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.
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.