Today we talk to Stacey and the unstoppable Charlie. In 2009, Charlie was found on the side of the road in Orlando, Florida paralyzed from the waist down.
Charlie's luck changed when his path crossed with Stacey's on the way to the rescue centre. Since then they have been inseparable, leading a life full of adventure. Stacey tells their story and shares some of the lessons learned along the way.
Could you tell us a bit about Charlie’s disability and how he came to be in your life?
Charlie’s hind legs had already atrophied when he was found so only Charlie knows how his injury occurred and how he got there. He was taken to Animal Control where he was scheduled for euthanasia until a rescue out of Sarasota stepped in to foster him. I was running a non-profit animal ambulance at the time and happily agreed to transport him. It was love at first sight the moment we met. Not long after, I officially became Charlie’s mom and he has been the most profound blessing in my life.
Charlie can’t pee on his own, so I have to express his bladder several times per day. It’s super easy and I don’t mind doing it one bit. When he’s in his wheels, he actually has some movement in his back legs. Nothing stops this little man and he inspires me every single day.
Could you tell us what daily life is like caring for a paralyzed dog?
Typically, Charlie and I like to watch the sunrise especially if our adventures have landed us on the coast or in the mountains. First, it’s morning cuddles then right outside for potty. While the coffee is brewing I gently stretch and massage his little legs and do some physical therapy exercises with him if he’s not too impatient to get going.
If we’re home, the first walk of the day is on the farm to greet Stan and Matilda, our steer and cow friends, and then on to the friendly sheep. The sheep love Charlie. He spends at least 20-30 minutes digging at his favorite spots then it’s back home for breakfast. If we’re traveling, then our walk might be in a new town, oceanside, or mountain trail with breakfast over a campfire, a camp stove, or at a new cafe we haven’t tried. More cuddles after that and then I pull out my laptop to start working and Charlie curls up in my lap until I take a break to give us both another walk.
Sprinkled throughout the entire day and evening, I express Charlie’s little bladder and clean up any accidents he has. But, after 9 years of learning his communication style I can pretty much tell what he needs and when. He’s trained me to know that when he licks my hand he needs me to get him water and when he kicks his back leg a certain way, he has to poop. It works for us. He’s a good teacher.
I typically break from work to get a good workout in. If Charlie is feeling extra clingy for “mom time” than I put him in his little backpack and he gets on the rower with me. The sound typically puts him to sleep. Either way, he’s with me the whole time because I either train right at home or I bring a few things to train with on the road.
We have lunch together and then he climbs right back in my lap or curls up next to me while I work a bit more. We finish up our day with another walk in his wheels and then put on a podcast or some music while I make us dinner. Depending on where we are, a camp fire and a cup of coffee is fairly common as we watch the sunset and talk about where our next adventures will take us. Another potty break, maybe a snack, and whatever book we’re currently reading rounds or our evening before we do it all again the next day.
Are there any products for disabled dogs that you would recommend?
His Walkin’ Wheels by Handicapped Pets are his wings. In his wheels, Charlie gets around like any other capable dog. I’m not sure who beams more when he’s running around-him or me.
I also use a doggie messenger bag, doggie backpack, and jogger for him when he’s not in his wheels. I ALWAYS carry Charlie’s water bottle everywhere we go since he depends on me to “be” his water bowl.
Have you tried any rehabilitation for Charlie? How did it go?
Acupuncture was huge in the beginning for Charlie. When I first met him, he was completely incontinent and had to wear diapers 24/7. After a few months of accupuncture, he’s able to “hold” his bladder until I express him and he can poop on his own.
I also massage Charlie’s legs every day for 10 to 15 minutes and do some isolated leg exercises and stretches for him. It’s definitely made a difference in his ability to bear weight and have some movement in them both in and out of his wheels.
What advice would you offer to someone else who is facing life with a disabled dog?
Pay close attention to your “baby”. Just because they don’t speak our language doesn’t mean they aren’t speaking. Put yourself in their position and think about what they might need, what frustrations they might experience with their limitations, what they would enjoy, and accommodate them.
They might not be able to get to the water bowl as easily as they used to. Offer them water throughout the day. Just because their legs don’t work and they may have lost feeling doesn’t mean it’s ok to let them lay down twisted and contorted. Help position them the way they would lay normally. To me this is no different than having a human child with special needs that can’t articulate with words.
Be proactive, considerate, and patient. Use some common sense and if you don’t have any, borrow some. And above all, be compassionate. If the roles were reversed, they would go above and beyond to meet your needs.
Stay in touch and follow Charlie and Stacey's adventures on Instagram or at their website www.farfetchedadventures.com.