Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lessons in (Under)Estimation

Crib mattresses are not built to hold up under a 160 # slumbering adult night after night.

This, my friends, is the voice of experience.

I come to know this because I have been spending quite a few nights of late sleeping on a crib mattress on the floor next to Coffee-dog. I sleep in the manner with which I approach most things in my life, which is to say, with a vengeance. Coffee, on the other hand, is active (such as the term could ever be applied to him) throughout the night, as he has lost the ability to independently ambulate, and has required increased assistance in turning, toileting, getting a drink of water, and otherwise doing many of the things he must have done without assistance previously.

The wonderful thing about Coffee is that he is concrete about his needs, but not overly insistent. When he has found himself needing assistance through the course of a night, we are put on notice with a singular, wheezy bark. For someone who sleeps with a vengeance, this type of alarm is wholly inadequate to the task of rousing a response. For someone who sleeps in a more reasonably light fashion, such as K, however, this has meant she is up and down throughout the night, discerning and attending to Coffee’s needs. In an effort to compensate for my oversleeping, I took up residence on a crib mattress placed immediately beside Coffee’s bed, so I would better hear his bark, and allow K to sleep through the night. In all honestly, this experience has completely reinforced why having children would never have been a good idea for my world. While K, in her sweetness, gives me glowing marks, I know I wouldn’t even receive a passing grade for how well I am able to wake and respond to another creature, even one who is barking in my ear, while two others have sandwiched me and taken up residence on top of my legs.

As I am sure will happen to many of us, Coffee has become a lesson in regression. His back legs are no longer up to the task of holding him up to stand or walk. I discovered this when I left him outside to pee while I ran in to change the sheets on his bed, only to come back and find him laying in a snowdrift. We do layperson’s physical therapy with him, holding him up to stand several times a day, massaging the area to keep blood flowing, doing some light stretching, and most importantly, helping him turn every couple of hours. He wears a “diaper” almost all the time, and lays on a disposable pad for the other parts. Food and water are brought to him; he is allowed to eat pretty much anything he wants under the premise that life is short enough now, dessert first makes great sense, and if we have to cut “dessert” up into bite sized pieces and hand feed him, that is o.k., too.

Above all, Coffee’s continued good humor through these life developments has been remarkable. He shows no signs of frustration, no demanding insistence such as that displayed, for example, by a certain dauchsaund when her crate is not opened quickly enough, when she is forced to wait at the front door to be let in not quickly enough, when she is not fed quickly enough, or treats are not forthcoming quickly enough. Coffee expresses his needs by issuing one bark, and waits patiently, his bright eyes following us until we get to him to attend to his needs. On rare occasions, when a point of emphasis is required, he will sometimes offer a second bark, and in desperation, a third, all affording us ample time for response in between each.

To infer from his compliance that he does not have an opinion on things would, however, be selling him way too short. He expressed his dissatisfaction with his attendants the night I decided it would be easiest to forego the usual process of cleaning him up using a sponge bath method, instead electing to give him a full-fledged bath, by declaring a stormy 12-hour hunger strike. Additionally, we believe we may have underestimated his functional capacity. The past several days, we have come home to find Coffee someplace other than where he was left, most notably not on the crib mattress I had been using, which is definitely a less fluffy or buoyant crib mattress than say, the papasan-shaped XL bed Mercy usually claims.

Furthermore, he has mastered the skill of removing his own diaper, not through shimmying out of it, but by actually undoing the Velcro closure and scooting out of it.
Each day, upon our return to the house, the first one home calls the other with a report on where Coffee was located and what other oddities accompanied him. And so describes most of the life I have shared with Coffee, plus or minus a few diapers, and a few dozen hours of sleep.

1 comment:

Fred Miller said...

Sometimes Tessa asks whether I am tired of taking care of her. It always just about floors me. I don't think I could sleep if she weren't there. In fact, when I got flu in 2006 and you stayed with her. I didn't sleep. Maybe dozed a bit. But I really can't function when we are separated more than a few hours.