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We love our pets. Many people worry prior to having a laryngectomy that the relationship will change, that the loss of the old voice will make a difference in communicating with beloved pets as well as other humans. Pets are more adaptable than you might think but our group became aware of a problem with some health care specialists when a pre-lary wrote in to say his doctor told him that because of the hair and dander, he would have to get rid of his three dogs. He was anguished at the thought. The response on our list was unbelievable with many people writing in to tell about their pets and most of them ending up with what one person put in few words, "Keep dogs. Fire doctor."
Here are some ideas from members to make the transition easier.
Many of us have dogs and cats that share our beds or our bedrooms. They certainly snuggle up to us. Wear a stoma covering of some type to avoid floating hairs or what you might breathe in when they shake off bits of grass, pollens or dust. No use in asking for a coughing spell.
1. We have two 14 year old Shih Ztus' bundles; Minnie (Mouse) and Daisy (Duck). I became a laryngectomee survivor in November 1996 and they were of concern as I had an office at home and they were use to me 24/7. When I got home, I immediately did a lot of hugs and doggie kisses and allowed what had previously been a no-no...allowed them to climb into bed next to me. I then continued what had always been their routine for going out and feeding. They never have been barkers for outside or food but rather have always followed a routine....the difference being that this routine was now accommodated by hand signals or claps. They got the idea within just days. Claps were come here, fingers pointed downward were lie down, hand motioning upward were stand up, circling hands were turn-around, just opening the door & motioning was go outside and, holding down the "buzzer" on the EL was better get your act together! They have occasionally exhibited inappropriate behavior (house accidents) but they have (a) been left alone too long, (b) we are traveling or, (c) they have been ignored what they consider too long. When that occurs, they get the buzzer and no outside treat. When one of them, (Daisy) I believe, actually urinated on my bed one day (she was mad), they were put back into their training cage for the day. I do try to remember their age (old) and that they exhibit very human behavior and characteristics. (Harriet)
2. I still couldn't talk when got a dog, 3 months after my surgery. He was a 6 month old pup and house broken. I live in a apartment. I tried the clicker but I did better clapping my hands or slapping my leg. I was depressed but am much better and have some one to take care of that gives me reason to live. (Frank)
3. I had my dog 5 years after surgery. I trained her. She reacts on hand as well "vocal" signals. She just learned to look at me all the time. She follows me as a white shadow anyway so that was easy for her. She knows when she is bad even if i don't make a sound. Dogs react on faces and body language. (Marianne)
4. (Background) In 1965 I was trained by the Air Force as a dog handler for which I took my German Shepherd named Smokey to Viet Nam. We were trained to go by voice and also hand signals. Those days are long gone but I used those skills to train my German Shepherd/Kishhound mixed. After my surgery and I came home, I approached Sandy with my Cooper-Rand and spoke to her for the first time. She almost ate my butt up for two weeks and had nothing to do with me until she figured out that I was not the enemy. (Gary)
5. If you are going to have as your first after-lary voice any type of artificial larynx, it might help if you had the instrument before surgery to have your pets get used to the sound. You might be able to borrow one in advance. If you try this, I would suggest that you keep the sound associated with you because that will be the way it is going to be later. (Pat)
6. Since my surgery in the summer of 04 I have had to come up with ways to communicate with my bird dogs, Bear in mind that they are sometimes 200 yards away when we are in the field. I use the baby nipple whistle, bought an electric megaphone and have taught them to be responsive to arm signals. (Joe)
7. Whistles can be made that fit the stoma area and these can be used to get your pet's attention.
This police whistle has been modified by the attachment of a nipple from a baby's bottle which has been cut off at the small end and placed over the mouth part of the whistle. The larger part of the nipple can then be placed over the stoma and blown for a loud, piercing signal, without concern about a dead battery or other power source.
8. I was fortunate enough to think about training my dog to a clicker before surgery. But the louder clickers are hard to find now and my dogs seem to have developed a slight hearing problem. I bought the bell they put on hunting dogs and use that to get their attention.
After reading about the baby bottle nipple and whistle, I came up with another idea. Though I personally never had a lot of luck with "silent" dog whistles, the same trick with the baby bottle nipple will work. You can use the nipple and do not need to cut off the tip, just force the whistle through the existing opening. [Jeanette Eastham]
9. You can make whistles for pennies from plastic whistles and medicine cups. How to make cheap whistles for give-away ... see Stoma Whistle.
10. DOG WHISTLES
To all you dog owners out there. I've been through all of the recommendations, and a lot of help from this site, trying to find a whistle that I could use for my bird dogs. I've tried the baby bottle nipples, Pat gave me one that had a cup on the end of it and tried Jeanette Eastham's recommendation of the silent whistle but nothing really worked well for me until now. I, with the help of a supplier, found a site that sells electronic whistles and the one I got sounds almost exactly like the referees whistle I formerly used. Several are available at: Amazon.com
Good health and good hunting.
Ed Chapman class of 2006
This message was written to the list in answer to a question about a particular dog's behavior. Our member and fellow laryngectomee, Diane Gaskins, has volunteered to answer individual questions from our members who are dog, cat, even fish owners :-) have.
I have been raising and training Pembroke Welsh Corgis for over 40 years. So, I have a little experience. The dog you have is aware of your 'voice', no matter what it sounds like. He has undergone a loss, as you have with the death of your husband, and my condolences to both of you. please feel free to contact me off list if you would like.
Could you please tell me the breed of dog and the age and sex and whether the dog is on any meds.
First - Get a crate! Keep the dog in the crate when ever he is unattended,at night or when you are away. It is not mean. A crate is their den! Of course, leave him out of it during the day. Treat your dog as though he were a puppy for a short while.
Second - When you are going to feed your dog, have something that you are going to eat as well and YOU eat it first!!! Let the dog see you do this. This is a means of you being the 'boss'. Also, when you come home from being out for awhile, IGNORE YOUR DOG. (He is in the crate). You are the boss (again) and he must wait for you to tell him when it is ok to say hello.
Heaven only knows, my dogs are as spoiled as the next persons with the love and attention I give them.
When I had my laryngectomy 10 years ago, I was devastated that I could no longer communicate with my animals. WRONG!!! I now have 7 Corgis and when they are loose the in yard (fenced) and I open the door and -'click' - they come charging! My method is the 'clicker' method of training (go to a library and look for books), but instead of a real clicker, I use my voice to make a series of sounds that the dogs learn very quickly to understand.
A 'cluck" means no! A "cklick" means good. And a series of tsk, tsk's means that was very good! I use other forms of noise as well - clapping my hands, knocking on something, your imagination will help. If you work with ANY animal, patiently, they will learn the method of 'speaking' that you are using. Before you try it, however, I would recommend that you get a book on clicker training from the library. Since it is a new means of communication for you and the dog, best look into it before barging ahead..
Thlot Pembroke Welsh Corgis
Volunteering to work with Pets
A good place to volunteer your services might be your local pet rescue homes. A way to help those you love. Here is a great article from our former President, telling how he got into this kind of care:
CLUB MED FOR CATS
There's an old saying that when you call a dog it comes running. When you call a cat it takes a message and gets back to you later. We cat lovers know that this is true. I have always had a warm spot for animals but cats of any shape or color were my first choice. When I was barely six and out on a Halloween night some nice folks asked me If I liked cats. What could I say? They deposited two small white kittens in my pillow case (that's what we used in the old days) and I marched merrily home with my two new friends to "surprise" my mother. Fortunately, my Mom was also a feline lover so Snow White and Sabrina became beloved members of our family and we had these lovely girls or their offspring for many years.
When I retired a few years ago I was looking for something to do to keep my idle hands busy. Of course, I did have a laryngectomy, WebWhispers, the IAL and my local club among other related things. I was walking through the local mall and came upon a display table with cats and kittens. There was a big sign that said Richmond Homeless Cats. I talked to some ladies who were volunteers at this shelter and I was immediately hooked. I couldn't wait to get down to this cat paradise which was providing a safe haven and home to at that time more than 500 beautiful cats. I learned that everyone involved in the Shelter was a volunteer. And that there were more than 90 individuals involved in playing with (very important!) and caring for the cats which includes feeding ,watering, medicating the ill and an incredible amount of "scooping". There are many trips to the veterinarian and the cat food store. There was also a segregated section for those with feline AIDS. The shelter has a strict "no-kill" policy and we have blind, deaf, three legged and insulin dependant diabetic cats to mention some of the afflicted. We also have kittens which always seem to be adopted first. We adopted a three year old named Rusty. I truly believe the older cats know that some day they will get a home. When some one comes in with a cat carrier they hang around the door and try to look "cute".
One advantage to being a laryngectomee in a cat shelter is that when you "scoop" you can't smell a thing!
If you like cats and kittens check out a shelter.
Take care and stay well.
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