As noted earlier in this space, Godiva's first warning sign that she was having back issues in 2012 was that she would not climb the stairs leading to either the bed or the sofa. She would sit at the bottom of the stairs and cry. As a result, we would either have to lift her onto the bed/sofa or help her up the stairs. She had her surgery in October 2012, so estimating a few weeks backwards (we weren't the swiftest to pick up on her actual condition, we thought it was fear of the stairs or of Couper waiting on the bed/sofa), let's say this started the beginning of September 2012.
After surgery, we had to rehabilitate her. A few weeks of sleeping in the kennel were followed by us lifting her onto the bed and sometimes the sofa (though I spent a lot of time massaging her on the floor in the living room).
Eventually she got to the point where she could walk, but her rear left leg really never came all the way back. If her four legs were the Beatles, the front legs would be John and Paul, the back right would be George, and the back left Ringo. Happy to be there, contributes here and there, but mostly along for the ride (and looks a little drunk - sorry Ringo).
Overall, she got most of her functionality back. She could walk (though never a day goes by that her walking does not remind us that she had surgery), and run after lizards, and squat to go potty. However, she could not jump (fine by us), or scratch her left ear (I think the #1 function she wants back), or climb stairs.
We thought at first not climbing stair was just being spoiled. Maybe she liked the attention of crying and then being lifted up. So, we decided that we would only help her up the stairs, not lift her. We thought that would also help her confidence. It didn't. She still would cry at the bottom of the stairs.
As annoying as it was, it may have been tolerable if we could just help her up and that was that. The issue was that she had no problem jumping off the bed (though we had a step class platform with a dog bed on it that she used as a halfway point, she wasn't completely diving all the way to the floor). So the drill became, cry, get helped up, jump down, cry get helped up, jump down...repeat...repeat...repeat.
And that went on for about six months. Finally we came to the conclusion that she was never going to climb the stairs again and that there had to be a better way.
So I checked the internet for ramps. It's not like we are ever going to be featured in Architectural Digest, but you do want something that looks somewhat decent in your bedroom or living room, not some brown blob molded out of plastic. There were a lot of Google results for dog ramps. The problem was that most were for ramps to vehicles. I wouldn't have guessed that since in no way were we ever going to let our dogs just hop in the car and have full access to wherever they wanted to go in there. We kennel them whenever they are in the car. I was sure that was a good idea until I saw all the vehicle ramps. Now I just think it is a good idea.
There were a few indoor ramps. Some expensive wood ones with lots of choices, none of which were exactly what we needed. Some cheaper plastic ones that didn't fit the aesthetics and seemed a bit steep for Godiva. And a couple of offbeat ones, like the one that was a big sloped and sectioned cushion. There is an old saying "Paralysis by Analysis". That was the perfect description of our ramp project in Spring of 2013.
Then I got a grand idea. What if I built a ramp? I know I haven't as much as sanded wood since Middle School shop class, but how hard could it really be? I could buy wood at Home Depot. And given blueprints that I could create via super simple free programs or via the internet, maybe they could cut the wood to those exact specs with their super sophisticated saw thingies. And either Home Depot or YouTube or some incredibly user friendly blog could show me how to fasten those precisely cut pieces of wood into a well-built, three dimensional, safe and secure ramp. Not to mention, I could burn a few calories, stay busy with all my free-time, and learn to be handy. And when I was done with the ramp and brimming with new found skills and knowledge I could finally fix the patio roof and build a screened in addition to the house off the kitchen. Then maybe I could quit my job and become that guy with the sledge hammer in all the HGTV shows ("Bad news Jim, this is a load bearing wall"). Finally, maybe I could flap my arms and fly to the moon.
Excited by my new found confidence, I sheepishly brought it up to Godiva's Mommy:
Big Buddy: I was thinking. Know how we have been talking about getting Godiva a ramp for the bed? Well, I was thinking, maybe I could, you know, make some specs and go down to Home Depot and they would help me get some materials and then I could put it together. I think it would be a lot cheaper than...
Godiva's Mommy: Wait, what? You would make the ramp?
Big Buddy: Well, Yeah, I guess so. Uh, you're right, probably not.
And as humiliating as that was, it surely saved me a bunch of hours, probably a finger or two, and a ton of cursing. Let's face it, I'm never going to become the guy with the sledge hammer (though it is probably the one tool I could use).
So, back to the internet I went. Suddenly the wood ramps didn't seem so expensive.
But they were not exactly what I wanted. The best choice was the appropriately named Doxie-Ramps. The problem was that their tallest ramp was too high for the bed and sofa, and their next tallest was a bit short for both. Would Godiva be able to step up to the bed/sofa on the smaller, or navigate the steeper slope of the taller? Another two weeks of analysis paralysis. We finally decided on the smaller height with less slope an a bit of a step up to the bed sofa. They had an option for a small side railing for $35. Small as it was, we figured anything that might give Godiva confidence was worth a shot. So, we ordered our $185 ramp and hoped.
Our main worry was would or could Godiva use it. Was it too steep for her to physically be able to use? Was she too used to having her people carry her up to the bed/sofa to even want to use a ramp? Given a $185 investment, these were not insignificant questions. If nothing else, we figured Couper and Frankie would use it, and of course we hoped they would too. But we really wanted to rid ourselves of Godiva crying to get on beds and sofas. If we still had that problem, we really didn't accomplish much.
Between our order and receiving our ramp, one of Godiva's Mommy's co-workers gave us a vehicle ramp. It was a fantastic gesture, though we would never use it with a vehicle and it was not practical for a bed or sofa. However, we could use it to see if Godiva would (or could) go up and down a ramp. So, we set up the ramp to nowhere. We set it on the patio up to a garden layer about 5 bricks above the ground. To get her to go up, we put some yummies every foot or so on the ramp. Ever the adventurer, Couper took the bait and the yummies and scaled right up. Hungry as he always seems to be, Frankie did the same. Godiva was a bit more tentative. We locked the boys inside and gave her another shot. She went up and down very slowly. It was not a great confidence booster.
In time the ramp was delivered. I guess it isn't an overnight project even for professionals. It was really nice. All I had to do was put the side rail on using pre-drilled holes and provided nails. I could handle that. So, I took it into our den, where I was working that day, and put it up against the sofa in there that she used to love jumping up on.
First up? Couper of course. He walked right up the ramp and over to the sofa. Great start. Then he jumped right off the sofa to the floor. Uh oh. We hadn't exactly planned for that.
Godiva, as with most new things, was a little scared. So, I cleared the boys away, got a duck yummy, and led her up the ramp. She was a little hesitant, but she made it. Then, learning from Couper, I got another duck yummy and led her back down the ramp. We did another cycle of this and then I went back to working. At some point, I left the room. I know she was down, because she initially followed me. When I got back to the den, there she was back up on the sofa. Winner!
So, she was comfortably lounging on her favorite sofa once again when she heard the garage door. It was Godiva's Mommy coming home! So right off the sofa she leapt. No time for a ramp when she needs to get to the door. All that training (well, the one or two up and downs with yummies we did) out the window.
With Godiva's Mommy home, it was time to move the ramp to the bedroom and try going up to the bed. This was the big one. This was for peaceful sleep in our time. The bed was a couple of inches higher than the ramp. We set the top of the ramp to be on my side as I am the lighter sleeper and would be more likely to get out of the way. We got a couple of yummies, cleared the boys out, hopped on the bed, and hoped. Up the ramp she came. She got to the top, assessed the two inch step to the bed on her right, decided that yes, she wanted to get on the bed, and hopped right on. Thank God!
She hadn't been on the bed for five seconds before the thought hit me:
This is a high quality ramp. It is made of real wood and is long enough so as not be overly steep. It is a bit of a pain from both a weight and a size standpoint to carry from one room to the next. Godiva, even hobbled, moves faster than we can carry a ramp. We need another ramp. One for the bedroom and one for the living room. Hell, maybe even another for the den.
We settled for one more that we would shuttle between the living room sofa and the den sofa as needed. It was ordered that weekend.
And in the end, it really worked. Godiva loves the ramps. No more crying at the foot of the bed. She has been great about going down the ramp too. Even in the excitement of her mommy coming home, she will scramble to find at least the middle of the ramp to go down.
So, it only took seven months to figure out. The sad thing is that we should have had these all along. We don't know how she got hurt, but these ramps would had to have taken some of the stress off her. So not only was it too bad that this was a long needed reactive measure, it is too bad we hadn't done this years before as a preventative one.
- What about Couper and Frankie?
- Couper goes up the ramp to the bed. We basically took away all other means for him to get there. He used hop on a puppy bed on a step and then hop to the bed. We took that away. We took away the stairs that we had to the bed. He can jump on the bed from the floor, but it is just high enough to make that really difficult. We want him taking the ramp. Off the bed he usually jumps. No time for ramps when it is time to play. We've tried to coax him down the ramp, but it doesn't take. The best (and by best, I mean the worst...but it is cool) is when he jumps off the end of the bed, over the ramp, and to the floor. He will also, from the floor at the foot of the bed in the middle, jump over the little side rail onto the ramp, and then hop from the ramp to the bed. Again, amazing, but terrifying. As for the sofas, it is hit and miss. He jumps up and down from those where the sofa ramp isn't. He's the only one who can do that and he takes full advantage of the privacy he gets up there. Depends on his mood or how tired he is using the ramp on the sofa with the ramp.
- Frankie was the big unknown. We weren't sure if having a ramp to the bed meant that Frankie would suddenly become the third dog in the bed. Not that he wasn't welcome, but even though these aren't big dogs, you would be amazed at how much territory they can claim and some of the uncomfortable places they can find. Frankie likes the ramp as well. When I get home from work and collapse on the bed, Frankie will usually climb up for some cuddling; after all, that's where the belly and neck rubs are. But amazingly he has only come up at night twice. I guess he is happy having his own bed (and his mommy gives him his own blankee and tucks him in every night).
- Godiva's walking has gotten a little better. It may be that it has been two and a half years since her surgery. But we also think that walking up the ramp has strengthened her back legs, especially her back left. The doctors after her surgery wanted to have her walk up hills as part of her therapy. We never really did that. Again, everyday we see her walk, we are reminded that she had back surgery, but I really think her walking has gotten a little less clumsy in the past year and a half. Another argument for having gotten the ramp sooner.
- The sofa ramp is great for puppies. It is a pain in the ass for humans. We suddenly have two spots to get on the sofa, at the foot of the ramp, or at the end of the ramp. Compounding that problem, there are now puppies strewn all over potential landing spots on the sofa. We also have the problem that the ramp looks awfully fun for nephews under 5 years of age. We have to make clear that the ramp is for puppies and they are not puppies. That works for all of two minutes. At least they are light enough not to damage the ramp. Not so sure about that in a couple of years.