Finding a pet sitter for a dog that couldn’t walk or go to the bathroom on her own was a lot like Jane and Michael Banks, from Mary Poppins, as they searched for a “practically perfect” nanny. The whole idea seemed practically impossible.
During the first 18 months of Sophie’s paralysis Ken and I didn’t leave our house for more than four hours at a time. We were always on watch for a new symptom to develop or worried that Sophie might hurt herself if she was left alone too long. And four hours seemed to be the magic number that her body could hold out before a messy surprise would be waiting for us when we got home.
After 18 months Ken and I were exhausted and claustrophobic. Our tempers flared under the pressure of the 24/7 care Sophie required and we started to resent the helplessness of our little girl.
We needed to take a break. We needed to find our Mary Poppins.
At first I reached out to the vet techs who work at the spay and neuter clinic that my rescue group runs. I thought a vet tech would be great since they knew how to move a paralyzed dog and could express her bladder, but after discussing it I realized the techs were working people and they had even less time available than I had.
So I started to look for an unemployed vet tech. That turned out to be a BIG mistake. A young woman was recommended because “supposedly” she didn’t like working in a veterinary office. When she came to the house to meet Sophie she was nice, but seemed to have a hard time concentrating on what I was saying. We set up a practice pet sitting gig.
If you ever plan to hire a pet sitter, I highly recommend a trial run because we learned a lot about our new vet tech. We waited and waited for her to arrive at the house and I called and called her cell phone, but she never showed up. Later she called to say that she had gone hiking and forgot about the time.
So again I searched for a pet sitter. I called professional services, but they didn’t want to touch Sophie’s special needs. I even thought about boarding Sophie with my veterinarian, but then Ken and I decided that would be too stressful.
Finally we stopped looking and accepted that we made a commitment to Sophie and we would personally have to see it through.
Mary Poppins Arrives
Fortunately fate had another plan and out of nowhere our own personal Mary Poppins appeared at our door, well figuratively that is. Claire is a pet sitter who heard about Sophie’s special needs. At one point in her life she had been married to a man who was a paraplegic so when she learned about Sophie, she knew she had to meet her.
For three weeks Claire came to our house to befriend our dog and learn everything we did to care for her. Although Claire is a petite lady, she was determined to scoop Sophie up in her arms the way we did to help her stand and walk. She studied how often Sophie needed to be turned from side to side so she wouldn’t develop pressure sores, how to sit her upright for food and water and even how to express her bladder.
Claire also made friends with our two other dogs, Shadow and Cody and our three cats. She patiently learned each one of their routines.
At first Claire practiced her skills while Ken and I ran to a movie, but finally we went away for a day trip to an art festival in southern Utah. We must have driven her crazy with all of our calls and coming home early, but everything went well with the animals.
Little by little we ventured away further. Claire always gave us frequent updates and sent reassuring pictures of each cat and dog. Shadow and Cody loved her visits because they got two walks a day and Sophie received the attention she needed.
As Sophie’s condition deteriorated, poor Claire had to deal with hand-feedings, special diets and midnight baths to clean our incontinent dog. She laundered soiled towels by the dozen and blotted out accident stains from the carpet. She did all of this without a complaint because she wanted Sophie to live as much as we did.
Claire may never know how much she meant to our family during those five years, but she was truly the “practically perfect” guardian who rescued us during a crisis.