Adventures in Dementia*land: Part XI

Heroic Efforts: When Loving a Dog is Not Enough

We thought that we were going to move her last summer. But then there was a court hearing. Much to our surprise, when she was served with notice that she could object to her son’s nefarious plans to move her out of her home, our mother, did, object. She completed the form left for her by the official-server-of-official-documents. She put the completed form in an envelope. She addressed the envelope. She put the envelope in the mailbox. This is no easy feat for a person with an eroded sense of cause and effect, but she did it.

"Joyful Woof" was the name of my mother's last dog

“Joyful Woof” was the name of my mother’s last dog

And there was a painful, poignant hearing at the local courthouse. My brother attended. When it was my time to testify, I was called (given that I was three thousand miles away). No one knew when the call would come, if it would come at all. We were told that the hearing would last 45 minutes, tops. Two hours into the time scheduled for the hearing, while sitting at my local public library trying to get some reading done for some upcoming seminary class, the phone rang. It was the court. There was no time to even move from the little oak polished carol next to the window. So I testified, in a loud whisper, that the whole courtroom, including my mother, could hear. It was horrible.

Not nearly as horrible as the fact and the aftermath of my mother’s beloved dog being nearly-poisoned by my mother’s neglect regarding her disposal habits of food and cigarette ash (when combined are quite toxic to a dog, who cannot stop herself from rooting through the garbage for tasty treats). Not nearly as horrible as my mother’s loud, audible gasp when the judge asked my brother what he planned to do with the dog, who was still alive, but incapacitated from the nicotine-induced seizure, were he to move my mother out of the house.  (We had tried to find someone to adopt the dog, but it was no easy task and all roads led to nowhere on that one.)

My mother’s love of her dog was, we thought, the only thing keeping her alive. It turned out, that was not true. We found that out not when we moved our mother out of the house, because we ended up not doing that until four months had passed after the judge had given permission. No, because the beloved dog, who once tried to bite me and my mother defended the dog, not me, became too ill, suffering from the aftermath of the poisoning.

a banner hanging in the town my mom used to live in

a banner hanging in the town my mom used to live in

In the end, we had her put to sleep, heart-broken at her pain and at our decision. And my mother, who looks longingly at the framed photo of the dog that we make sure is always near, did not seem to notice all that much.  A little.  But not in the life-threatening way I thought she would.  A few questions for a few days, then, as with everything, having a dog receded into the inaccessible recesses of my mother’s mind, becoming a memory, and then, only when cued in.

So we didn’t move her then, at the end of the summer, even though the courts said we could. It was such a hard decision. My brother, who makes these decisions in concert with me, but takes the lion’s share of the responsibility, held out such heroic hope and such heroic loyalty, casting our lot with keeping in her in her own home for even a bit longer.

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