Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lucy and the Stairs - A Story of Semi-Triumph! (no dogs die in this post)

I'm a bad dog guardian. Maybe not bad, but I was selfish.

We've rented a townhouse (it's really nice!) that Lucy, our 13-year-old shepherd-collie mix, has trouble with because of the stairs. The townhouse is three stories and that means exterior stairs and interior stairs. No elevator. (For the record, there weren't a lot of viable rental options -- I'm not a total jerk.)

Lucy has never had a particularly correct back end. I've had vets tell me it is arthritis, some have told me she has knee damage, and a few have just said, "Hey, she's old."

Either way, she isn't particularly strong or steady on those hind legs. In her life, she and I have lived in a lot of places with stairs and I have to say that living on stairs for her, rather than being a life-shortener, have generally been a type of physical therapy for her, somehow working the right muscles to help her have better balance, strength, and confidence with her legs. In fact, she's been the weakest this past year when we lived in a house that had NO steps.

But ...

The exterior stairs of the house are painted wood. The paint on the wood has eroded over the years to provide a rough surface in places, but they are still a little slick. Tip for homeowners: NEVER PAINT YOUR OUTSIDE STAIRS UNLESS YOU PUT GRIT IN THE PAINT. Lucy was able to navigate them, though hesitantly, but the first night I just sat in bed thinking of the ice and snow that would make those stairs treacherous, not just for an old dog, but for the people in the house as well.

The next day we went and bought outdoor anti-slip traction tape. There are two kinds -- the harsh sandpaper stuff (like you use on skateboard decks) and the rubberized kind. We bought the rubberized kind because it felt a little less nasty for dog paws and bare feet (and it came in grey so it wasn't so obvious -- we're renting and don't want to get in trouble).

That has solved the outdoor problem.

The inside has been more difficult.

The inside is all Pergo laminate wood floor. Including the stairs (again, homeowners, take note that this is a HORRIBLE IDEA). It looks really nice but it's slippery as hell and there aren't really any  excellent temporary anti-skid options that won't destroy the Pergo surface. One flooring guy I talked to (I did lots of research on this) put it best: "Any adhesive you lay down there, if it's doing it's job, is going to ruin the floors."

But it's impossible for Lucy to get up there.

Or so we thought.

The first few days we were here, she refused to go near them -- smart girl! -- and I resigned myself to having her sleep on the second floor while all of us were on the third (though I felt bad about it. Dogs are pack animals and it has to be hard to not get to sleep with your protective group).

I guess she didn't like being alone at night and after a week of muscle and confidence building going up and down the outside flight, she just went for it the other morning. At 4 a.m. we heard her slipping her way up the stairs. Going back down was such a disaster that I had to carry her. She's 65 lbs. That's about 50% of my body weight. Not a good combination -- slick stairs, awkwardly carried heavy dog, weak owner.

And now she just doesn't seem to be putting it together that she can't do the stairs. She got up them, by Jove, she can do it again! *head desk*

So last night I helped/carried her upstairs (I'm a terrible softie and a terrible dog trainer -- no resolve) and decided I'd figure it out in the morning.

And guess what! I did! I snapped awake at 4:30 a.m. with a plan! We had a 5' x 8' rug gripper. One of those giant sticky things that looks like a giant cheesecloth (not the felt kind). I cut it in half length-wise and worked my way down the stairs, giving each step a little wiggle with my hands to make sure it was really tucked in between the treads and risers.

It worked. Lucy was able to get down the stairs, unaided, on the rug gripper!

I realize this is not the perfect solution. And yes, it will probably end up stretching and slipping and needing to be replaced and I'll vigilantly keep an eye on it so that it doesn't go from "helpful" to "death trap," BUT, it worked and so for as long as it works we'll have a happier dog. When it stops working, I'll just replace the rug gripper with a new one.

And if you squint, it kind of looks like sisal.

1 comment:

  1. Lucy will adapt and overcome because she is LUCY and has you always thinking about her!!! So glad you are making things comfy for her. I can see her on the deck, howling at the moon in concert with her wild brothers out back!!!!