Dementia Doesn’t Discriminate Between People … or Dogs
As I stared into the tired eyes of my best friend, I knew I was doing the right thing by her. “She was holding on for you,” my brother told me. And the time had come to let her go.
I remained there on bended knee; kissing her wet black nose, tussling her thick black fur with tears streaking down my face. It was so hard to say goodbye. Finally, I released my hands from her head and allowed the vet technician to steer her away from me. I’d stayed near the floor as Cindy turned her head toward me that one final time. All the while, I hoped she’d understood that I just wanted to ease her pain. That it was okay for her to go and be in peace.
Our bond had begun 17 years earlier. A friend had mentioned that someone at her work’s dog had just had a litter. In going to see the puppy litter, I’d instantly fallen in love! The fluffy little chow-chow puppies with bear-like faces were so cute! I’d chosen a female with tiny legs and piercing eyes; to be known as Cindy from that day forward.
Over the years, Cindy had been an amazing companion. She’d been a strong protector, a great listener, and a faithful friend. She’d been family and I would have done anything for her.
About seven months ago, I had noticed that Cindy’s behavior started to change. I had seen that she had gotten some arthritis in her back leg which had made it a bit challenging for her to do stairs. We had a routine of walking every day and I’d had to lift her when we’d met steps.
At about the same time, she had started to whine when she’d been put in the yard. She had always been outside except at night when she’d stayed in her kennel. It had been that same way since she’d been a pup. Then, she’d refused to go into her kennel; crying whenever she’d been inside it.
So I had made a space for her inside the house where she could roam at will. Oddly, Cindy started to move in circles within that area. It had started gradually; a few times during the day. Within weeks, she’d started moving in circles for hours daily.
Her behavior had continued to get more disturbing when she’d be walking and stop in the corner of the area then bark loudly. When I’d tap her, she’d just start circling again. And this hadn’t ceased or even eased but appeared to have progressed as days passed.
Getting a bit concerned about the behavior, I had done some research online. I had seen on chats that other people had been experiencing the same thing with their dogs. And they had been told that their pets had dementia!
I’d been taken aback when I had read this. My mother had died five years earlier from side effects of dementia. While she hadn’t stood in a corner and barked, she had seemed to be similar in other ways such as not wanting to be left alone, paranoia and anxiety.
Now dementia had been affecting my dog – my faithful companion. With Mama, I’d remembered that sometimes, it had been hard to communicate with her. If she’d done something odd and we’d pointed it out to her, she’d looked at us with confusion. So when I thought about Cindy and how there had been no way to have explained to her what had been going on with her having dementia, it had been all the more heartbreaking.
I hadn’t been sure what to do for my best friend. I’d asked on the chatrooms, talked to friends and family, and talked to my vet. In each case, the consensus had basically been that if she’d had a quality of life at all, it may not have been time yet. Well, she’d known me, eaten, even taken treats. It seemed she’d still had a quality of life in her.
Then, in the winter, Cindy had presented an interesting behavior – one I had remembered with my mother with her dementia symptoms – sundowning. Mama had started to get up in the middle of the night and insisted that someone be with her. She hadn’t realized, for some reason, that it had been nighttime. Well, Cindy had started to do the same thing; up in the middle of the night for a couple of hours at first, then nearly all night by the end.
As it seemed that Cindy had become more agitated day and night, I’d found myself asking God about it. The answer had come in the form of a dream. My mother had visited me in a dream, offering a sense of calm and peace. She had been the “healthy” image of my mother, not the one I’d remembered with dementia.
In the dream, she’d nodded and I’d known that it had been about Cindy. The time had come to let her be with her brother.
When I’d woken up to see Cindy after the dream, I’d realized right away how blessed the dream had been. Something had happened in that brief time as I’d seen Cindy’s head tilted and she’d been falling every other step. I could see the desperation and intention in her eyes. She’d struggled to rise every time she’d fallen though had obviously had some trouble.
I’d helped her, petting her head and crying each time I had. It appeared that she’d had a stroke with her left side nearly unresponsive. She hadn’t been able to eat anymore. Mama had been right. It had been time to let Cindy out of her pain.
I’d called my brother and he had come to get us. I honestly hadn’t been sure if I could say goodbye to my best friend. Even as I watch her limp around the corner of the vet’s office, my heart was so heavy. As we drove away from the vet’s office, I’d known in my heart that she had been at peace – walking around every block with her brother in Heaven!