Nursing Tip: Hoisting a paralyzed mastiff
Here's some information about how we got Goya outside when he was totally paralyzed.
We used a cattle sling which is two aluminum poles attached to a million adjustable straps, with six eyebolts to attach to chains. These slings were designed for cattle and horses who need to be kept vertical to recuperate from whatever disease or injury they have, but they also have slings for dogs of all sizes. The company is called Munks Livestock Sling Mfg. in Washington State. They are very helpful over the phone, both with ordering and fitting once it arrives.
Although this sling worked well, we did make one mistake when ordering. We got this sling when Goya first went down and we didn't realize how much weight and muscle mass he would lose. So when Munks told me to measure his chest and his measurement was on the cusp between two sizes, we went with the larger one. This was a mistake. I ended up having to sew a pleat in the webbing to make it fit him after a few weeks.
To move him around, we rented a hoyer lift, a hydraulic lift on wheels available in medical supply rental stores. We took off the apparatus that is used for handicapped people and connected its arm to the cattle sling with six chains chains that came with the sling.
We got Goya into the sling by putting two of his feet through the right holes between the straps, then roll him over on his back and put the other two legs through the straps. We then rolled him over onto the side where his back was parallel and close to the legs of the hoyer lift. With the lift in the lowest position, we connected the six chains on the lift to the eye hooks on the aluminum poles. We also emptied his urine back and crimped and clipped the tube from his long-term catheter so no urine would flow backwards, and hung his urine bag up on a hanger on top of the lift. We then pumped up the hydraulic lift, while standing on the leg furthest from his back so the lift wouldn't tip, until Goya was lifted all the way off the ground. Lowering him was just the reverse (always remembering to put the urine bag down first and un-crimp the tube after he was back on the matterss).
Here's a picture of Goya in the sling in February 2006. At the time, he couldn't even hold up his head, so we had to prop it up with pillows. First we tried using just pillows, but they were too floppy. We finally found a solution, though. We had an old plastic 35-gallon garbage can which we wanted to get rid of anyway, so we cut it up into a piece about 3 feet long that extended along his chest, down about as far as the bottom of his rib cage and forward a few feet to giv him a place to put his head. We put a pillow on it for him to rest his head on. The plastic was thick and the curve that was the side of the garbage can kept the plastic rigid enough to support Goya's heavy head.
Once he was all set in the lift, we rolled him outside. We had built a ramp out the front door and onto the small stone porch in front of our house. Once outside, we rolled him to the edge of the porch and put his head near a bush so he knew he was in foliage where he always liked to relieve himself (although his backside was stillon the porch). We then lowered him down into a crouching position so he could defecate, which he often did (good boy). When it was a nice day, we let him "hang out" just to get some air and be vertical. When it was cold, we draped a baby blanket over him just for a little added warmth. The worst was when it was a cold rain. I got a shower curtain and draped it like a tent over the entire lift and the tall bush in front of Goya. This wasn't terribly successful, in that it kept blowing off, but sometimes I could get it to keep the rain off him. Luckily, mastiffs don't mind the rain, so he never cared, but our living room smelled like wet dog more than we liked.
Sometimes instead of lowering him back onto his mattress on the floor, we lowered him onto the couch instead for a while (e.g., while we changed the bedding) and unhooked the chains. He lay on the couch like a normal dog, enjoying putting his head on the arm of the couch and looking out the livingroom windows. Little "normal" things like that seemed to lift his spirits (and ours).
Eventually, he could hold his head up and didn't need the plastic and pillows any more. Then, after a few months of just hanging there, he started trying to move his legs when we rolled him, so we lowered him so his toes were touching the ground, which helped him remember the walking movement. We also tried to lower him slowly so he would put some weight on his legs himself. That wasn't as easy as it sounded, as his legs never seemed to be in the right place to hold his weight, but we must have been doing something right because he is walking now, almost one year after he went down. Yeah, Goya!