Tag Archives: dementia

Getting Through It

16 Mar

My almost 17-old-dachshund Justin died two days ago. It was heart-wrenchingly sad having to be the one to make the decision that it was his time to move onto the next chapter.

But today I feel more relief than sadness. In reality, Justin hadn’t been with me for a long time. He had dementia, blindness, deafness and seizures and as his body and mind failed him, the Justin I had once known was already becoming a memory even as he lay beside me in bed at night. Now that he is physically no longer with me, the heartache is tempered with joy that he is no longer struggling with these awful things. And, to be honest, joy that I am not struggling with them either.

And that decision I made two days ago — I have been on the precipice of making it for at least a year. I have been sad and heartbroken and tired and unsure for so long. Not being in that spot is an odd feeling, but a good one.

I still think I have four dogs and get out four cookies for treats. I wake up at 2:30 a.m. thinking I will have to carry Justin out to pee in the yard, usually holding an umbrella over us both as the Oregon winter has been very wet. I get out four harnesses for a walk. I feel confused that there are so few supplements and pills to add to the meals of Watson, Penny, and Murray, my three other dog-children who have done their best to keep my spirits up.

When I came home from the vet, with the still-wet paw print in a Ziploc bag and my sweatshirt wet with tears, the first thing I did was remove the boxes. I had shoved boxes into every nook and cranny in every room Justin had free reign in. Something in his brain convinced him that if his snout was wedged between the sofa and the table or the bookshelf and the fireplace, he was stuck. So he would stay there. For hours if I had to be away. Rather than living with the fear that he was stuck and afraid, I wedged boxes everywhere. And then replaced them when Murray, who is still a puppy, chewed them up.

I took them all out to the recycling pile and stacked them up neatly. I wasn’t trying to rid the house of the memory of my sweet boy, but of his horrible disease that had stood between him and happiness for perhaps too long.

Old dogs and I are no strangers. My very first dog child, Copper, was in a wheelchair for the last three years of his life and I had to pee for him through a tube implanted in his bladder. His brother Slate lived to be almost 16 and their sister Maddy Lou left too early at 12. So I’m used to the extra work. What I wasn’t expecting was how angry and frustrated I could be, not at my boy, but at dementia that stole him from me. I called it many horrible names in the middle of the night. Fortunately, Justin was deaf and couldn’t hear this while cradled him in my arms or he fell asleep with my arm over him because he couldn’t sleep without knowing I was there.

I will try to forgive myself for my frustration. I will try to forgive myself for not making the decision for Justin earlier. I was hoping he could experience a few warm, sunny spring days, lolling in the grass with the other dogs as I worked in the garden.

That is not to be. I know that on the first warm, sunny day, Justin the joyful, playful dog who loved to run around the yard barking like that butterfly he spotted was a deadly enemy he needed to protect us from, but never actually harming any animal (unless it was a stuffed toy with a squeaker inside) will be reborn. Maybe we’ll sit and chat in the patio swing. He’ll love that.

 

Where Am I Going?

1 Nov

My last ex-husband’s mother had dementia. As the person who handled most of her issues, I know that the disease can be both heart-breaking and hysterical, sometimes at the same time. Sometimes she’d recognize me and call me by the lovely nickname she’d assigned me when we first met, “You little tramp.” Perhaps she thought I was Charlie Chaplin? Other times, she thought I was a friend from long ago and hound me for cigarettes. She had a gerontologist with the poorly chosen last name of Dr. Butt and while sitting in his waiting room, she launched into a song I believe must have been titled “Dr. Butt is a Butt.” I laughed, I cried, I claimed not to know her while helping her into the exam room.

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My 15-1/2 dachshund Justin has dementia now and the roller coaster of emotions has returned. Every day I am so grateful that we have been blessed with all this time together… even if I do spend most of my time rescuing him from behind doors and under the clothes rack. (If there’s a spot a 26-lb. dog can possibly fit in, I will eventually find him there.) I lovingly turn him around and ask him where it is he’d like to go. The answer is usually, “To the kitchen next to the counter with the cookie jar.”

I feel like the mother of a toddler–obsessed with making the house safe for my wandering child. I have a small metal and glass bookshelf that he loves to walk through. It’s now wrapped with Saran Wrap. There are boxes between the furniture and walls to keep him from getting stuck behind the sofa or end tables. Yesterday, I bought two body pillows to put next to the bed (which is on the floor, but still taller than a wiener dog’s legs) so that if he wanders off the bottom at night, he’ll fall into something soft. Apparently they don’t make bungee cords short enough to help with our specific problem.

Justin does a lot of roaming. If he were a person, I definitely want to keep him on a leash–fortunately he’s a dog and no one thinks it weird when I do. As a result of all the walking, he’s remarkably fit. I thought about strapping a pedometer on him to see just how far he goes every day, but I know him well enough not to even try to put something on his collar.

Fortunately he’s still having a good enough life that I know it’s not his time to go. He loves to eat, knows where the cookies are kept, licks his sister good morning, runs home from walks, and snuggles next to me at night in bed. Sadly, I know his time is coming someday soon. In the meantime, it’s my job to rescue him from behind the elliptical machine and point him in a happier direction.

My Sunshine Has Sundown Syndrome

13 Jun

Justin, my 15-year-old dachshund, has Sundown Syndrome. It’s a form of dementia that occurs after dark. Once the sun sets, he frequently gets lost and runs into things… much like a drunk frat boy on a Friday night.

ImageFortunately, I found an herbal remedy for him. No, it’s not marijuana, although we did try that first. Do you know how hard it is to hold a joint in tiny little paws? And the one command you can’t teach even the most obedient of dogs (which he is NOT) is “Inhale!” It doesn’t matter how many cookies you use as bribes.

The concoction we’re using is called Senilife, a combination of Senile and Life. Wouldn’t you have loved to have been in that branding meeting, what with all the high levels of creativity sparking in the room?

The good news is that it really works well. He has a lot fewer episodes of seeming to be out of it. He and I are about on the same level now when it comes to being confused and wondering where we left either our keys or our stuffed hedgehog. You can buy the stuff on-line. It’s a capsule that you squeeze on top of your dog’s evening meal. There is also a cat version (do not tell my doxies, I brought that up!)

In fact, the little pill works so well I caught myself looking at the bottle the other day, wondering, “Are these just for dogs?” But then I noticed the side effects — squirrel hatred, motorcycle leg, excessive drooling… Side note, is there ever a time when drooling is not excessive? But I’m not going to take them. It’s not that I’m scared of the side effects; it’s just that I put a plan in place years ago to make sure no one would ever be able to tell when I cross the line from “normal crazy” to “she needs help crazy.” You show up at Thanksgiving dinner wearing a ski mask and an inner tube a few times when you’re still young and you set the bar pretty low.

Besides, my only kids are dogs and they would never put me in a home.

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