(NOTE: This article was written about 6 months after Mulberry came into our program. Her separation anxiety has dissipated and we’ve settled into a routine. Her bowel movements are more predictable now and the she’s sleeping in a bit later.)
I opened my eyes about 1:30am and realized that Mulberry was standing in her crate. “Crate-Standing” in the middle of the night is never a good sign and in the few seconds it took me to become fully awake, I realized that I smelled something. I shot out of bed, grabbed my glasses and ran into the bathroom to get some bags and paper towels. I carefully helped Mulberry to the floor and looked around to see how much stool was in her diapers and how much fell into her crate. In an instant I made the decision to whisk her downstairs and onto to the deck to let her finish. “Whew, we made it this time,” I thought as I watched the last pieces of poop fall gently from her tail onto the snow-covered deck. It was cold, but I knew that we’d only be out for a few seconds. Mulberry already had soaked her diaper with urine, so I brought her back in quickly and diapered her up with clean pads. She took a quick drink of water and followed me back up the stairs, waddling as she does when the thick incontinence pads fill the space between her legs.
As I got near the top of the stairs, I began to smell “that” smell. Armed with cleaning supplies, I turned on the light to see what was waiting for me in her crate. “Not too bad” I thought as I picked up a small piece. I removed the blanket that it was lying on and replaced it with a fresh one. “Whew, again!!” I thought. I don’t’ have to wash her bed covering this time.
Mulberry quickly settled back into her pile of blankets on top of her foam bedding and drifted off to sleep. I wish I could have said the same thing for me. Now wide-awake, I checked the email, facebook and watched a little TV. Slowly, I drifted back to sleep.
At 4:00am, I heard one of our greyhounds crying and got back up to let him out to potty. Mulberry shot up like a bullet, so I let her out again too. This time, I had time to put a coat on her before I ushered her outside. She made it as far as the top step on the deck and peed. Her front feet were on the step and her back legs were still on the deck. “What a strange position,” I thought, but then I realized that this is normal for Mulberry. I could see her raised tail and her urine stream glistening in the deck lights. It was a good, strong stream, so I knew that she was emptying her bladder. In an instant, she was back inside the house, rubbing herself on the chair covers as she waited for me to change the pads in her diaper. I inspected the dirty one, as I always do, looking for any signs of a urinary tract infection. “Everything looks good,” I say to her in hushed tones as I try to keep her still so I can get her tail through the hole of her panties. Up the stairs we go, thankful that I don’t have to clean anything this time.
Breakfast isn’t until 5:30, so Mulberry went back to sleep. I tried to ease back into sleep mode, and I did finally drift off for about an hour.
Mulberry is very food-motivated and lives to eat! She only weighs 51 pounds, but she can pack it away like the big boys. Today, like every day, she’s getting very impatient as I’m fixing the bowls for breakfast. She’s pawing at the crate door, whining and watching every move I make from her vantage point. I can’t add the supplements and Chinese Herbs to her food bowl fast enough. I always feed her first; she simply can’t wait for the others to get their bowls before her. While she’s eating, I wrap her medicines in Pill Pockets and give them to her as soon as she’s finished. I think she thinks these are treats, a reward for finishing her food.
Mulberry quickly lies back down in her bedding and drifts off to sleep. She’s on her back, in a perfect roach and I watch her chest rise and fall gently with every breath she takes. She looks so cute in her black denim diapers. Today we have a vet appointment with a specialist. My thoughts turn to past trips and I wonder if we can make it through the hour drive without an accident in the car. Mulberry is only “batting 500” in that regard and has pooped in the car 3 out of the 6 trips so far. Today isn’t starting out to be a “Good Day” for little Mulberry.
“Good Days” and “Bad Days” are not defined by whether or not Mulberry has an accident in her diaper, but rather by how many accidents she has, how thoroughly she has soaked the pads in her diaper and how much poop I have to clean up. “Good Days” happen when I can catch the poop before it hits something soft, like carpeting or her crate bedding. Sometimes, I can bring Mulberry into the bathroom or get her on the vinyl flooring in the kitchen as the poop is falling out of her diaper. If I’m really lucky, I can catch it with a bag before it hits the ground. On a “Good Day,” the pads in her diaper don’t leak and I don’t have to wash her panties and blankets. You can just imagine what a “Bad Day” is like. She’s had quite a few “Bad Days” this week.
As Mulberry is napping, I’m getting things ready for her trip to the vet. Extra panties and pads … check. Fancy collar and leash … check. Lots of bags, paper towels and blankets in case she poops in the car … check. I wake her up so that I can brush her teeth, clean her ears and check to see if her nails need to be trimmed. She’s not too happy with the new toothpaste that I bought, but she’s willing to let me move the toothbrush around in her mouth. She knows something is up, and she’s smacking her lips and yawning, letting me know that she’s slightly tense. I pet her and scratch her head and tell her that she’s going to the vet and get treats. She seems to understand.
I hop in the shower and my thoughts turn to the days when she first arrived. She had a good deal of anxiety back then – separation and general. She would bark frantically at just about everything and would rip her blankets and bedding to shreds when she couldn’t see me. It took several months of desensitization, alone training and the right dose of “happy pills” and peanut butter-filled Kongs to get her to the point to were she’s comfortable most of the time. As I dry off from my shower and flush the toilet, I hear her bark and realize that her anxiety is still present. She’s associated the flushing of the toilet with my leaving and that cue still sets her off.
It’s time to take her out before we go for a ride in the car and I am hoping that she poops. It’s cold today and her little paws are getting chilled quickly. I can’t let her stay out for more than a minute or two and she doesn’t move her bowels. “Uh, oh,” I think to myself. “This is going to be an interesting ride.”
Mulberry doesn’t travel well. She never seems to get comfortable in the car and jumps up to investigate every passing truck. I’m very nervous today, knowing that poop can come at any second and I know that I won’t have much of an opportunity to pull off the highway. I try to keep my cool, knowing that Mulberry is very in touch with my emotional state. About 10 miles into our trip, I turn on the rear windshield wiper to clear the road grime from the window. They say that greyhounds are more like cats than dogs and today Mulberry proved this to be true. As the wiper blade moved back and forth across the window, so did Mulberry’s head. Ears erect, she looked like a cat chasing a feather toy. She pawed at the window, hoping to catch the blade. I chuckled as I watched her and realized that she had calmed my nerves. Mulberry has a way of doing that, just when I need it the most.
It’s 4:00 pm and time for a turnout before supper. It’s getting a little warmer out and Mulberry and the other dogs want to romp in the snow. Our red boy, Boo Boo usually likes to get everyone engaged in a game of chase at the afternoon turnout and Mulberry always gives him a run for his money. Today is no exception. Little Mulberry can’t ever catch him, but her little legs sure get a work out. I am always a bit on edge when I watch her run because I know that if someone gets too close or bumps her, she will turn on them in an instant. Muzzles are a must here.
Supper involves much the same routine as breakfast and I will start to prepare the bowls after the dogs have had a chance to rest from their romp. Mulberry’s standing on the floor and looking up into her crate because I haven’t lifted her up yet. Thank goodness Mulberry loves her crate so much. She likes being up high and away from the other dogs. She wants to eat, but she also wants to be in her little safe place. As I fix her bowl, I remember how growly she used to be when any of the other dogs got too close to her. She still has her moments, but she’s a little more confident now.
It’s close to 8:00 pm and Mulberry is still taking her after-supper nap. Her crate is next to our bed and I can watch her as I work on other things. She’s gotten herself in the most interesting position with her nose half buried under her blanket. She always makes me smile, especially when she’s awake and watching me. Her quizzical nature and her soulful eyes melt my heart everyday. Earlier tonight, I swore she was watching me type this article and critiquing my spelling. Yes, sometimes I anthropomorphize. It’s easy to do with Mulberry’s almost human-like expressions. But, when Mulberry tries to eat poop through her muzzle, all thoughts of her being human-like are destroyed in an instant.
“Last Call” is the last turnout for the dogs. Once they come in, they run for their favorite crate and sleep through the night. Well, all the dogs except Mulberry usually sleep through the night. If I’m lucky, Mulberry won’t stir until 3:30 0r 4:00 tomorrow morning. And, we start another day in the life of a special needs girl.