Originally published in Lost Souls: FOUND! Inspiring Stories About Dachshunds.
Don’t Read This While You’re Eating
One day a friend introduced me to Petfinder.com, where she was looking for a new dog. I was fascinated that they had over 300,000 homeless pets posted, and was equally taken by the profile of a paralyzed Dachshund named Skippy. I had never seen a dog in a wheelchair before, and for days felt compelled to return to his profile, rereading it over and over again. I was not in the market for another dog, (I already had a Yorkie), but before I knew it I was emailing the rescue group to adopt Skippy.
I found out that Skippy had been in foster care for three years – he must have been waiting for me! I filled out an application and we began to make travel arrangements. Skippy was in Illinois, and I am in Georgia, so we met halfway in Tennessee.
The first few days with Skippy were a disaster. I had not been completely informed about Skippy’s toileting abilities (or lack thereof). He was bladder and bowel incontinent and left a mess wherever he went. I kept him in the guest bathroom at night and while I was at work because the hard floor was easier to clean. Regardless, I was constantly cleaning the carpet, bathing him, and doing laundry. On top of everything, Skippy was completely withdrawn. He wouldn’t make eye contact and couldn’t care less that I was in the room. Needless to say I was very disheartened and worried that I had made a terrible mistake.
I tried doggie diapers and belly bands, but because Skippy dragged himself around, he easily got right out of them (he doesn’t use the cart at home). My next thought was to put him in a baby “onesie” to hold things together, but that didn’t work either. Finally, I put him in a doggie harness and pinned the belly wrap to it with old-fashioned diaper pins. It worked! (Well, for pee, anyway. Poop still just happened, but it was relatively easy to clean up.)
The work would have been worth it if I thought Skippy was happy, but he just had a blank look on his face and no life in his eyes. He never looked at me, and he never played. Then one day while I was sitting on the floor with Skippy, he looked into my eyes. After what seemed like forever, he sort of shook his head, and the veil was lifted! It was as though he suddenly realized that he was home and that I was his forever mommy. He even licked my face!
We were making progress on the emotional front but the potty issues were still overwhelming. I had heard the term “expressing the bladder” but didn’t know what that involved. Finally finding some instructions online, I tried it – squeezing Skippy as I supported him over a pee pad. I was rewarded with a little bit of pee!
For days I thought I was doing the best I could until one night Skippy was being very wiggly, and I really squeezed him hard. He peed for five minutes and then seemed so relieved. I guess I had just been too timid to put enough pressure on him to fully empty his bladder.
Now that I know what I am doing, my carpets are a lot cleaner. Eventually, I taught him how to stand politely on the toilet seat, and I express his pee right into the toilet and flush it away. No more stinky pee pads!
About a year later, Skippy and I were vacationing at a hotel with my niece and nephew. My two-year-old niece was working on potty training. I noticed Skippy was about to poop, and I thought it would be a great incentive for my niece if she could see that Skippy went poop in the potty (I had never tried it with Skippy before). I grabbed Skippy and held him over the toilet. Sure enough, he pooped right into the potty! I began to wonder if I could control when and where Skippy went poop, just as I did with his pee. In no time at all, I learned how to express his poop, too! Woo-hoo!
Mastering Skippy’s bladder and bowels completely changed my life. Now I can take Skippy anywhere with no fear that he will have a messy accident. In many ways Skippy is now my easy dog. I never have to take him out into the rain or snow to go potty – we just go down the hall to the bathroom!