colon cancer. Of all the things I have had to confront over the past number of years this one just about did me in. I won’t go into the details here but while she was in the hospital we took Pooka in and when my daughter was recovering, at home after her surgery, Pooka, who is part Papillon, was constantly at her side. She is now fully recovered, cancer free, is finishing up her Masters in Education, teaching full time and expecting my first grandchild later this year! Miracles do happen and these little dogs have been with it through it all.
Good Karma, Bad Karma
So much so that I decided I didn’t have quite enough on my plate and I just had to have another Papillon. I think that this particular breed of dog is akin to a potato chip - you cannot have just one! This time I got a female and with all we had been through it amused me to call her Karma – that way I could say “Good Karma” and “Bad Karma”.
“Good Karma” has been a life saver – quite literally. On two separate occasions she woke me up by digging the blankets off me and then preceding to dig the blankets off my husband. He suffers from diabetes. Both times he had blood sugars that were dangerously low. Without going into the details of how it happened, my husband has lost the hearing in his left ear. Karma always lets him know when something needs his attention. If he needs something and I am out of hearing range she comes to get me, she has her own language that is very amusing to listen to. Quite the “talker” is our Karma. “Bad” Karma is a tissue thief.
Five Pooped Out Pappy Puppies
Our next great and grand idea was to let Pippin and Karma have a family of their own, just once, before getting them both “fixed”. Papillons usually have small litters, two to three pups. Karma had FIVE! It was a lot of work but so much fun, our house came to life big time. Three puppies were born on December 13th and we thought she was done but in the wee hours of the morning, after I had everything cleaned up and got into my PJ’s,she had two more. It was hard to let them go when the time came and I was really stressed about getting them good homes. Thankfully they have all gone to excellent people where they will get to do what Pappies do best – they were bred to be companion dogs and that they are. One little guy went to a woman who had recently lost her husband and who is living on her own for the first time in her life. Another male went to a woman who has survived breast cancer and who suffers from arthritis – she is over the moon for herpuppy. One female went to a family who was looking for a buddy for their miniature poodle and both the family and the poodle are very happy with their choice. The other female went to a family that already has a Papillon and wanted another and the fifth one, well…….he didn’t go anywhere. We kept him, his name is Bobby and my husband tells people that Bobby is his soul mate (“Thanks,honey!”).
Our son, who thought we were absolutely nuts when we got Karma thought we had gone right off the proverbial deep end when we decided to keep one of the puppies. I told him that we can’t get on a plane and go to a nice resort somewhere, we can’t go on a cruise and we can’t buy a fifth wheel and explore North America but that we can enjoy the joy these three little dogs bring us. He got it! And that is how it came to be that when we go to bed it is a “three dog night”.
Dogs are often used for“therapy” and a companion dog like the as Papillon is a perfect fit for the job. Therapy dogshave proven to reduce stress induced symptoms and I can attest to the fact that they do. They raise moods, and without mine I know my mood would have gone into the toilet and stayed there. They reduce anxiety, alleviate loneliness and take a patient’s mind off their pain. They help people be more present, foster a positive environment and reduce invisibility. These are all important and valuable attributes and abilities of these little dogs but reducing invisibility is a big one as disabled people are all too often unseen by the rest of society. Unseen that is until someone notices that sitting on the lap, or trotting alongside a walker or wheelchair is one little dog that is as proud as punch to be there.
You think I'm silly and not quite right.
You think my hair always looks a sight.
You think I should and you think I won't.
You judge me harshly but my dog don't!
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