Submitted By: Laura Hall
In my home, every morning brings the same routine. At exactly 6 A.M., as if some invisible alarm clock has sounded, I am awoken, my eyes snap open and two brown, desperate looking eyes peer back at me. It is Taro, my service dog, with his chin on my bed, wagging his tail and either sighing, sneezing or shaking his collar “accidentally” in an attempt to make noise.
I learned a long time ago that ignoring him does no good, as he can assume this position for hours. So, wearily, I transfer into my wheelchair and with the first click of my motors, the feeding frenzy is on. Taro makes a mad dash for the kitchen, followed by my two cats who practically bowl each other over to be the first to their dish.
They climb on my counter-top and begin vying for space, thumping each other on the head and meowing in a maddening chorus. I feed the cats first, because it I don’t they will begin knocking salt shakers and other small items off of the counter to make me move faster.
Meanwhile, Taro, well trained and more patient, sits and waits, but still can’t contain his excitement and knocks his tail loudly against the refrigerator as if this will be his final meal on earth. For this brief moment my anxiety rises as they all look at me as though their happiness and entire well being depends upon how well I perform in the next 30 seconds.
Thank goodness for assistive technology (AT). While I will never be fast enough for the cats, simple AT devices have helped me become more efficient at quelling the feeding frenzy. For example, their food is kept at waist level in vittle vaults, which eliminate the hassle of bags and clips. I scoop the food with an angled measuring cup, allowing me to see how much to feed without needing to stoop down to read the measurements; and, use raised food bowls because I dare not miss (or face the wrath of the kitties).
Too often, older adults or people with disabilities are discouraged from owning pets because of the difficulty in providing for their care. Unfortunately, they are often even pressured to surrender or euthanize their pets when their ability to provide care changes. However, research undoubtedly shows that pet ownership has a significant, direct, positive impact on physical and mental health. Assistive technology is available to aid with pet care, but it is rarely talked about and almost never advertised. For these reasons, I decided to spread the word myself.
On August 28th, from 1:30 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. EST, the Michigan Assistive Technology Project will offer free a webinar, Devices to Help with Pet Care that will highlight products and services to aid in caring for your dog, cat, fish and more in the areas of feeding, grooming, play and health. Please register by August 23rd.
Come join us as I share what I have learned through research and personal experience, and share with others what works well for you or the people you provide services to. If your pets are like mine – demanding and spoiled, but the masters of your heart, you will likely enjoy yourself and learn something new to provide them with even better care.