Those of us who hold a special place for dogs in our hearts understand their unconditional love and devotion. Some of my best friends are dogs. They always have been and always will be.
If I could be so loving, if the world could be so loving, can you imagine what life could be like? Dogs do not lie. They tell you when they are happy and show you when they are upset. They don’t hide behind a facade. If they like you, you know it immediately. The opposite is also true.
Some time back I read an article about actor Katherine Heigl and her devotion to her adopted shelter dogs. She spoke of the love they shared and the joy they brought her.
It reminded me of how I saw my mother quickly deteriorate from a dreaded diagnosis: Dementia. Part of her brain died, most likely caused by a stroke. Her high blood pressure was a factor. Because of this brain issue, she could not stop her thoughts from coming through her mouth. She had no filters.
Some of this was difficult to endure. Unlike her prior self who was quite reserved in public, she once told her doctor he had beautiful eyes. A couple of times she swore like a sailor. Sometimes her words or actions became uncontrollable. Once in a while, she would again become lucid.
It was odd, because she knew what she was going to do before doing it and told us so. Once, she warned us that she was going to push the plates onto the floor. She did. Once she told me she was going to run over my foot with her walker. She did. She couldn’t help it.
We sisters cried and laughed, along with Mom. She knew something was wrong, but said often she was sorry but couldn’t help it. We knew. It was beyond anyone’s control.
We were losing our mother. She said she felt like she was going crazy. She couldn’t add numbers anymore. She became paranoid. I felt absolutely lost in how to help her. All we could do was take things as they came and not force compliance, while keeping her safe.
The more I read about the disease, the more I understood our job was to take care of her without upsetting her delicate situation. I became somewhat meditative when I cared for her by not taking anything personally and by becoming nonjudgmental.
I came to understand the loving devotion my mother had for her family and felt fortunate to be so well taken cared for as a child. She put her family first, ensuring we were healthily fed from the garden my dad grew and cleanly clothed and schooled, having time for play and adventure. We went on vacation every summer.
I owed her the same. Fortunately Mom could still function in many ways and remembered us fully. My sister was and still is involved with hospice and home health as a counselor, so brought in those services.
What I did not realize at first was how exhausted my sister became from being the major caregiver. I wondered what the benefit was in trying to make our mother comfortable while seeing my sister’s health decline. We ended up hiring around the clock care for Mom and Dad, later than we should have.
Now I see Mom’s fast decline and transition as a blessing, not only because of what I have read about and seen with Dementia and Alzheimer affected brains, but also because of the negative affect it had on my sister’s health. There must be a better solution.
As for the dogs I mentioned earlier, Ms. Heigl experienced extreme difficulty putting her dog down. He was suffering. Her veterinarian persuaded her to do it out of love for her animal, focusing on the dignity every living creature deserves. It was not an easy choice.
Time, is a simple, lighthearted poem with a contemplative message. I only hope that when it’s time for me, when my quality of life becomes outweighed by a lack of enjoyment and substance, someone who loves me will consider available choices. After all, I’m a lot like a dog, most likely a Golden Retriever.