A Dog Leg Up
“My wife kisses the dog on the lips, yet she won’t drink from my glass.” Rodney
I went down a dog when Izzy left our house to live with my mom. It’s all right because Izzy is helping her. She takes care of my mom. When I go to her house the first thing she asks me is, “You’re not going to take Izzy back, are you?”
After mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease she went downhill fast. On top of that she fell, and had to have surgery. After she recovered from the surgery we went back to see her Alzheimer’s doctor. I was shocked when he told us she had had Alzheimer’s for at least five years.
Izzy is a Pom. She has a job to do and that’s to take care of my mom. She makes her very, very happy. She watches her, sits with her, and sleeps with her. Mom shares breakfast with Izzy. Neither of them eats dog food. Mom hasn’t forgotten she’s a person while Izzy doesn’t believe she’s a dog.
“Do you want your dog back?” mom asked me.
“I’m here four times a week,” I said. “I see that spoiled brat all the time. I’m good with her taking care of you.”
At first I visited my mom twice a week and bathed her on Mondays. Now I visit her four times a week and bathe her Mondays and Fridays. Izzy loves shower time. Her favorite part is when I lotion up my mom. That’s when Izzy licks the lotion off her legs.
After bathing mom sits on her chair in the shower, her towel wrapped around her, and as she dries off I start to lotion up her legs, back, and arms. When she gets out of the shower and is getting into her underwear and socks is when Izzy runs up and starts licking away.
I asked my vet if it was OK.
“A lot of times the store-bought lotions are kid-safe,” she said. “It doesn’t necessarily taste good, but you’re not going to die from it.”
“She can’t wait, although we don’t let her lick a lot,” I said.
“It must taste good to her,” she said.
When I was growing up my mom didn’t like kids or dogs. I grew up being raised by a mother who hated me. She never in a million years would have let any of this go on before. I don’t know if she’s forgotten all of it, all of the past, although that’s very possible. It’s almost like a gift from God now loving her like I’m loving on her and taking care of her the way I take care of her.
I get a kick out of it. It absolutely cracks me up.
When you have a parent who has Alzheimer’s you’re supposed to live in their world. I like her world, most of the time. It can be fun.
“Well, I went to Pick-n-Pay,” she said.
Pick-n-Pay was a Cleveland-area chain of supermarkets. There were more Pick-n-Pay’s back in the day than there were Fazio’s or Stop-n-Shop’s. But then the owner was murdered when someone tried to kidnap him. The last store closed in 1994, more than twenty years ago.
My mom doesn’t leave the house, never, no. “You went to Pick-n-Pay?” I asked her. One of these days she’s going to tell me she just came home from work. That’s how the progression of the disease goes.
A neighbor told me the best way to deal with Alzheimer’s was to not argue with it. She sees flying monkeys out the window? OK, what are they doing? What are they wearing? Where are they flying?
They see what they see. There’s no reasoning with it. It’s deteriorating your brain. Her peripheral vision is not there anymore. She only sees straight ahead. I don’t approach her from the side.
“It’s time to take a shower,” I’ll say
“I’ll take a shower, but I’m not going to get wet,” she says.
Or she’ll say, “I’ll take a shower, but I’m not taking my clothes off.”
“We can do that, but it’s going to be awful getting out of the shower with your wet clothes on,” I said
“Oh, yeah,” she said.
She sees me all the time. She sees my brother all the time. But, she may have already forgotten who my sisters are. Patty lives in Maine and never comes home and Betsy never comes over, although she came over for Christmas. We don’t know if mom’s going to be here mentally next year, so it was kind of maybe a final Christmas. It was horrible.
My stepfather Pete asked me to stay over one weekend after Christmas. He had to go to Florida. “Sure, can’t wait,” I said. What he forgot to tell me was the code for the ADT alarm system. Although she wasn’t in her right mind to set it, my mom somehow set the alarm. I sleep with her and at 4 o’clock in the morning it went off. My mom wasn’t in the bed. My heart went in my throat.
I found her standing in the hall by the back door. “Mom!” I screamed.
“Oh, my God, it’s loud, Jay.”
“What’s the code?”
“I don’t know.”
I wanted to freak out. My chest hurt and I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Lucky for me I punched in the same code for their garage door and the alarm shut up.
“I don’t know how that fool thing went off,” she said.
“You opened the back door!” She probably thought, in her little head, she was letting in the dog, and right away after that couldn’t remember a thing.
She loves having slumber parties and having me sleep over. One day I said, “Mom, I can’t, I have to go home and cook dinner for my husband,”
“You’re married?” She was surprised. But now she covers it, and says, “Oh, that Brian, he’s a good guy.” She hides what she doesn’t remember.
We were playing cards and I asked her, “You know who would have loved Izzy?”
“Nana Buescher,” I said. Nana Buescher was my dad’s mom. She died many years ago.
“I know, I send pictures of Izzy to her every week.”
“Oh, do you? And Nana loves Izzy?”
“Oh, yeah, she just loves that little girl.”
“How sweet is that, that she loves my puppy.”
Mom will sit and stare at Izzy, just stare at her, telling me how precious and pretty she is, how Izzy gives her a leg up.
One big problem we have with mom is getting her to take her medication. The medication helps, but sometimes she refuses to take it, especially if it’s the home health care worker trying to give it to her.
“I just won’t get out of bed whenever they get here,” she said.
“Why are you such a little stink?” I asked. “You have to have home care and you have to take your medicine.”
“I’ll kick them out,” she said.
“Mom, do you remember the doctor telling you that you have Alzheimer’s?”
“How do you feel about that?”
“That’s the hand I was dealt with,” she said, with feeling.
When the home health worker hands mom her medication she almost always takes it. She knows the hand, just like Izzy does, that isn’t trying to bite her.
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25% contributed to the Cleveland Animal Protective League. (Specify APL in notes.)
Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.