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Caring For A Special Needs Dog

 The Diva Wears Diapers


Stella’s mother was pregnant when she rescued by a friend of mine. She was one of 3 females, and the last remaining when we brought her into our family. She appears to be a mix of chihuahua and terrier. That seems reasonable enough judging from her size and features—-except for one peculiarity. She has a Mohawk starting mid-way that runs down the center of her back all the way to her tail. I haven’t found this in any of the dog breed categories!



THE EARLY YEARS…            

Stella was feisty and rambunctious from the get-go. She didn’t seem to realize that she was smaller than the other dogs. However, this was never really a problem since she has such a “big girl” attitude that’s much larger than her actual 15 lbs. Holding her own and standing up for herself comes naturally and she’s quite good at it too! But overall she adapted quite well and quickly found her place in the family.

“It’s obvious she recognizes her handicap and she’s aware of her limitations, but never appears disabled. She tries her best to overcome whatever the hurdle, however; she also knows when it’s time to ask for help.”


Everything was good until one Saturday morning about 6 years ago when she made a jump that was too much for her. Initially there was a significant limp and shortly thereafter she lost use of her back legs completely. An emergency veterinary visit with x-rays concluded a fractured spine. Surgery was an option with a 50-50 probability. The alternative was to keep her crated with minimal movement for 2-3 weeks. Since the surgery was going to cost several thousand dollars and the odds didn’t exactly swing in our favor, we opted for option two—the dog crate.

I’ve never crated a dog before but I’ve read that once they adjust it becomes comfortable and provides a sense of security so I was hoping for the best. Nope, it didn’t happen. Maybe it was because Stella was already 4 years old and had never been restrained. Who knows? All I can say is it wasn’t pretty. She tried her hardest to escape and definitely wasn’t staying still. This continued for a couple of days until I finally conceded and set her free. We’d both endured more than our share of suffering. I opened the door, she pulled herself out and never looked back.

I’m sure there are those who might disagree; however, I firmly believe I made the best decision for her.



And as it goes— diapers, puppy pads and baby wipes have been a part of everyday life since then. It’s similar to making the same accommodations you’d have for an infant. It seems from day one she knew instinctively to sit still while her diaper is changed. In fact, I think she rather enjoys the extra attention. It is time consuming, I’ll be the first to admit that, but one of necessity. Since the paralysis starts mid-back, she has no control over her bladder or bowels; therefore, house-training her is out completely out of the equation. Relief comes as nature intended, and sometimes that’s 8-9 times a day.

I had a doggy-cart made for her but she really prefers to do things on her own. And besides, it’s nearly impossible to catch her when she’s in it!  Stella has never seemed to recognize her so-called “handicap”. She still shoots down the steps like a bullet and simply barks for assistance for the return trip.

If she’s going to be playing in the yard for a while, I wrap her with gauze and medical adhesive tape to prevent scrapes on the tops of her feet. The time outdoors is one of her greatest pleasures; running and barking at anything and everything. Fortunately, I have hardwood floors so that’s not a concern indoors. She slides right along maneuvering with her front legs. Clean-up is easier too, if by chance there’s been a diaper malfunction.

Regular baths are required a minimum of once a week. Adding a little Epsom salt and baking soda to the water and letting her soak helps keep everything down below nice and clean. She likes this too and is ready for a long nap afterward.



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