Hi, my name is RC, and I'm puppy-whipped.
So. Very. There, I've said it. I've been this way for ten months,
and the medical community frowns and strokes its collective chin
and then mumbles that they are pretty sure that my puppy-whipped
condition is permanent and there's nothing they can do. That's okay.
I know I brought it on myself.
Last May my whole lifethe
just-over-the-top perfect cripfag condo, uncluttered and nearly
spotless; the perfect cripfag vacation schedule, Key West every
three or four months; perfect cripfag muscle car; perfectly solitary
cripfag living situation, all with dirtbag-me loving it allmy
life got blind-sided and turned every which way.
And who would have thought that
it all started with a little spot of baby bunny piss on the left
thigh of my jeans, about the size of a quarter? Just like that,
a baby bunny pisses on my lap and everything turns weird on me.
Bunny piss to conjure with. I live in the middle of the city center,
what passes for urban around here. Ground floor of my building there's
a little earthy-crunchy, warm-and-fuzzy Hindu-imports-and-hippie-retro-shop,
and once in a while I stop in. The little girl who was working there,
a sweet thing with three lip-piercings, a nose ring, belly-button
ring, magenta hair and a splashy sari, was pet-sitting her friend's
new little baby bunny. The baby bunny had a pretty little pink collar
and leash. I couldn't resist. I love animals.
So I held the bunny and the girl
and I visited for quite a while. About sweet little bunnies. About
all sorts of stuff. And bunnies some more. I have a chum who owns
a pet store. I bombed out there to check out how appropriate a sweet
little baby bunny would be for me. She told me that rabbits have
to be caged all the time because they chew things. Constantly. Forever.
She dropped an Australian Shepherd puppy in my lap, and, since she
is best buds with my oldest friend, we had to visit a long while,
The puppy breath did it. Kicked
in my longing for a dog. We always had a couple in the house while
I was growing up. Later, I had a wonderful dog-bud. When I was in
the Army I had a good dog, too, for a while, but we were always
going on short-notice deployment, so I had to give him away. Then,
after I became paralyzed, I shared a house with my mom and her dog.
Move in here, and I'm thinking, No grass for many blocks. And it
gets awful cold here. And it snows. A lot. Not good for walking
a dog in a wheelchair (not the dog, fool. Me.
I'm the paralyzed one). The climate here in the milo belt tends
Reluctantly, I gave the pup back
to my chum. On the way home I started thinking . . . One of my dogs,
on the rare occasions when he was left home and had to take a crap,
he went into the shower in the broken bathroom off of my studio.
When I came home he'd make sure I knew he hadda
do that. No prob. Crank open the shower and let it run a while.
No more dog crap. Why couldn't I train a dog to do that? Next day
I call the pet shop. The pup had been sold.
What happened was, I went to the
Humane Society. I figured I wanted a young dog (easier to train),
but not a real baby puppy likely to get its toes run over by my
chair and run a real risk of permanent affliction just by trying
to get close to me. I wanted one who didn't bark (while the walls
are thick I do have neighbors. Barks indoors are loud), but wasn't
afraid of what was going on around the kennel (don't need a 'fraidy-cat),
one that wasn't pacing in its own mess (those're stupid), middle-sized
(I wanted a working dog- after a fashion), a mixed-breed (they're
smarter. Purebred dogs are often overbred, so they can be nervous
and stupid, with serious health problems), and of course pretty
is always nice.
she was, aced the course: 4-to-6-months-old, she looked to be a
mix of one of
the flavors of Border Collie
and German Shepherd.
She had been picked up off the
streets. She looked at me with tempered interest, but didn't participate
in the general delirium all around. I noticed that she had crapped
in the very corner of the run. It wasn't real fresh and it was untrammeled.
Fine-boned and leggy, she didn't have those big ol' paws that suggest
she'd get much bigger, and she was drop-fucking-dead gorgeous. Plus,
they had already gotten a vet to spay her.
They have a big room where they
let you play with the dogs and get a feel for them, but several
families were in line and the shelter was only open another hour.
I didn't get to spend time with "my" dog, and I was still full of
misgivings about what kind of sidekick I would be for her. Could
I actually train her to use my third bathroom? (Yeah, there are
three. And just one crip). Was I willing to put up with the inevitable
problems? I have a whole lotta space up here, but if I have more
than one other person with me for more than a few hours, I'm ready
to climb the wallsand I don't do all that well with just one
other person, as far as that goes.
I had other concerns, too. See,
I was also covering my ass. I've been a para for thirteen years.
I have been ruthless on my arms from the get-go and the docs have
been wanting to cut on the carpal nerves in both wrists for twelve
of those years. I have never been willing to take the risk of a
failed operation just to keep my hands from numbness. I'm not even
convinced that the operations are the answer to the nerve damage.
Last February I had a fall that wrecked the ulnar nerve in my left
arm. That adventure paralyzed, for all practical purposes, all digits
except for my index and middle fingers, as well as part of my forearm.
The neurologist said no more gym. Get this: "No movement of the
shoulder or elbow." Oh, fuck me. I already told you, I live alone
(duh), but a brace forever-and-always just wasn't workin' for me.
I compromised on modified hockey
arm-gear. Hey! It distributes the insult of daily pressure on the
ulnar equally along my forearm. As for the wrist and hand braces
they have been trying to get me to wear for years, I had 'em made
in black leather with lacings, so they look kinda like gauntlets.
It soon became clear that the feeling and function wasn't coming
back. My hand withered. I began to think . . . middle age has done
come up on my ass with a vengeance and without the gym my physique
will begin to soften in a most unwelcome fashion. Alright, so it
already has. For years yet I had hoped to have young-uns say, "Hey,
check out the big guns on grandpa." Alas, it is not, most probably,
And so I started to think about
a Task Dog, but, while there is a school for the blind a few blocks
away and I see students with their new dogs often, and have known
'plegics with Task Dogs and know that those dogs do unwind a bit
when off duty, I loathe the way they always look like organic appliances
while they're working. I know that dogs, being more highly evolved
beings than we humans and possessing a true desire to give service
to the less spiritual, like to please.
But working dogs look like they
hate it. They may be using their senses, all of them, but their
body language is utterly foreign to the rest of dogdom. Ears that
would ordinarily be moving, don't. Tails that would otherwise express
their emotions, don't. They avoid eye contact. Their heads are held
at an odd height. I would be wracked with guilt every time I saw
my dog-friend looking like that. Anyhow, I was hoping to train my
dog myself. I really don't need much now. Just a dog that's well
behaved enough to go into restaurants, theaters, clinics and, well,
everywhere. Picking up stuff I drop at the grocery store when I
have the basket in my lap would be a bonus. I
have had success training other dogs, although I suspect it was
more them than me. If I proved to be utterly inept, by the time
I need real help even I should be able to train the dog to meet
So, the next day I dragged my
mom along with me when I went back to the shelter, to keep me from
being rashan exercise in virtue I seldom exhibit. After all,
we had the dog's life to think of. We got to spend quite a bit of
time with the dog, and she showed a keen intellect. She was quick.
So quick. But I saw my mom giving me the eye to the negative. Regarding
me, my mother is seldom wrong, to my everlasting regret. In the
end, even with the propitious omen of the kennel worker being a
baby dyke who recognized kith, I gave the dog back to them with
a sinking heart. That was Monday.
Tuesday a couple of things happened
that made me revisit my decision. First, I discovered in a big pet
supply store that hospital chucks, which cost a good deal in medical
supply stores, come in bales for not too much and are marketed as
"Pee-Pee Pads". Then I stumbed on a product that some wonderful
upscale Gen-X-er breeder had invented (no disrespect, you guys with
kids), called "Diaper Genie". It's this cool canister with a snap-back
top and a cartridge that holds what amounts to a mile of garbage
bag. You wad up the diaper, stuff it into the Genie and spin the
rim, twisting off the bag. No stink. No germs. Holds lots. The canister
gets full, you take this swell plastic circular knife, spin it and
cut the bag. Open the canister and pull out what amounts to a string
of pearls. Drop it in the trash, no fuss no muss. I have an epiphany:
even if I can't train the dog to go into the shower to take care
of "bidness", so to speak, I can use the chucks in the "Diaper Genie"!
Taking this as a sure sign from
God(dess/whatever), I buy the Genie, race to the pet supply store
for the "Pee-Pee Pads" and bomb out to the shelter, certain that
with these talismans, despite what a wonderful dog "my" dog was,
nobody would have taken her. Ah-ha! The baby dyke was there again!
And . . . okay everybody, exhale . . . so was the dog. I spent a
lot of time in the family room, since there were no other people
there looking for dogs. I had done my very best in the last two
visits to charm the hell out of everybody who worked there, and
they were anxious to tell me that while "my" dog had been called
out a number of times, nobody liked her! The fools. I took her on
a leash to see how she would or would not be distracted by the outdoors.
She was faultless.
just could not go away and leave this dog again.
There was the
(nominal) cost to pay. I signed a contract about vets and shots
and stuff. I learned about the ID chip implanted in her neck that
was programmed to me. They gave me a swell "going home" care package.
After all this, I was certain
of one thing: no trips to Key West any time too soon. I had not
the slightest idea how to get there with a dog. It's hard enough
to fly in with a wheelchair, and I will not abide putting a dog
in the baggage compartment. I always stay at a place in Key West
called Big Ruby's, and love it. To focus my attention right here
and on the dog, I named her Ruby.
Immediately we began our training.
I needed a full-service word that would mean a number of things:
heel, let's go, stop it, turn left, turn right, pay attention. Chose
it, and began using it. The second word we needed was something
that would serve as sit, lay down, and most important: stop behaving
in a manner that was perfectly alright for a dog, but not one riding
in a car driven by a man using hand controls who could not reach
over and grab a pup who was just sticking her nose where it would
do the most harm and who might get tumbled if I had to make a sudden
turn or stop. Again, Ruby was a natural. Most of the stress on the
way home was because I couldn't believe she could be this good at
riding. I had been prepared for anxiety or puking or, well, a whole
list of things.
We made a stop at my chum's pet
store. I called from the lot and she came out to meet Ruby and admire
her. I asked Tina to set us up with whatever we would need for a
while. Her choice of the best brand of dry food, toys, stuff. Tina
fitted us out right. She also gave us the "family" discount, and
by that I didn't know whether she meant that I was part of my oldest
friend's family and hers as well, or whether she was speaking of
"Family," since she is a big ol' dyke herself.
We went home. Ruby was cautious
of the heavy doors coming in from the parking garage and skywalk.
In the elevators, which are fast, I was braced for trouble that
did not come. We live on the ninth floor, almost the top. Our building
is the second or third tallest residential building in town (go
ahead and laugh, big-city boys. I do). But from here you can see
virtually clear across the state and to Denver. The prairie is about
that interesting, but I digress. I always do.
We settled in to get aquatinted.
And to learn from one another. Wednesday we didn't go out. I discovered
that Ruby didn't like to get brushed. Not because she didn't like
the feel of it. Until she saw that it was a brush I was using she
was fine. Suddenly she was a frightened mess. Not only was it the
brushness of the thing. I found that while she didn't like any brush,
she was truly undone by square ones. I began to suspect some abuse
issues. She caught the idea of the bathroom pretty quick, but she
most certainly would not consider the shower. It wasn't the smell.
It wasn't that she didn't want to please. In fact, when she caught
the idea of anything, she was joyous. Again, it seemed to be shape.
That shower is boxy and about the size of a closet. She quaked and
cowered, which I had already seen was not her natural tendency.
This place is as large in square
footage as many houses, but it's mostly open, since doors not only
offend my sense of space but I have little use for them and they
are a bother to open and close. Because Ruby's bath has more than
one door it couldn't be closed into a discrete unit. So on Thursday
I decided to put her in the "company" bathroom while I went to the
abilities expo that was opening a few blocks away. I was not ready
to test Ruby in large crowds, and neither trusted the furniture
to her yet nor the bathroom gig. The company bathroom is generous
and well lighted. I shut her in and took off. I was gone a little
less than two hours. When I came home and opened the bathroom door,
the fastidious Ruby was a horrified, panicked, filthy mess. It appeared
that the moment I shut the door every sphincter in her poor little
body opened, and she had paced circles through it all. We cleaned
up, while I reassured her. I had to go to the store across the street
to get a scrub mop and a big brush. I really had little choice than
to do the awful thing and shut her up again, but I loved on her
and petted her and calmed her in the room first, and assured her
I would be right back as I shut the door. I spoke soothingly to
her for a while after I shut the door so she wouldn't think she
was bad. After all, I reasoned, she had to be all out of shit. I
was sadly mistaken.
When I returned in about fifteen
minutes, it was a repeat performance. I cleaned her as best I could,
and she wouldn't stay out from under me while I cleaned up the mess.
Clever me . . . I had begun to deduce a pattern. I suspected that
wherever she came from she had been punished with a brush and shut
in either a closet or small room, or a crate and left there. I can't
imagine what kind of person would treat such a loving creature that
way. I vowed never to leave her home alone again if I could help
it at all. I have read many training books and I always seethe when
I read in almost every one that the responsible dog owner will crate
the dogs when they leave them at home, and that all dogs, really,
like this. They feel safe. Not my little girl! The only other time
Ruby has been shut in the bathroom was when, after she had been
with me for three or four months. I had a medical emergency and
had to call 911. I had hoped she could come with me, but I lost
that round. By then the chief reason she had to be shut up was that
she wouldn't leave me and they couldn't haul my ass outta here with
her under the wheels of the stretcher.
That Friday, seventy-two hours
after I brought her home, she was completely self-assured in the
convention room in a crowd of hundreds. Loud noises, kids, wheelchairs,
power chairs. She was great. I've always had to get by on whatever
charm I could manage. Now that I feel mine ebbing she steps in and
does it for me. And she just keeps on getting better.
We have used some professional
trainers for a few things. Mostly ideas. I don't have all the things
I might want Ruby to learn thought up. And we needed to get her
some nose time with other dogs. She really is starved for other
dog company, so we needed a little help in the socialization thing.
At first she was so happy to see other dogs she would lose a little
of the attention she pays me. She doesn't like to be out of line
of sight of me, or very far away. We worked on stretching that a
little. It took me a few
tries before I found the right trainers. Most of them do the "You
are the Alpha Leader" Nazi thing. I wanted a partnership. I want
a friend, I don't want an employee. If I wanted that shit I'd have
hired a nurse.
have been problems.
she wasn't real bad at it, she was a chewer.
is, but she has learned what not to chew on. All things considered
I have gotten off pretty light.
My furnishings are mostly glass, stone, iron and some bamboo stuff,
but there are also three hefty leather couches, two of them white.
If I had any carpet there would have been some cost there. She trashed
the rug under the dining table, but it wasn't much of a rug to start
with. She wrecked the edges of one of those little video rocking
chairs, but I never cared for that, either. She chewed some bed
sheets. She ate my cell phone. The only big-ticket item she ruined
was a pair of Sony Glasstrons.
Then there was the morning I woke
up and had to perform emergency abdominal surgery on myself because
she chewed the inflation valve off of my indwelling catheter and
it came out of the stoma. They told me years ago when they installed
it that if the catheter was ever out for more than twenty-minutes-to-half-an-hour
they'd need to reinstall it surgically. Mine had plainly been out
for hours. I figured that if I could do it myself there would be
no need for the ambulance and a hospital stay in Omaha. I would
have to go through the skin (in an area I can feel just fine, thank
you), the fascia between there and the muscle, the bladder. The
hole was already there, I just needed to line everything up again.
Called my mom and told her what
I was gonna do, and to stay on the line. If it went badly she could
call the paramedics while I worked on damage control. I did it.
It wasn't all that bad. The trouble was, "Whatcha doin'? How come?
Can I sniff? Are you sure? Are you really sure? Really ? Why're
you makin' faces? Can I sniff now ? Are you mad? What's this? Is
that blood? Can I sniff?"
One night she buried a bone under
my ass. A well chewed one with sharp edges. I suppose at the time
it seemed like a good idea. To keep it safe from the hands or mouths
of the ravening hoards of feral dogs or vandals or general sneak-thieves
that might slip though triple security doors, sneak up nine floors
and creep into my bedroom without waking either one of us. So, when
I woke up in the morning and sat up and stretched double to work
out the kinks I was rubbing the flesh against that sharp bone with
my full weight, never realizing. The skin was not actually broken.
Very much. Which was good, but it needed some nursing and attention
paid to it.
For you guys out there who are
not paralyzed, something like 50,000 crips die every year from problems
secondary to skin integrity breakdown. By that I don't mean that
they spy a pimple on their asses and go, "Oh my God! I see a pimple
on my ass! I'm light-headed... having trouble breathing... (gasp,
gasp) gotta... call... 9... 11. Must... must hurry (gasp, gasp).
Pain in my chest... (gasp, hack). This is it... the end... finito...
(oh, fuck! If I croak now my roomie will get all my poppers!)."
No. What happens is that when you have skin breakdown below your
line of paralysis where the ability to heal is compromised, even
a tiny sore can blossom into a nasty one that quickly lands you
in the hospital, where the microbes are tougher. Also, lying around
an awful lot puts you in line for one of the several flavors of
pneumonia, and that, then, would be just one of the several things
that can shake you loose from this mortal coil. I refuse to die
a lingering death because a puppy stuffed a bone under my ass.
Apart from the chewing there is
the clutter. Before Ruby came to me this place wasn't cluttered
or dirty. Since I find housework tedious, distasteful and difficult,
it makes better sense to not make a mess in the first place. With
the coming of cold weather Ruby has started shedding. Although she
doesn't look frowsy, she has turned into a one-dog fluff factory.
I could fill a bag a day with the stuff. She doesn't eat
enough each day to crank out that much hair. I can't keep up, so
I have let my standards slide. There is hair all over everything.
That constant feel of something very akin to having a cock-hair
stuck at the back of your throat. I've been thinking of reading
up on spinning and weaving. I would be able to turn Little Bit into
a cottage Industry all by herself.
I don't tend towards good organization,
so there has always been a certain amount of clutter on my desk,
around my computer, and on the sideboard. With Ruby's stuff scattered
all around I have just kinda . . . let my stuff pile up too. This
place is big. It will take a while for the clutter to overwhelm
There've been a couple of speed
bumps in her toilet regime. As it happens, being pretty active,
the only bowel routine that works for me is the go-get-it gig. Second
advisory for you non-'plegics: being paralyzed means I not only
cannot control my bowels, I can't feel them, either. Three times
a day I sit on the can and put on a glove and go up in there and
drag out whatever I find. In a rare stroke of convenience, Ruby's
guts work on exactly the same schedule. As I've said, she caught
the right idea from the beginning. However, after she was here maybe
four months she decided that she had to crap at a certain spot in
the living room. Always. I tried ignoring it, aside from cleaning
it up. I tried scrubbing the floor with nasty-smelling stuff. I
tried hollering. Ruby's confusion was evident. She was distressed
that I was not happy with what she was doing, but equally sure that
her line of thought was the right one. After a few weeks, I don't
know what happened inside her head, but she got right back on track
again, and there were no problems for months.
one afternoon after a spell of bein' cooped up in here by the weather
we had an evening where we had several new people up.
A realtor had approached me about selling
this place. Hey, the guys got the money I want, maybe. Bring 'em
Ruby was beside herself, since
she loves company. All three people, the woman realtor and a pair
of gay men a little older than me. Poor little Ruby was so eager
to make the acquaintance of all that she just crouched and pissed
copiously all over as if to say, "Hey! I'm Ruby and this is what
I smell like. Please feel free to step up and take a sniff. I will
be circulating the room slipping my nose up your butts and doing
my best to engage you all in conversation. If you would like a refreshing
beverage please ask the cripple, since I am not only too short to
reach either the glasses or the refrigerator door, but he has the
thumbs in the family anyway."
toys. Her many, many toys. So very many. I
can't help but notice that a whole lot of them look like they came
from the Doc Johnson workshop. Chew bones look a great deal like
dildos of various sundry sorts, sizes and weights, and the "Monster
Kong Chews" look a whole lot like enormous triple-ripple butt-plugs.
I know, I know, I need to get out more.
there are the squeak toys. Gotta hate 'em.
figured that if we could put a man on the moon, we should be able
to make an immortal squeaker, and did, to my endless anguish.
One of them is stereo, and looks
and sounds like what might have happened if Barnum & Bailey and
the Three Stooges got together and designed a double-header dildo.
Big bumpy nubs in neon colors all over the head, with squeaks a
couple of notes apart. This is truly sick. One of Ruby's squeaks
I got because its little rubber spines solved the brushing problem.
It is her toy, and not square, and since she plays with it Ruby
doesn't have trouble with it. The little rubber spines grab the
hair real well. The exact same thing isn't in stock anymore, so
I got a little football that had similar properties. But the damned
noise! I decided it had to die. I tried to stab it to death with
a sharp knife, but the rubber kinda heals. I went for the squeaker
itself. What's happened is that when you squeeze it, it doesn't
squeak any more, but when you let go it makes this awful wheezing
wail. I feel guilty for having tried to assassinate a fucking squeaky
toy! Finally, however, Ruby gets the bang for the buck from tennis
balls and socks.
Ruby does things with a real intensity.
"Did you say we're going somewhere? Okay! Yes, lets go. Lets really
go! Did you ask if I want to play ball out in the hall? Yes! Lets
play. Lets really play ball! Did you want to lounge? Okay, lets
lounge. Lets really lounge. On the vary rare occasions when she
actually barks, they are intense vocalizations that just burst forth
before she can catch them.
Ruby loves with as much intensity
as she does anything else. She's the ideal companion and playmate.
I don't think that I've had sex in twenty years for any reason other
than to get somebody to nibble my neck and ears for a while. Ruby
does that a lot. She can lick an ear without doing that nasty wet-willie
thaing that people do. And, while she uses her hands a lot, lacking
a thumb she can't use a pen, so she can't bounce any checks off
of my account.
Ruby is, simply, joy.
Hampton, former hustler, former dancer, former dirt-bag street-creep,
former entrepreneur X 3, former soldier, former bi-ped, lives in
Nebraska, where he is settling into an early and tenuous geezerhood.