Upward Dog

Maybe a dozen years ago, we were sipping some beers at a wedding reception in Montgomery. It was a good vibe, with a live band serving up some serious soul. One of the reception-goers, age 30something, takes off his jacket, hands it to his wife, and makes it a rock ‘n’ roll show. He drops to the ground, sternum down, and undulates his entire body in giant waves.

That’s right, he busted out The Worm. (Dramatic interpretation available.)

The crowd, of course, goes wild. We were like the “Soul Train” dance line, only with more uncontrollable laughter. I didn’t see this guy for a while after that night, but reports were that he was … regretful the next day. By which I mean sore muscles, pinched nerves and aggravated joints — in addition to what must’ve been an unreal hangover.

Ever done so much wrong to your body that it’s not until, say, your shoulder heals a little that your realize you also royally screwed up your elbow? Hips don’t lie. And, now that I’m in my 40s, when I’m reading the signs of my body they’re often saying, “Ease up on the racquetball, bro.”

Hips don’t lie. And, now that I’m in my 40s, when I’m reading the signs of my body they’re often saying, “Ease up on the racquetball, bro.”

The other man of the house is with me on this. Seamus the Dog is going on 13 in human years, which makes him 473 in dog years. He’s the elder statesman of the Dew Abode.

We often let him on the bed with us for a morning snuggle or if we’re laying there reading at night. He never comes up without permission, although he often asks for permission, planting his chin firmly down on the mattress and rounding those giant brown eyes up at us, wordlessly saying, “Snuggle?” There’s not much saying no to that.

But a couple months ago, when we’d pat the mattress in acquiescence, he wouldn’t jump. He’d start to jump, then stop. He’d haunch down to try again, but chicken out. Sometimes he’d give up and go back to his bed with a whine. Sometimes he’d eventually make the try, getting mostly there, but clawing the rest of the way with his back legs on the side of the mattress.

It was clear my old buddy needed some help.

I looked, for a minute, at those little doggie steps you can buy for these such endeavors. And then, because this is what always happens when I’m shopping for something that’s made of wood, I thought, “I can just make this.” I found some plans, but felt most of them were overly complicated, with their need for fancy junk like “miter cuts,” and “pocket holes,” and “table saws,” and “not using pallets.” You will find this hard to believe, but I just so happened to have a small pallet in the backyard that was yearning for a purpose. I hemmed and hawed about breaking it apart and designing my own ramp with the yield. Then I realized I, too, was overcomplicating things.

Got out the Skil saw and cut the pallet in half, alongside the middle board. Now I had half a pallet with a running 2×4 on each side. I pulled off the slats from the other half of the pallet, ripped them to width where I needed to, and screwed those into the gaps on the other half. I did some rudimentary measurements of the height I needed and cut four legs at angle to turn the platform in to a ramp.

I gave the whole thing a sanding and brought it in for a test run.

Seamus took to it pretty quickly, but the angle was a bit steep, of necessity. His paws were sliding on the wood, which scared me. The whole point of this was to give him more control over his actions, not adding an extra element of adventure. So Jenn and I went to a nearby carpet store and tried to find a suitable remnant, but they were all too big. When we told them what we were doing, they handed us a swatch of carpet they’d retired and wouldn’t take a few bucks for it.

With a little cutting using an X-Acto knife and a dozen or so carpet tacks, we were in business. I used a little of the carpet scrap under each of the legs, too, tacked in upside down, so we can slide the thing around easily without scuffing the pine floor. Done and done.

Seamus and I might be through hitting the dance floor, but we’re all just fine curled up on the bed with a good book, thank you.

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