A post should appear each Sunday!
Sunday February 6th 2022
Before Isis arrives in England, I have a Dogwatch house and garden check to make sure that she will be safe here. (As I reflect soon after the hairy creature arrives, it might have been more appropriate to check whether the garden will survive Isis!)
By the time Hannah arrives for the check, I have cleared the garden of anything which might be dangerous for a deaf/blind dog, and checked exits, entrances and fencing. I have also attached plumbers’ foam tubing to all interior sharp edges which she might walk into.
Hannah says that the only thing she is a little concerned about is the height of the back doorstep, and whether Isis will be able to navigate her way down to the concrete blocks which have been placed below it, and on to ground level. Neither of us are certain that she will be O.K. with this, but Hannah suggests I monitor her to see how she copes.
Fortunately, once she susses out the situation, Isis steps on and off the concrete blocks with no trouble at all.
Then, one day about three years ago, for no apparent reason, she refuses to set foot on the blocks. Instead, she launches herself from the doorstep, sails over the blocks and lands with her nose about an inch away from the brick wall which divides our house from our neighbour’s.
When I investigate, I discover that one of the blocks had shifted very, very slightly so that as I put weight on it, it rocks. This must have happened last time Isis stepped on it. Now, we are talking of about three millimetres, not three inches! I try to reassure Isis, go through the procedure with her, stroke her, pat her and cajole her. But to no avail. That block moved when she put a paw on it, and there is no way she will step on it again – ever.
She propels herself so vigorously, in order to clear the blocks, that I fear it will be only a matter of time before her little hairy face smacks into the wall. I take the blocks away, and she quickly adjusts to jumping exactly the distance necessary.
Ever since then, I have tried to work out what aid I can buy or construct to enable her to make a more gentle descent. True, she has no trouble at all taking off from the kitchen and landing safely in the yard, but what will happen when she is older and not so athletic? The space between the step and the wall is too narrow to accommodate a ramp, or a small set of stairs. She needs enough room to turn right at the bottom of a ramp to access the garden.
Hmmmm. Every bright idea I have has a snag. I just cannot visualise what would do the trick.
Then, a few weeks ago, looking through the ‘wanted’ and ‘offered’ on Birmingham Freegle (the recycling site), I see an item which looks ideal. It’s described as a ‘temporary step’. In the photo it looks strong and solid. It’s 29 x 17 inches (74 x 43 centimetres). I request it. I’m in luck: it’s offered to me. And the Freegler who’s gifting it lives in Bournville,only two miles away.
After our walk next day, Isis and I set off to collect it.
A charming man opens the door. The step is in situ. It stands about three inches below his doorstep and is almost as wide as the door. On the underside, it has what looks like a thick rubber washer at each corner. The family had found it very useful in the past, the man tells me, but they no longer need it.
It’s much lighter than it looks and easy to put in the boot.
When we reach home, I examine it more carefully, and discover that what I thought were washers are, in fact, little rubber tipped legs. Best of all, they’re adjustable, like those used to level up fridges and washing machines when a floor is uneven.
It’s made of a speckled grey composite material, and even has rows of small, raised antislip circles like those featured on the floors of wet rooms.
For a day or so I experiment with placing the step in various positions. Eventually, I position it parallel to the kitchen floor, raise the legs nearest the kitchen threshhold as high as they’ll go, and place a new brick under each leg to make the step higher. Now this end is about three inches below the threshhold. Then I lower the legs at the other end as close as they’ll go to the ground. Now there is a gentle slope for Isis to stroll down.
Although the step is light, it feels very firm. I walk up and down it. Even with my weight, it doesn’t move a millimetre.
Now to introduce Isis to this special dog aid!
I make her wait by the open kitchen door while I plant my feet on the new step. Restraining her with both hands on her shoulders, I guide her slowly onto the step, steering her to the right so that she can walk down the slope into the garden. She is hesitant, of course, but shows no anxiety. When she’s ready to come in again, I guide her to the base of the step, and up into the kitchen. She doesn’t appear to be at all worried by this novel way of exiting and entering her house.
She’s a quick learner. After a couple of days she masters it and can use it on her own. I still guide her, acting like a rudder, with light touches on either of her hips. I’m doing this because I want her to turn very precisely, so that when she is old, there’ll be no chance of her stepping too close to the edge.
I’ve not come across a ‘temporary step’ before, but it’s perfect. I’m delighted.
I think that many owners of elderly or disabled animals would find one of these useful.
I’ve just googled ‘temporary step’ and found some online. The one which looks most like ours is the Big Foot half step, which is expensive. There are several which don’t have adjustable legs, and these are much more affordable.
They’re all made for humans.
But we don’t care.