Friday, April 5, 2013

There Are Many Skills...

...that I will never have.   I've accepted that.  This skill is surely amongst them!  Via my lovely bride:

The Miracle of the Disposable Diaper...

My readers who know me will understand that this is a most unlikely title for a post of mine.  Debbie and I don't have any children, and don't particularly like children (though some recipes might tempt us).  So why would we know anything at all about disposable diapers, much less think them miraculous?

If you're inclined to make cracks about elderly incontinence, you'd be getting close – but it's not us that's having that problem, it's one of our dogs: Lea, our 15 year old female field spaniel.

According to data from the Field Spaniel Society of America, it's quite rare for field spaniels to live to this age (their data shows 1 of 366 dogs living to that age, and none any older).  Stroke is the most common identified cause of death at that age in field spaniels.

So we know that each day we have Lea still with us is a minor miracle in and of itself.  Amazingly she has no major health problems of any kind.  She has a treatable thyroid condition (very common, treated with tablets), and a strange hair problem (her hair is very thin and less dense than normal), but otherwise she's fine. 

Recently she's been unable to control her urination.  This was a miserable cleanup job for us, especially since most of our house is carpeted.  This is a common condition for elderly female dogs, and is often treatable with hormones – which we've tried, but unfortunately the treatment didn't work for Lea. 

So we started isolating her in a baby playpen, with absorbent pads on the bottom of it.  That worked in terms of keeping the house clean, but was miserable for Lea.  Some online research led me to another answer: diapers, specifically, modern super-absorbent polymer based disposable diapers.

There are some disposable diapers made specifically for dogs, but they're expensive – around a dollar each.  Diapers for human babies, of the right size, are much less expensive – about one third the cost.  The fit for a dog is different than for a human baby, but aside from a hole for the dog's tail they are actually very similar.  I found several posts from other dog owners dealing with this problem who recommended (quite specifically) Huggies “Snug and Dry” diapers with a manually-cut “tail hole” in them.

So we bought a small, experimental package of these diapers to see if they would work.  Here's the miracle part: they do work, and they don't interfere with Lea's normal behavior around the house.  Cutting the “tail hole” turns out to be a trivial affair – about 5 seconds with my pocket-knife, to make a slit.  The diapers come printed with a pattern that makes it easy for me to put the hole in the right place each time (I'm sure that wasn't their intent, but it works just fine nonetheless :).  The diapers have velcro-like fastening tabs that are reusable and secure.  The fit is not a problem at all; dog hips and baby hips are sufficiently similar that the same diaper fits tightly on either.  Lea's fur never gets wet, I think because when she urinates it goes straight into the diaper's absorbent polymers, right through a permeable layer on the inside.  The reusability of the fastening tabs allows us to remove the diaper before walking her, and (assuming she hasn't peed in it) putting it back on afterwards.

On average, the diaper saves us a house mess about once a day.  A couple of times I've been very surprised when removing the diaper, because it was quite heavy with captured urine – it is simply amazing how much those diapers can hold.  The payoff is that our ancient and beloved dog can be with us and her fellow dogs, just as she is used to – without us having to pay the price of a soiled home.  The diapers don't cost much (roughly $10/month) and they're really not much effort.  That qualifies as a miracle in my book!

Now we've ordered a bigger box of diapers, and we're hoping that one of these fine days we'll need to re-order...