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Topic The Caregivers' Dog - my story Go to previous topic Go to next topic Go to higher level

By Marilyn-NJ On 2013.08.27 20:18
My life has not been my own for the past eight years. I am the well spouse of a sweet, gentle man stricken with Parkinson’s disease. The disability hit David when he was in his mid-fifties just when we thought we were going to enjoy some quality times together. College tuitions were behind us as was one wedding celebration, as well. No one was more shocked than I to learn that his sudden irrational driving and slow movements were symptoms of Parkinson’s. So what are a few tremors? People live a long time with it for everyone I ever saw (maybe not for Mohammad Ali and Michael J. Fox) were elderly. But we weren’t so fortunate. David’s disability was virulent. So while eight years is not a lifetime, it rapidly took him to what we now know is late stage progression.

The disease is relentless. Sometimes I’m just not sure who is suffering more – the Parkinson’s patient or the spousal caregiver. Little by little it robs you of mobility, clear speech, strength, balance, peaceful sleep, and your livelihood. Steps are an issue, showering is an issue and independence becomes an issue. Retirement comes early – but not necessarily for the well spouse. Social engagements and even dinners out become just too difficult to orchestrate. You lose the relationships of friends whose lives fortunately continued on with all the normal stuff you can no longer take part in. Vacations and sightseeing are not doable. Caregiving and homebound life becomes the new norm.

Life goes on and you cope. Blessings take shape in our children and then our grandchildren and even in the shape of the family pet!

Some eleven years ago, my son and his then to-be wife became the proud owners of two miniature Schnauzers. Oscar, a highly-intelligent, twenty-one pound, protective guy with an unrealistic belief that he was a Great Dane, and Cosmo, his half-brother, a silver and white, kind and obedient little follower. There was never a doubt who the alpha dog was. So when my first grandchild (the grand prince) came along, it was no surprise that Oscar was not going to be baby-friendly. “Would you like to take Oscar?” they asked. Did I have a choice – of course I didn’t and for selfish reasons, I knew that Oscar would love living in our adult world and would probably be a good companion to David while I was at work. I was right! Oscar had not one minute of adjustment to his new environment. He was not confined in our no walls, open-area setup of a house and loved barking at the dedicated “walkers” sticking to their daily rituals in our adult community. He barked at every landscaper, every UPS truck and every bird.

Oscar became a wonderful caregiver-dog, too. He watched every struggled move that David took. Oscar stayed by his side while he rested and stood face out when he thought he needed protection. He also was on guard during meal times for many morsels landed on the floor just for him. It was a love affair; it was best friends for life.

But dogs age, as well. After Oscar began just lying around and taking naps deep in the walk in closet, we knew something was wrong. They discovered a heart murmur and after a visit to a veterinary cardiologist (I kid you not) we learned that he had congestive heart failure. He was on “borrowed time” at this point for valve replacement for dogs was just not an option. I carefully and gently told David. He cried.

Many medications were prescribed (including Viagra which was originally intended as a heart med). He seemed to be re-bounding but it didn’t last long. We discovered that Oscar was also badly diabetic. No surgery for the heart and no oral medication for the diabetes. Insulin shots twice daily were prescribed. Caregiving to both my husband and his devoted pet were just about too much for me to bear. I cried.

But, like always, I picked myself up and did what needed to be done. I’m careful not to shoot insulin into the human and careful not to give PD medication to the canine. And so it goes. It’s sad to watch both of them not be well and not be spry. I am nervous about the “what if” on both their parts. I know it will kind of be a race to the finish and I trust that each in his own way comforts the other. Whoever would guess that an accounting background would eventually lead me to the most difficult but truly righteous role of caregiver?

I wrote this on Monday and on Tuesday morning, I had to put Oscar down.

By olpilot On 2013.08.27 23:48
Losing a family, and they truly are, is very hard. For the years it took before my diagnosis my constant companion was a.strange little guy, part beagle, part corgi we rescued from a vet tech school. He was with us 12 years almost to the day., it is hard to watch anyone deteriorate, human, canine, or feline. One of two cats we have, sisters together since birth, is in early kidney failure, sometimes our home seems more like a hospice for old animals, but they have all brought so much to our lives, and I hope we made theirs the best we could. Everyone of them has a special place in my heart.
I am sorry for your losses

By lurkingforacure On 2013.08.28 10:03
I am so sorry for your, and your husband's loss of your beloved dog. There are no words that can really help, just know that you are not alone. Years ago my vet suggested we planted a tree in honor of our dog that we lost to cancer, and we did that for him, and the many other pets that have followed...kinda running out of room at this point:)

There is a lovely book called "Dog Heaven" which we got for our youngest, and even though written for children, I found it very comforting to me. Perhaps it might help you as well.

By LOHENGR1N On 2013.08.28 12:09
My condolences to You and Yours on the loss of your families caregiver. They give us so much and ask so little in return. I'm sorry there's nothing I can say to ease the pain or fill the void.

By carman96 On 2013.08.28 12:11
So so sorry for your loss.

By parkinit On 2013.08.28 16:43
Marilyn -

Your words echo in my mind as pets are part of the family. For you to be burdened with caregiving for both . . . WOW. Your strength amazes me.

For your loss, I feel deep sadness for you even though I don't know you. Our pets become our "social life" as we become more and more isolated due to our inability to go out. They are the comedy club we cannot attend, they are the grandchild's play that we missed, They can even be the opera we don't attend as they howl with a siren in the neighborhood. They are the sports event we can participate in as we toss their toys for their retrieval. I'm sad for both you and your husband.

And then . . . you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep on keeping on.

God be with you and strengthen you.

By Freespirit On 2013.08.29 09:06
Thank you for such a sweet story; so well written.
I am sorry for your loss, but so glad you and David had the joy of this special relationship with Oscar.
We have a Collie and she is very protective of my husband as well. It is something to witness.

By Marilyn-NJ On 2013.08.29 17:07
This is the most amazing blog-site I've first to discover after all these years. I've over-burdened friends and colleagues with my trials and tribulations and it's the contributors here that just get it...... unfortunately for us all. I thank you!!

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