Unconditional Love

There is just something special about coming home after a long hard day to the unconditional love of a dog. Pet ownership has been a part of human existence ever since the first caveman took a wild beast from the wilderness and learned how to domesticate them. “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind” (James 3:7).

Their unique character and loving spirit can brighten the worst day and the companionship they offer is unmatched. It doesn’t matter about disability, economic status, race, gender, or creed, most dogs just want love and to be part of the “pack”. Our two are a trip and a perfect fit to our family.

Cooper is our highly intelligent 9-year-old Bichon my wife got as a puppy from a breeder in Summerville, SC. He is affectionately named for the river that runs through the middle of our state. Rodger is our 9-year-old rescue we acquired last August from an establishment in Pacolet, SC. Our best guess is that he is a Havanese blend.

Either way, he looks like a buffed colored Ewok and lives in a state of perpetual happiness. From the time the alarm goes off in the morning until we pass out at night, he has a “smile” on his face and that tail is flapping. Our two fur babies want to be wherever we are, to be loved, and to play.

Oh yeah and treats!!

Dogs are sometimes confused by my wheelchair and I can tell the ones that are spooked, or unsure, just in their behavior. Luckily for us our pups are quick studies and both picked up on the “click” of my power chair powering up and no matter where they are they move (even when sound asleep)... paws and tires just don’t get along.

The biggest difference in our fur babies is when it comes to vehicle rides (convertible, boat, van, truck... especially my truck) they’ll both run wide open to load up but Cooper loves it. Rodger shakes, pants, and drools everywhere. He is a work in progress.

Obedience and a spinal cord injury go together hand in hand. They both have to trust me and respond or our family dynamic is affected. With quad hands, tasks such as attaching a leash (which can be a nightmare), giving them food and water, keeping them safe when out on walks, loading or unloading groceries, etc. requires their respect. There are many times throughout the day that I have to put them in a seated posture, get them focused, and reestablish the pecking order, mostly when the doorbell rings, when I need to leave and don’t want them barreling out the door, or if I’m taking them somewhere on my own.

By nature they’re “momma’s boys” but when it’s just ‘us guys’ they need to follow my lead. I don’t say this lightly because the honest truth is, without my bride, dog ownership would be an enormous task (if at all possible) and their lives diminished, she is the rock that keeps our household functional.

The only downside to having dogs is when they’re hurt and can’t tell you what’s wrong. This recently happened to us when our Bichon, Cooper, took off to chase a cat that has been visiting our barn and about 40 yards into a dead sprint he just stops, no yelp, no stumble, just standing there staring. He wouldn’t put weight on his right hind leg and it looked out of whack. We snatched him up and off to the vet's office we went.

After a couple of X-rays and joint manipulation by the doc, it was determined that he had torn his CCL (the equivalent of the ACL in humans). He had ruptured his meniscus and surgery was his only option. The surgical repair is actually kind of cool in that it is done by using 60 lb. sterilized fishing line to create a new CCL, but requires the dog to be very limited in moving for several weeks and absolutely no jumping.

It’s been a very long road, we’re having to take a rambunctious dog and completely isolate him, crating him when we are gone, putting him in a “pack an play” when we’re home but busy in order to keep him from attempting to get to his normal resting locations which as fate would have it are all elevated (the bed, couch, ottoman, stairs, etc...). It’s been a massive ordeal, even for my abled bodied wife. While it’s been overwhelming at times, truth be told I couldn’t imagine life without them. Spinal cord injuries can be a huge drain on ones psyche but the love of “man’s best friend“ helps to keep me grounded. So if you’re thinking about pet ownership make sure to choose the right kind of animal (for us it was dogs), with the right temperament, and I promise it will brighten your world.

Be honest about your expectations and disability limitations must be addressed. Know how you will attend to their needs and understand that this is a commitment for years to come, but one so worth undertaking.


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