The final chapter in Sophie and my story is about the importance of good communication. I’m not talking about communication between you and your spouse or between you and your vet.
I think it’s important to listen to your dog.
It’s my opinion that dogs are great communicators. The following lessons will help you understand what I mean, without making you think I’m crazy…I hope.
Lesson Ten – one bark for yes and two for no
Sophie let me know what she needed with the gestures she’d make with her body and with her voice. Pay attention to your own dog and you’ll see what I mean.
A bowed head meant she wanted to play and a smile said she was content. She also used barking to let us know her needs. She used it a lot as she became paralyzed.
Barking was her way to let me know she needed water or wanted to change positions. She even barked to tell me know she was ready to have a bowel movement.
The system worked well until Sophie lost her voice. I’ve never found the medical reason for this change, but it seemed that as the paralysis moved from her hind limbs to her torso the sounds she made changed. They became raspy and she sounded more like a seal than a dog.
The new bark was strange enough that a friend visiting the house asked if Sophie had been surgically debarked.
Since I’ve written this story, other pet owners have contacted me to say the same thing happened to their dog. But at the time, it was frightening.
Our solution to good communication
The new bark was hard to decipher and harder to hear. It meant that I couldn’t leave Sophie alone in a room for even a short time. I couldn’t hear if she needed me.
It also caused Sophie to become fearful. Her new little squeaks would become frantic if she thought I wasn’t close by. I think she started to feel vulnerable for the first time.
The solution to this new communication problem was easier than you might think. I kept her bed by my side all the time. It was easy to slide it from room to room so I could hear whatever she had to say.
Lesson Eleven – pet me please
The demands of being Sophie’s caretaker were all encompassing. I’ve shared in the previous posts our daily schedule and all of the responsibilities that go along with keeping a paralyzed pet safe and healthy.
It was easy to think about the next chore I needed to do for Sophie and forget that she was a real-live dog.
This fact became apparent one night while my family was watching TV. My husband and I were curled up on the couch flanked by our other two dogs, Shadow and Cody.
Sophie was separated from the group, sitting by herself in her bed. It was the first time I saw her as being lonely.
My heart sank. At that moment I realized I had focused on doing things “for” Sophie and I had stopped doing things “with” her. I had forgotten why I started this journey of taking care of her. It wasn’t just to keep her healthy, it was because I loved her.
From that day on, Ken and I sat on the floor with Sophie when we watched TV. We made a point of having fun with her and cuddle time. She loved the attention and would bury her head into our arms.
It was utter joy when her body would relax as I stroked her fur and whispered how much we loved her.