QuickPress: God Laughing. (Me? Not so much.)

You know that expression, “If you want to make God laugh, make plans?” Or “Life  is what happens while you’re making other plans?”

Well, I guess I’ve been having a lot of life, or delighted deities or whatnot, because my life is not going according to plan.

I posted before Thanksgiving that I was hoping to do lots of training with Barnum, especially recalls, during my week alone. I also wanted to go on a lot of nice walks with him.

However, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, on his run around the pond with Deb, he somehow took a chunk out of his inner toe pad on his left, front paw. I didn’t realize how bad it was until, after taking him the next day to play raucously with his favorite dog buddy, he was limping. I cleaned it up, but the next morning I could tell he was feeling pretty bad, and the wound did not look good.

Thus began a week of limited exercise, limited training (because so much of it requires movement, and that was painful for him), and lots and lots of foot first aid. The technique I developed was:

  • Wipe affected area with alcohol prep pads. (I had used a different antiseptic the first time, and he jumped and yelped and tried to get out of Dodge. The alcohol seemed to sting, but not hurt as much.)
  • Keep paw in the air so it stays clean before I . . .
  • Apply triple antibiotic ointment.
  • Continue to keep paw in the air so it stays clean before I . . .
  • Apply a sterile gauze pad.
  • Continue to keep paw in the air so it stays clean before I . . .
  • Tape the pad in place. I started out with paper tape,  but that didn’t hold as well as my waterproof first aid tape. Unfortunately, I need that type of tape for my PICC line care, and I used a ton of it on Barnum with twice-daily dressing changes for almost two weeks, because  I also needed it after I . . .
  • Put a clean cotton sock over it all, and tape it in place with tape wrapped above and below that protrusion where his dew claw would be if he still had it. That keeps the sock from sliding down. Then, of course, I applied the traditional medical . . .
  • Cayenne pepper, to the sock. Yes, this might seem mean, but it was the only thing initially that kept him from tearing off the sock. Eventually, he learned to leave the sock alone, and I didn’t need to use it anymore.
  • If he needed to go out, I had to put a plastic bag (or two or three), or a couple of nitrile or vinyl gloves over it all, and tape those into place, as well.
  • Eventually, when the wound was doing much better, I switched from the sock/bag procedure to a less bulky . . .
  • Sterile thin paper face mask around the paw (can you tell I have a lot of leftover infusion supplies? Thank goodness!).
  • This was held in place with gauze bandage (which only required two small pieces of waterproof, first-aid tape). Then the whole “look” was topped off with a . . .
  • Powder-blue dog “booty” over it.
Barnum big head in booty

Does this booty make my head look big?

  • “Booty” does not do this piece of canine footwear justice. It’s really more of a doggy high-tech sneaker. I call them “the Nike cross-trainers of dog booties.” They come in a set of four, but for the past week, he’s just been wearing one, which I rotated, based on which was muddy and which was clean and dry. It has a mesh top for breathability, elastic to keep it on comfortably, along with the velcro, and real treads on the black rubber sole.
Doggy Nikes

I am ready to be on Pawject Dogway.
  • The sneaker is not waterproof, but it keeps the bottom of the paw relatively dry, unless it’s really wet out, and it has the advantage of being much harder to shred, pull off, or destroy than the sock, bag, etc.

Therefore, not so much with the walks and recall training. On the plus side, a lot of handling training! He is now very good about letting me mush and maul his front, left paw!

Of course, eventually he and I were both physically doing well enough that I wanted to take him for a walk — which I did after my morning PCA had left and before my evening PCA came on shift. My big, bad-ass, outdoor chair that is made of recycled parts, which I bought specifically to be able to walk Barnum, was low on battery power. I knew that already. I also knew it wasn’t good to let it sit too long without using it or charging it, so I made sure to charge it mid-week.

What had been happening with my chair was that if we went for very long walks, especially really fast, and/or at night when I had the headlights on, and/or over really rough or hilly ground, it would lose power in a serious way on the way home. So, my plan, for the sake of my chair and Barnum’s paw, was to take us for a short walk on one of the less rugged roads (though, since I live on a dirt road in a hilly area, there is only so much that can be done to avoid that).

Pchair with headlights

This is how my bad-ass chair looked when it was under construction, a year ago (before it got all dinged up and the batteries died).

Here’s what occurred:

I got Barnum’s harness and hunter-orange “recreation/visibility” vest on him, and got my headrest and foot rests set and adjusted on the chair, and away we went, out of the yard, down the driveway, right out onto the road, about fifteen or twenty feet, and then the chair totally died. Totally. Dead. Could not turn around. Nothing. No lights on the control panel.

We sat there in the middle of the road. I waited for a car to come so I could ask for help. Barnum waited for me to get on with whatever the hell was holding me up so we could get going. After all, I had asked him if he wanted to go on a walk? Do ya? Do ya wanna go for a walk?? Wannagoforawalk?? Do ya???

Well, I lied. The poor dog got no walk. Eventually, a car came in our direction . . . and turned in at the first house on the road. (My house is the second, up the road.) I saw two people, whom I thought were women, but I couldn’t recognize them from the distance, and waved and said, “Hello! Hello? Is that Lynne?” (Lynne is my neighbor. I realized they were neither of them Lynne because they just looked at me and each other, and didn’t take a step in my direction, whereas Lynne would have greeted me warmly and probably realized something was wrong.)

They started to head into the house. I said, “I’m stuck!” That got their attention. “Can you help me?” I asked.

They came towards me. Barnum stood at attention next to my chair, looking at them with serious intent, and gave a couple of experimental “woof”s. These are quiet, hoarse, tentative woofs for situations where he thinks he should bark, but he hasn’t yet figured out how to do it.

“You’ve trained him really well,” one of the women said. “He’s very protective of you.”

“No,” I said. “That means I haven’t trained him well. He is not supposed to be protective of me. That’s a problem. We’ll need to work on that.”

This was the first time he’d ever barked at a stranger when we were out and about. I was not happy about it. Fortunately, when they got closer, he became his usual goofy, wiggly self and wanted to sniff their butts and kiss and play.

Meanwhile, I explained that I lived there (pointing), and my batteries appeared to be dead, and could they push me in my chair home? Fortunately, they could. I really hadn’t known if they’d be able to, because my chair weighs over 400 pounds, and I’m no feather, either. They were young, strong, and healthy, though, so it was okay. Except for the humiliation.

I decided I really must, must, must finally deal with figuring out which kind of wheelchair batteries to get to replace the dead ones, which I’d been putting off because I am not at all mechanically inclined, and the whole thing makes me anxious as hell. Only three things got in my way:

  1. I’d run out of the supplement that I use to help me sleep, so I’ve been even more chronically sleep-deprived than usual, which makes it hard for me to think about, read about, and take in new information about, a subject that is both cognitively taxing and emotionally loaded for me.
  2. I spent a lot of energy bandaging and unbandaging Barnum’s foot, and taking him out to eliminate, after making sure he really, really had to go, and was not just ringing his “out” bell because he was bored and wanted to go out and play. Why did I want to make sure? Because any time he needed to go out, I had to put a bag or glove or sneaker on his paw. The result was that one night I did not get him out in time. I discovered this the next day when my PCA informed he had peed on a bag of my infusion supplies. I don’t think that’s medically advised.
  3. I was wracked with horrible grief after realizing that I have a huge backlog of grief from the loss of numerous people (including Gadget) to death or abandonment, as well as never having mourned the many functional losses and other “life losses” (such as my former career as a writer and editor) related to getting multiple tick-bourne diseases three years ago. I’ve been numb for most of the last year because I couldn’t cope with how excruciating the grief over Gadget’s death was if I allowed myself to feel it. I started to feel it, due to the anniversary of his death, and it felt like someone was squeezing my heart while hitting it repeatedly with a brick. The grief also made the insomnia worse.

That’s where Barnum and I are at, currently. His paw is almost totally healed. My heart is broken. Win some, lose some.

We’ve been doing more training again, and I still haven’t managed to even follow the links my less-wimpy and more mechanically inclined pchair-using friend sent me about batteries. I’m afraid I’ll get the wrong kind or otherwise screw up and break my chair.

One thing I am not afraid of, though, is ordering products from dog catalogs. The next time I place an order, I’m stocking up on vet wrap, which is self-adhesive, waterproof, and coated with bitter apple and cayenne to prevent chewing. I think maybe a case of it should last us till the end of the year.

By the way, dear readers, Barnum and I have actually trained a bunch of stuff in the last couple of months that I am backlogged about posting about. I’ve gotten wrapped up in writing Gadget bereavement posts, including what will hopefully be some useful grief resource pages. So, if all goes well, the next many posts will be a mix of happy training updates on Barnum and more somber (but maybe in some way uplifting, affirming, or useful) posts about grieving a service dog.

Comments very welcome!

-Sharon, Barnum (“bootylicious” fashion icon), and the muse of Gadget (who looked good in anything)

P.S. Breaking news! My favorite online vet, Doc Truli, aka VirtuaVet, just posted a great solution for covering a dog’s legs.

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7 Responses to “QuickPress: God Laughing. (Me? Not so much.)”


  1. 1 Cathy O'Connor December 1, 2010 at 6:27 am

    Poor Barnum. Have to admight though, that is one snazzy boot he’s wearing. You’re sounding pretty resourceful as well. As someone who has had experience with a picc line and other tubes going in and out of various normal and man-made orifices at one point in life, I can relate. ((((Hugs to you)))). You will survive. I’m here to tell you that.

  2. 2 Sharon Wachsler December 4, 2010 at 2:13 am

    Hi Cathy,

    Thank you so much. Actually, his toe is all healed now. Yay! (Then he stepped on a tack last night — in the bathroom! Have no idea where that came from. I pulled it out, and he seemed fine immediately after.)

    Actually, I’m very grateful for my PICC line. Occasionally it’s a bit of a pain in the ass (arm?), but it’s been a part of the treatments that I believe saved my life.

    You know, I just noticed when I saw your comment that you are the same Cathy whose blog I’ve read! I can’t believe I didn’t put it together until now! I asked you to submit to the assistance dog carnival. From your previous comment, I wonder if you didn’t get my post? Anyway, I’m glad I’ve now put a face/name with the blog!

  3. 3 virtuavet December 7, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Paw Bandage Cover on the Cheap for People with Spare IV Bags Lying Around

    Have any used IV fluids bags lying around? Cut the end off with the parts. Fold in half and in half again lengthwise and make 1 inch cuts parallel with the edge about 1 1/2 inches below the cut opening edge.

    Open up the contraption. Thread medical gauze or other 1-2 inch wide fabric piece or whatever (doesn’t work great with yarn or shoelaces, trust me) in and out through the parallel holes.

    Place bag over bandaged paw. Cinch the gauze around the leg and bow-tie in place. Or tape the heck out of it with sport tape (tying it wholes better).

    Viola! Dog water resistant paw cover! Quicker than a baggie (or two or three) and somewhat reusable, depending on the rambunctiousness of the dog.

  4. 4 Sharon Wachsler December 8, 2010 at 12:39 am

    Doc Truli,
    If I had but known! I do have plastic IV bags I could have used! Great description. Ah well, next time. Well, hopefully not next time, but in all likelihood, dogs being dogs, there will be a next time!

  5. 5 brilliantmindbrokenbody December 27, 2010 at 3:03 am

    Also, this may help for the next time he injures himself – there’s a better antiseptic. Try Bactine! It’s the antiseptic both my service dog org and my dog first aid book recommend. I’ve had to use it on Hudson before. It’s got a bit of lidocaine in it, so if you’re sensitive to it, you’ll want to glove yourself. That bit of lidocaine means that it doesn’t sting the dog when it’s applied, and actually makes the wound feel better. (I wish it worked that well on me! One of the odd effects of EDS is that we’re often lidocaine resistant.)

    ~Kali

  6. 6 Sharon Wachsler December 27, 2010 at 8:27 am

    Hi Kali,
    Thanks for the tip. I’m trying to remember — is Bactine the spray that smells like an antiseptic? If so, I don’t think I could use that.
    Actually, the triple antibiotic didn’t sting Barnum or bother me, it was only the antibacterial wipe I used initially. I switched to an alcohol prep pad, and that was better. It did sting a little when I cleaned it the first couple of days, but after that it was not bothering him. I probably was being overly cautious and could have just kept it clean, dry, and covered with the antibiotic ointment, but I tend toward the thorough end when it comes to vet care now.
    I can’t remember if Barnum’s ever had lidocaine before; I don’t know. Gadget had a terrible reaction to it. I wrote about how hellish it made his post-surgery experience here: https://aftergadget.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/gadgets-cancer-journey-in-words-and-pictures/
    So, even though Barnum would probably be fine with it — Gadget was sensitive to many medications, foods, chemicals — I’m a little leery of trying it unless I have to.


  1. 1 QuickPress: Conversation with Doc Truli « After Gadget Trackback on December 10, 2010 at 12:51 am
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