Well now that you mention it, I would like a medal!

One of the more distressing things about having a dog in a cart is the number of times we run into people who thank us – for taking care of our dog, apparently. This week, among those who expressed gratitude were a neighbor, a co-worker and a fire-fighter. While it’s always nice to know I have all the tools need to pull a fireman at my disposal, Red Monkey reminded me how disturbing this really is. Is it really so unusual that people would take care of a handicapped pet? Would the average dog owner euthanize a pet who was perfectly healthy except for non-working legs? I won’t lie; it’s nice when virtual strangers give me a pat on the back and let me know what a great person I am, but I’m still kind of sad it’s perceived as exceptional.

On the other hand…

The least challenging thing about Ardala is her wheels. The behavioral issues are what no one talks about. Whatever kind of dog Ardala is – corgi? Australian Cattle dog? German Shepherd? Swedish Vallhund? – one thing’s for certain – she’s a herder. She likes it when we’re both within her line of sight. To that end, she used to follow us around and lick at our ankles until we were in the same room. During one of our training classes, she herded cocker spaniels. At the dog park she’d herd LFDs (little fluffy dogs) in between sniffing and greeting humans. Since she’s lost her mobility she relies on her bark to get people to move. The correct answer to this from a behavioral standpoint is to ignore her. Living in an apartment, that avenue is unfortunately not open to us. Also, not getting enough mental stimulus, she wakes us at around 3am every now and then. Last week she only did it once, which is an improvement, but sometimes she works herself into a frenzy – barking, lopsided whirling, whining and panting. We call it a ‘sode, as in episode (thank you, Wonderfalls), used in a sentence thusly: “Ardala, are you having another one of your ‘sodes?” Any reaction from us feeds into her ‘sode, so we have to be maddeningly unaffected. This works about as well as you might imagine. The best pause button for one of these ‘sodes we’ve found is the Thundershirt. Based on principles discovered by brilliant animal behavior expert Temple Grandin, the Thundershirt acts as swaddling for dogs, squeezing them tight and giving them a sense of security. Below is a picture of Ardala taken a couple of days ago, when a combination of Thundershirt and lifting into my bed helped her to calm down enough to go back to sleep. Red Monkey says she is taking advantage, but I don’t mind cuddling down with my pup. It kind of helps me relax too.

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