The daily routine to take care of Sophie’s needs took up more and more of my husband’s and my time during the five years of her illness. As the demands grew, it was easy to get caught up in performing the tasks to keep her alive and forget that Sophie needed our love too.
A typical day being the caregiver of a paralyzed dog was all encompassing. Each morning I would wake up, put on her harness and lift her upright so I could walk her outside to express her bladder. Then I would walk her into the kitchen where she had a bed waiting for her. I would help her get settled in the bed and go make breakfast for her and our two other dogs, three cats and my husband. By that time everyone was underfoot yipping and meowing for their food.
Sophie would eat breakfast and sip from her water bowl. Then she would wait patiently while I got ready for the day. Next I would pull her bed to my desk so she could lie beside me while I worked.
At noon I would again lift her to a standing position and walk her outside for a potty break. Then we would return to do our afternoon work. In between lunch and dinner, I would refill her water bowl upon request, clean up any bathroom accidents and make sure she had extra snacks to keep her calorie count up and stop her from losing weight. Somewhere in the afternoon there would also be a walk for all of the dogs or a fun car ride after Sophie stopped being able to sit up in her stroller.
Later there was dinner, her favorite Frosty Paw dessert and two more potty breaks before bed. The routine was demanding. After a while all I thought about was the next chore or how much time I had to run an errand before Sophie needed me to do another task for her. In the more advanced stages of her condition, Sophie needed to be turned so she didn’t develop bedsores and propped up so she wouldn’t fall over in her bed. It was a full time job.
One evening while we were watching TV in our living room and Sophie was sitting alone in her bed away from my husband and me and separated from the other animals that were curled up on the couch with us, I looked at her and for the first time I saw a very lonely dog.
My heart sank because at that moment I realized that I had gotten stuck in the rut of doing things “for” Sophie and had stopped doing things “with” her. I had forgotten the reasons WHY I was giving Sophie 24-hour care. I was keeping her healthy and safe, but I had stopped showing her my love.
I needed to remember to pet Sophie.
From that day forward, Ken and I made a point of sitting on the floor next to Sophie while we watched TV, just so we could cuddle with her. She loved the attention and would bury her head into your arms. It was a feeling of utter joy when her body would relax as we stroked her fur and whispered in her ear how much she meant to us.
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