This is an admittedly self-indulgent post, but really, aren't they all? Still, I feel required to begin with that disclaimer because I'm feeling rather traumatized at the moment when I really have no right to be, as you shall soon see. On with the post then.

There's nothing quite like watching your twelve year-old, arthritic dog fall head first down ten stairs to ruin your day. 

Stuart_091409Much to my surprise, he's fine. He got up, shook himself off, and waited for Mick to come down and carry him down the remaining stairs. He went for his usual morning walk and everything seems to be in the semi-working order it was in before the fall.

But if there was any doubt I'd make a terrible mother, let it be dispelled now, because the whole incident was my fault. Allow me to explain:

Our little family has a routine. Somewhere between 4:30 and 6:30am, the dogs decide it's time to get up. Some days are more urgent than others–if we don't act quick enough, there might be an accident. Or in Stella's case, an "accidentally on purpose." This morning things didn't seem too frantic and we all took our time.

One of the reasons we bought this house was so that we wouldn't have to take our aging dog Stuart down to the street four times a day in the condo elevator. We went through that with Kramer and cute as he was in his little red wagon, it was really no fun for anyone. Now that Stuart had reached seniorhood, it seemed a nice little backyard was just the thing.

But damned if we didn't choose a house with stairs leading to the master bedroom. Stuart's had trouble with those stairs pretty much since the first moment we moved in, and most days/nights, Mick hauls him up and down. I don't do it because frankly, I'm afraid of falling down them myself, and carrying Stuart only increases the liklihood I'll end up at the bottom of the landing in a heap. 

This brings me to Stella. Being the untrustworthy sort, her feet are forbidden to touch the floor in the morning until after she's been outside. I carry her downstairs every morning (at nine pounds vs. Stuart's thirty, she's a much safer option for me). 

This morning Mick must've took a little too long to get ready because Stuart followed me to the stairs instead of waiting for Mick to carry him down. It happens occasionally and I didn't think much of it. But this time, when he stepped onto the first stair, his back legs collapsed. He wouldn't, or couldn't get up, even with some gentle prodding. I was still holding Stella and didn't want to risk putting her down, so I propped up Stuart's hind legs to see if they were still working. Sounds perfectly reasonable, right?

Except I propped him up ON THE STAIRS. With his front legs on a bottom step and his back legs on the step behind it. Truly, I might as well have shoved him down the stairs myself, because pretty much as soon as I let go of him, he tumbled helplessly down to the bottom of the landing. HEAD FIRST. I could only watch in horror. I didn't move, I didn't even let go of Stella. I JUST WATCHED (and screamed for Mick).

Hell, I think even Stella was traumatized because she was strangely subdued as I attached her leash. Usually she's scratching at the door, desperate to get out and bark at the world.

Like I said, Stuart's okay, sleeping peacefully as if the whole thing never happened. But I remain sad and troubled, because what I did was not only thoughtless, it was lazy. It was clear Stuart's legs were not working properly this morning–how hard would it have been for me to stand there and wait for Mick? Or, God forbid, let Stella run down the stairs herself so I could help Stuart? 

What if he would've hurt himself?

Oh, the shame.

I'll get over it. But right now I'm feeling pretty damned guilty.


3 Replies to “Confessions of a Terrible Dog Mom”

  1. Dana Thomas says: February 3, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    I’m sorry. It’s not your fault, but I understand the guilt. You didn’t know. I really don’t know what else to say. Just don’t dwell on it. He’s okay — and you didn’t cause it. If nothing else, you know now more about his issues with stairs. So try to look at it in a positive way. If it had been me, I’d have probably dropped Stella in my “freak out” moment while diving to save him and ended up in some kind of cast. You did the right thing. You were only trying to help. You yelled for Mick. Give him some extra loving and attention this weekend and that will probably help get you through it. He certainly doesn’t harbor any illwill towards you.

  2. Antoinette says: February 3, 2012 at 10:04 am

    OH NO! I’m so sorry. What a way to spend a morning. Hindsight perspective can really do a number on us. You had no idea that he would fall. You were just trying to help. I’m glad he’s ok. Stairs are evil!

  3. sabrina ogden says: February 3, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Oh, sweetie, don’t feel too bad. We’re going through the same thing with our older beagle, Copper. He’s arthritic and ever since Rich put in the wood stairs to the basement (after removing the carpet… they’re really beautiful but not dog- or people- friendly),Copper stands at the top and waits for us to carry him down. One day, Rich didn’t go get him at his first “bark” and so he tried to go down on his own. He did the same tumble routine as Stuart did this morning, I’m sure.
    What I’m saying is… it happens, and it will probably happen again. Glad Stuart shook it off so easily. Sending you both lots and lots of hugs and kisses.

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