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Stairs … the indoor mountain

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We live in a 2-story house. All of the bedrooms are on the 2nd floor – most importantly, my bedroom – the bed beside which Sophie has slept for the last 10 years of her life – is on the 2nd floor. Since her amputation, she has – each night – stood at the bottom of the stairs and looked up with an expression on her beautiful golden face that seems to say “Why didn’t we build a bungalow?! Didn’t grandma tell you that you’d wish you’d built a bungalow!” Yes, it’s true – she did tell me that I would be sorry we hadn’t built a bungalow, and yes, for the past 2 years I have been sorry. I’m sure that I’ll be sorry more times before I sell this house and move. But for now – we live in a 2-story house and those stairs are Sophie’s Mountain.

It has been getting more and more difficult for Sophie to get up the stairs for the past few months as her tumor grew and interfered more with her mobility and agility. Before her brother, Keaton, passed away, getting everyone upstairs to bed was a major undertaking as his hips were degenerating and he required a lot of assistance to get up the stairs. Sophie could do them independently, just slowly. My back has been bad enough to require hospitalization and many months of rehab so my assistance was limited. I learned that if I didn’t get them all upstairs for the night, they would try to come up during the night – and Keaton often would not be able to make it on his own. I would hear him sliding down the stairs backwards, or hear the frantic scratching as he tried to get a foothold. So, I would get everybody into my bedroom for the night and close my bedroom door.

Our cats protest loudly about closed doors. And they are nocturnal. I have to have a very good excuse – and earplugs – to keep my bedroom door tightly closed.

Anyway … back to my point…. today – just 5 days after losing her leg – Sophie climbed the stairs totally independently ! I had left her on the main floor while I went upstairs to get dressed. When I saw her lying beside my bed several minutes later, for a second I forgot that she is a new tripawd. Then the impact of what she had done hit me. This dog was not going to be left alone downstairs while I was upstairs – so she just came upstairs like she used to do. And she came down the stairs by herself, too. I am totally humbled by her determination, acceptance, and skill in adapting to her new world. I would never have believed it a week ago.

I am learning from my dog that life is short, too short to waste mourning things you cannot change. Learning that the faster you adapt to a change in your world, the easier it is to move on. And that losing a leg (figuratively or literally – in her case) is not the end of the world.  Hanging onto a limb that is wasting away, or causing you pain, because you are afraid of having to walk without it is not a reason to hang on to that limb. There is a freedom you achieve only by letting go.

My dog is wise. I am humbled.

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3 Responses to “Stairs … the indoor mountain”

  1. Hi Tana

    I know exactly what you mean. I too have been very humbled by same Catie’s spirit and resilience. Our split-level hasn’t provided the same sort of challenges for Catie as your two-storey has. Things happen sometimes for a reason. Because we couldn’t afford to replace the going upstairs and on the bedroom level, we simply never got around to it. Thank goodness. She has no difficulty going upstairs; going down to the family room is another matter. The stairs there did get renovated with hardwood. It’s simply too slippery for her and we have to help her down, and carry her back up.

    Letting go of all kinds of things is real difficult for us humans. I continue to learn this lesson with varying degrees of success or longevity. Catie’s continued joy in her life, despite this nasty disease, is another reminder.

    Hope the pathology reports come back ok. I’m glad you have no regrets about your decision.

    We don’t.


  2. Thanks Carmen. They say that people tend to grow to look like their dogs – I hope it’s also true that we grow to become wise like our dogs. And yes I, too, believe that things happen for a reason, when they are meant to happen. Maybe dogs (and cats – Milly) are the guardian angels – and we just need ours in a tangible form ! 🙂

    No, I don’t regret the decision – I am still a bit squeamish – but I don’t regret it. I don’t think Sophie does either.

  3. When Mackenzie climbed our staircase for the first time (unbeknownst to us) I was in complete shock. She did this after the 10th day of her surgery and I thought I had seen a miracle! That was the major turning point for her recovery. I knew from there, everything would be ok. That is so wonderful that Sophie climbed the stairs after only 5 days!! All of our tripawds sound a lot alike…..having taught us some very valuable lessons in life. I’m with you and Carmen – no regrets whatsoever!

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