Life with a paralyzed dog was one of constant change. As soon as my husband Ken and I would become accustomed to a particular way of helping Sophie, the paralysis would take over more of her body and we would have to make adjustments. One of the biggest changes came when Sophie lost her voice. Somewhere between year one and two of her illness our dog lost the ability to bark.
Barking was the way Sophie let us know that she needed water or wanted to change positions in her bed or when she had to poop. She was absolutely brilliant when it came to communicating her needs – until she lost her voice.
As the paralysis moved into her torso the sounds that came out of her mouth changed from a deep Shepherd bark to a harsh, raspy seal-like voice. It sounded strange enough that one person visiting our house asked if we had her surgically debarked.
The new bark was not only hard to decipher, it was also softer and hard to hear if we were in another room. It meant that we had to keep Sophie close to us at all times so we could hear her squeaks. Pulling her 50 lb. body around the house in her bed became a constant chore.
Taking care of any task in the house had to be done twice; once to move Sophie into the room where you were going to work and then a second time to actually do the job. So if I wanted to fold laundry, I would pull Sophie’s bed into the bedroom first and then make a second trip to grab the clean clothes from the dryer. The same was true for setting the dinner table, unloading groceries and vacuuming, which was a complete disaster. I was always calling out to her that I would be right back. The new set of circumstances made me realize how much I moved around the house all day and how little time I spent in one particular room.
Losing her voice must have made Sophie feel more vulnerable because from that time forward she would panic if she was left alone in a room. If we were gone for more than a couple of minutes, her little seal squeaks would start calling us.
Over time Ken and I got used to doing everything twice and we learned what her squeaks meant. Sophie even taught us a bit of sign language, especially when she was thirsty. If you asked if she needed water, she would actually stick out her tongue and lick her thin dog lips to indicate that she needed a drink. She was brilliant, right?