*As usual, written in the middle of the night during a bout of insomnia.*
My heart is heavy tonight. Sasha seems depressed. Before you laugh, I truly believe dogs are sentient beings thus capable of feelings. She has been through so much that I think it’s wearing on her. I also think she’s grown weary of multiple pills three times a day, of which six are rather big. I’m going to see if I can get some of her medications in a liquid form from a compounding pharmacy, flavored with bacon or something palatable. I’m also going to try to rig a boot to stay on so that she can go swimming in her beloved river, something my resident water baby hasn’t done at all this summer.
Sasha “knuckles” which means when she walks she sometimes turns her toes under. This not only makes a dog lose their balance but it causes abrasions to the top of their foot. Dogs that knuckle have had such severe scrapes that they’ve lost a toenail. Because she knuckles frequently when walking, I’ve avoided the river this year because the rocky bed will surely damage her foot when she’s playing AND knuckling. I’ve purchased so many different boots for her but none of them seem to stay on despite measuring her foot. I recently learned of a woman whose dog knuckled the way Sasha does only sadly Rufi had Degenerative Myelopathy, the canine version of ALS and soon progressed to a wheelchair. Sasha’s knuckling as I’ve previously written is a residual effect of a neurological event in 2011 called a FCE (spinal stroke). The owner bought a pair of Ruffwear boots and took them to a shoemaker to be customized. With a customized boot, there is the bottom boot as well as a wrap around top that goes just above their hock. A strap is attached by a clip to the boot and to the top wrap. This is called a “knuckling strap”. It’s adjustable in case it needs to be made looser or tighter. The purpose of the knuckling strap is to keep the foot straight and in a normal position and not allow the toes to turn under. Here’s the original Rufi boot:
The stars and planets must have been in alignment because just two weeks ago I saw an article in the local paper about a shoemaker from a distant town being at our local Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. There’s not a shoemaker around here and you have to drive 50 miles one way to find one so this was great news. I reached out to him immediately via email, gave a brief synopsis of what I needed and asked if it was a project he could do. He responded within an hour that he could so I took Sasha and met him at the market last Saturday. We decided instead of using the Ultra Paws brand boots that I have (try 4 pairs!), he’s going to make Sasha a custom pair of boots. Complete with Vibram soles, sheepskin to line the upper strap as well as other areas. It’s $130 for the pair and I’m fine with that because to buy her the Ruffwear boots alone (recommended over Ultra Paws) would be $80. He’s also taking one pair of the Ultra Paws boots (that I bought too big), stitching up the sides a bit and making a strap for the top along with the “knuckling strap” connector, just no Vibram sole. These will be her “water shoes” for river days.The strap connectors will be a hard plastic on the water shoes to prevent rust but metal on her other ones. Sasha needs water shoes because swimming in the river is a major part of her life PLUS it gives her exercise for her legs, targeting muscles that need it. There isn’t an animal rehabilitation facility here so I’d have to make a 5 hour round trip for hydrotherapy. I was a little surprised that he wanted to construct a custom pair but once I did the math, to take the Ultra Paws boots and customize them to fit her, add leather etc. it would have been more money. His suggestion is actually better because they’re going to be customized for her feet with a soft inner lining. The lining component is particularly good because Sasha now has toe arthritis in her affected rear foot because of the knuckling. If you look to the right of this photo, you can see the awkward way Sasha is extending her left rear leg (the proverbial problem child):
He took all her measurements and I’m quite excited. I was really impressed by him as well as the products I saw displayed and the finished work he was giving customers who came for pick ups. My late brother-in-law was an Italian cobbler and people from all over NYC used to come to him because he did such good work. Talking to this young man was like talking to Angelo ~ minus the accent. He told me that he does work for people from other states; many send him their Frye, Bass or LL Bean shoes/boots for repair. Sasha has been pretty fortunate in that she never had serious abrasions from knuckling because we live in a grassy area ~ until Saturday. I pulled up and stopped the car in front of his booth but just from walking a few feet on the asphalt parking lot she got several abrasions on her foot, one surrounding her toenail. These are definitely the worst ones she’s had and I’m cleaning them daily followed by antibiotic ointment. Initially I used a gauze wrap but quickly learned bandaging was an effort in futility. The downside is the custom boots will take three weeks. I think once her abrasions are healed I’m going to try to rig one of her many boots and hope it’ll stay on so that she can go swimming as I believe it will cheer her. I just have to be sure her foot is 200% healed to eliminate any chance of infection from the river water. Sasha’s foot from the asphalt on Saturday:
As of today she won’t take her favorite snacks and instead of lying in the room with her family, she remains alone in another room. She won’t eat her favorite snacks including her #1 ~ vanilla yogurt. I’m really quite sad and if necessary, will make changes in her treatment plan. I want to improve her medical issues but not to the point that it impairs her quality of life.
My Sweet Sasha ~ as always a true work in progress and so very loved.