My name is Red, or Rosie as my wonderful mom likes to call me, and I am a dog with dementia.
Oh no, I haven’t even started my story yet and there she is with the waterworks already!
This morning my mom, Hindy, decided to write a follow up post about what it’s like living and caring for someone in my condition. Then she got what my human dad calls a “ha ha” moment, and thought of having me write it instead. Brilliant!!
It’s always good to know a bit of background about someone, so here is mine!
I’d love to be able to tell you all about my life before I was rescued, but I’m not a good enough communicator to tell mom my story, so it has to start from when she met me.
Lucky for me my mom has a crazy passion and soft spot for oldies like myself, and that’s how she found me. She worked for a few months in the cat room at Tri County Humane Society in Boca Raton, Florida. She loved cats long before she ever had a dog. Go figure!! During her lunch breaks she would walk the dogs in the “oldies room” as it was known. She knows I ended up there after being dumped in an animal control facility. They usually kill dogs like me but luckily, every once in a while, the staff would call the shelter and ask if they would take some old dogs…and I was one of the lucky ones!
When she stopped working there she started volunteering every Sunday. She met another big hearted volunteer named Annie (RIP) who also had a thing for old dogs, and they bonded over that love. They both made sure everyone had two walks when they were there, and Mom made sure there was plenty of cuddle time with me. We’d sit on a bench outside in the sun with Annie and another dog and just chat and relax. They loved their Sundays!
I don’t know what it is about me that made her fall for me, but I’m glad whatever the reason. I’m blind so only know her by voice, but I know how I would jump around whenever I heard that sweet melody. Okay I just put that in to be nice, because I know my dad Raymond would not describe it in those terms!!
Anyway, the staff used to tell her how excited I would get whenever she came to visit.
She couldn’t take me home with her right away because she had moved to Florida and was staying with family while she found a house. They had 3 dogs and 4 cats, and Mom had her 4 cats (no it wasn’t a hoarding situation!!), so I understand I had to wait.
Then she went and adopted someone before me, can you believe it!! My dad used to come to walk us sometimes and one day he met a girl named Josephine. Okay she was pretty I’ll give you that, but that isn’t what pulled at his heartstrings. She was deaf and mostly blind and when she was out with him one day she stopped and leaned against him. Something about that drove him to tears, and next thing you know she left with them. Of course they had their house by then. They knew I was doing really well at the shelter, had plenty of room to walk around (the oldies were in a whole room by themselves), lots of beds to choose from and good food. So good in fact I ate from everyone else’s bowl, until finally they locked me in the bathroom to eat!! Okay I was obese at the time and couldn’t get enough food. Did I forget to mention that? My previous owners obviously fed me too much and I weighed a whopping 18lbs when I shouldn’t have weighed more than 10!!
Anyway my folks took me home a few months later, and that was almost 9 years ago. I wish they knew exactly how old I am but I have no way of telling them. The shelter guessed I was 8, so mom is saying I’m almost 17.
I’ve Had Some Health Issues
After I got to my new home I was taken to an eye doctor, because my eyes were bulging out of my head and the ‘rents’ (that’s parents to you!!) wanted to know if something could be done to get my sight back. Sadly no, but I was given some kind of needle in each eye to shrink them. Every day since then mom has had to give me eye drops.
I also had a heart murmur, and after a few years was put on medication. I now also have lesions on my liver, my kidneys look like craters on the moon rather than smooth as glass like they should be, I have chronic pancreatitis and dementia.
I’m not in pain but I know my folks are in pain when they see the vet bills!!
How My Mom Figured Out I Had Dementia
It was towards the end of 2015 and I started pacing, drinking a lot and peeing a lot. My mom assumed it was kidney problems, again, because the drinking and peeing had been an issue in the past. The pacing was new but assumed to be due to discomfort.
She never hesitates to call the vet when she knows something “isn’t right.” So often in fact, one of the guys that works at reception answers the phone “Hello Mrs. Pearson” because he recognises her number. Sometimes she uses the house phone because she doesn’t want them to stop taking her calls!
Anyway, a few visits and tests later our amazing vet couldn’t find anything wrong, but Mom wouldn’t listen. One day the word “dementia” popped into her head and she realised she finally had an answer. I like to think I had something to do with it, because I don’t know how much longer it would have taken for her to figure it out.
She fostered a few senior dogs before she met me, and after, but no one ever exhibited this behaviour before. Of course none of them lasted as long as I have so didn’t get the chance to, possibly, develop dementia.
Anyway she called the vet, told him dementia and he said there was only one drug to help called Selgian. We’re in England but in the States and Canada it’s called Anipryl. The active ingredient is selegiline.
Within a few days I was doing so much better, I continued with all the other meds I was taking and some anti-anxiety help as well. Fast forward to the present. Sadly I’ve gotten worse, now I can’t stop circling unless I’m sitting with Mom on the couch.
Dad helped her put together a nice little home office where she can do her work, but she hasn’t used it in over a year. She doesn’t want to leave me to circle non- stop…it really breaks her heart.
Let’s be honest – I know how hard it’s been for her, especially since I know my dementia has progressed. Add to that the chronic pancreatitis, my near death experience in November and her not having a car (her choice she can’t imagine driving on the wrong side of the car, wrong side of the road with zillions of cars trying to make their way around roundabouts!!) and she feels trapped a lot of the times.
I don’t bounce back like I used to, and after 2 ½ weeks of barely moving off the couch in November, she made “the” appointment for me. I don’t blame her, she loves me so much she wouldn’t let me live that way just because she never wants me to leave her. I wasn’t ready to go so I perked up to let her know it wasn’t time. We went to the vet anyway even though she knew she was going to be bringing me home, but she needed a chat.
Is She Ready to Let Me Go?
I know she loves me like crazy, and I know how much she has sacrificed for me, although she doesn’t see it like that. She adopts old and special needs dogs because they are good for her soul, and has the ability to care for us, even if it’s just for a few days until we have to leave. I have stuck around the longest, a record. The shortest is 3 days and the only other dog she had for a long time was Josephine, 2 years.
I take up her whole life, and everything revolves around me so she would be heartbroken and miss me like crazy. The thing about that kind of love is – she would never let me suffer, or allow me to linger because she doesn’t want to face the heartbreak. She will miss me and mourn for me like she has done for every cat and dog she shared her life with. Probably more because I’m her one true love. Okay Calypso the cat was as well. Bloody cat!!
I hear her say sometimes she’d rather I had cancer than dementia. I also know she sometimes wishes I would get a bad test result, or leave quietly in my sleep. I don’t blame her for feeling that way. Dementia is a horrible disease. I’m not in pain, but I’m confused. She knows I still remember my housetraining when we’re outside, but she also knows I can’t “wait” anymore. I feel bad our entire floor in the whole house is covered in pee pads.
She hates the way it looks, she says the mess gives her a migraine (not literally), but she also will do it because it’s for me. She also knows I’ve become a bit obsessive about not being able to settle until I’ve peed, had enough to drink, circled a little then she wraps me up in a blanket and puts me next to her on the couch.
I also know she goes out for a short time when she needs a break, but would never leave me for too long because she worries about me.
So, is she ready to let me go? When the time is right, yes.
Am I Ready to Go?
Now that’s the question you’re all asking isn’t it? Am I ready to go? A lot of you believe we’ll tell you when we are, but I don’t believe that’s always the case…at least it won’t be in the big signs with blazing letters you’re all expecting. You love us so much, and your hearts are breaking at the thought of losing us, you can’t always see if we’re ready, even if we’re showing you we are.
I want you to know I’ve had an amazing life. Tri County saved me, then mom saved me again. I’m well traveled, been in cars, on trains and planes. We visited Toronto in the winter, no I wouldn’t go out in the snow!, moved back to the UK (first time for me), then we did the snow bird thing for a few years and spent the winter back in Florida. Last year I got to spend 4 months in Spain, and had to listen to mom try and learn Spanish for months before that!! We’ve been to tons of places in England, I’ve experienced so many things even if I couldn’t see them. They even bought me a stroller so they could always take me with them. I’m also proud to have comforted a few other seniors who have passed through our doors. Yep, I’ve had a great ride.
Sure there are medications and supplements to help us when we can barely move. Of course you are amazingly creative when you’re trying to get us to eat. Don’t get me wrong, we are so grateful we were lucky enough to share our lives with you, but sometimes we’re left in pain, or living a life without the dignity we would like. Sometimes just because there is something else to try, it isn’t morally right to do it.
My mom often advises to try and forget your sadness for just a moment, and try and put yourself in your animals’ shoes. Would they want to live the way they’re living?
I know she’s struggling with that question every day. She likes black and white, not judging quality of life. She had to make a decision based on quality of life one time before, with Josephine, and it was hell for her. She was haunted by it for months afterwards. Did she wait too long? Should she have done it sooner? That’s why I know she wants a clear sign – a bad test result or me making it obvious.
I will do the best I can to help her, but we’re all presented with challenges in life to teach us lessons. What you’re supposed to be learning from your challenge I can’t say. What I can say is we love you more than we can express, and are grateful for the care you have given us, whether we spent our whole lives with you, or you saved us in our later years.
Please honour that love by letting us go if we’re in pain or just aren’t doing well. Speak to your vet, find support where you can but don’t let us linger. We’ve had an amazing life and when we’re ready to cross the bridge, please help us and we will care for all the others you have lost before us.
I have to get mom some Kleenex now because she’s crying all over me!
This was written before Red died May 18, 2018, but I’m re-sharing it again.
“Does Your Senior Dog Have Dementia?“
“A Comprehensive Guide to Dog Dementia“
2 thoughts on “My Life as a Dog with Dementia”
Hindy Red’s story brought tears to my eyes, thank you so much for sharing and opening my eyes to the life of a senior dog in our lives. You are amazing
Thanks for your kind words. I remember crying so hard when I wrote this article, and I did the same thing yesterday when I re-read it before publishing. I’m hoping it will help those who are struggling with their senior dogs, and maybe even those unable to make “the” decision.