Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dealing with Low Energy,Illness, or High Pain Days

Yesterday and the preceding evening I experienced an unusually high pain day. After living 25 years using a manual wheelchair as my primary mode of locomotion my shoulders and spine give out on a regular basis (this is why I am working on getting an appropriate power wheelchair, which--of course-- falls into the category of things easier said than done.). High pain days for me often mean no sleep either, due to the rate my body burns though pain meds versus the safe intervals in which one can take more.
How I deal with high pain, low energy days:

  1. If it is in any way possible I take my service dog out. Even if I need help from my family, roommate, or other person to do it.There have been time in my life where I was completely on my own. During these periods, so far I have been lucky enough not to get ill to the point I could not take my service dog out. Knowing that is is possible I always keep look out for good area pet sitter/ dog walkers that I could enlist to help care for my dog. See Pet Sitters International Locate a Sitter Service. I remember an incident when my roommate's service dog Einstein was only four months old and I was out of town on business. My roommate went to the ER and was told she needed emergency surgery. She was able to call our pet sitter and he fit her into the schedule. He took Einstein home with him and came over each day to care for the cat and domestic rats we had at the time until I came home.
  2. Sick or not service dogs need interaction with their handlers. In general the service dogs I have had and have been known for being uncannily good at realizing when their people are really, really sick and adjust themselves to sometimes strangely quiet modes. By the same token, they are sometimes so pleased to see their person start to get well again, they want to just jump right back into regular activity levels. Every handler should identify quiet, minimal energy (for the handler) activities that they and their dog enjoy. If your dog is used to positive training and enjoys shaping a few minutes several time a day can be both physically and mentally stimulating for a dog.
  3. Make sure you have several people who have been properly educated and will happily follow the conventions of your service dog's training. The last thing a disabled handler who is recovering from illness needs is a dog who has developed bad habits or experienced a down grade in their skills during their illness.
  4. Make sure you have interactive toys like Kongs, Nylabones, Buster Cubes, and other dog puzzles to entertain your dog on low energy days.
People with disabilities who partner with service dogs must find ways of meeting their dogs needs on their low functioning days. How one will care for a service dog on these days is a question any person considering entering into a partnerships should have ideas and resources in place before the service dog ever comes home.


Kirsten said...

Hi Melissa, nice post.

I'm fortunate in having a nice fenced yard so at times when I am not able to properly exercise my dogs, including my service dog, they still have an opportunity to play with each other in the yard. At least they get some fresh air and a chance to toilet.

The hardest thing for me is that my dogs are physically fit, high energy dogs. Recently our whole household had to go and restricted activity because of a seriously ill dog who could not be stressed. Exercising the other dogs was not possible because I could not leave her even for fifteen minutes. After six weeks, we were all totally stir crazy.

I did get some respite care to run to the grocery store, but in hindsight, I should have tried to recruit someone to take my two healthy dogs out for a walk while I stayed with the sick one.

It's not exactly the same as your situation, but in both cases the dogs are not getting as much attention or physical exercise as they really need. I felt horribly guilty about it, but they were all receiving at least the minimum care necessary (food, water, toileting). While they were stressed with the inactivity, no one suffered any long term effects.

Still it was a wake up call to me, to arrange for backup handlers who can manage to take my dogs out for exercise if I can't.

Katrin said...

Good post. I find too that on my low energy or high pain days that all of my dogs, but especially James (my SD) and Obi (my SD-IT) identify it and will just be calm and less energetic on their own. Of course they can only manage it for so long before they start going bonkers, but I too have back up handlers in place via friends and family who respect my rules and training with the dogs to play with them in the yard or take them to the pond or woods for a good exhaustive session.

Also one of my favorite games to play with the dogs when I'm having trouble moving too much is "find the toy" Even if I can't throw a ball I can usually find a place to hide one in the house. It also works on the dog's out of sight stays and self control as they all have to stay until I've hidden the toy and released them to go find it. It wears them out as it uses their nose, brain, and is a little physical exercise.

Melissa Mitchell said...

Dear Kirsten,
I'm glad to hear your crew is doing better. I would love to hear about the plan you think best meet the needs of you and your crew should another situation involving you or another animal cause a need for helping hand.

Melissa Mitchell said...

Dear Katrin,
I'm glad to hear you have people you can trust with your dogs. Our fur kids love hide the toy as well.

Solstice said...

Living in high pain, there are days I can only take my dog out to potty. Having chronic pain means making sacrifices for your partner because people get tired of hearing, I am in too much pain today, would you walk my dog? Treadmills, chuck its, kongs, chewies, and having a good solid foundation with my dog are my best tools. On days that I spend in bed or medicated, I do so on the couch down stairs. When I get up to use the bathroom I make sure my dog has relieved himself, make sure he has something to chew on, and take a few seconds to do some clicker training. Even just a few clicks. I don't have a treadmill right now, but a few minutes on a treadmill can settle the restlessness for a working dog..Family support and connections with other service dog users are critical too.. I am glad you brought this up.. A reminder to be prepared is always good

Melissa Mitchell said...

Dear Solstice,
Thanks for sharing what you do and reading!
Melissa and SD Shilo

Sariah said...

Thanks Melissa and everyone who posted! I'm taking notes! :D