Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dogs

Wednesday, May 4, 2011 11:34:59 AM

Eloise and Mercedes
Adrienne, Eloise and I went to visit my family last weekend. That is my brother and his wife, my sister and her husband and my mother.
Mom has been in a nursing home since Dad died in 2007. Her Alzheimer's has progressed along its usual lines. I would view my mother in terms of what she was loosing; every time I saw her, there would be less of her there.
Her memory left, her motor skills declined, and then she stopped talking. Now she sits in her chair and watches, a small smile on her face.
That smile is the clearest reminder of who she is. Mom always liked to laugh; at first, it was easy to get her to make those familiar sounds. They are not unique sounds; common, staccato “Ha ha has” but they are her “ha ha has.” No one else laughs like Mom and whenever she made them, I would be reminded of Mom and the woman she was to me.
Due to my illness, I missed a lot of her decline over the past year. I saw her the week before I went into Jewish, then not again for seven months. Visiting her was like looking at a photograph. She didn't react as I talked to her, telling her the latest news from our family, talking about how proud Dad would have been of her, or showing her pictures.
When I could drive, I would make the trip in one day and bring both dogs. Mom would watch Frannie, the blind cocker spaniel, as she sniffed her way around the edges of the room until she exhausted herself and fell asleep, her nose in some corner. She would talk about how amazing Frannie was that she could do so much without being able to see. Personally, I think Frannie's life was simpler now that she was blind, just as mine had become simpler when I became disabled.
I stopped taking the dogs last year because I wasn't able to do the trip in one day and no matter how much time we gave Frannie in the yard, she would always make a mess in my brother's house. And the problem with Eloise is she is large, black and hairy; she leaves tufts of fur wherever she goes.
But we brought Eloise with us this time as a dry run for our planned car trip to Vermont later this month. As we walked through the nursing home, the residents reached out their veined, palsied hands to her or patted their knees to get her attention, smiles on their faces. She was content to receive affection from these strangers, looking them warmly in the face as they stroked her head or patted her.
When we were in her room, Eloise put her head in Mom's lap. They made eye contact while Mom touched her face and haltingly said, “You're a good dog.”
That was the most I had heard Mom talk in along time. It was a miracle
If the idea of God's unconditional love is too hard to understand, the pastor from out church in Putney told us, think of the love dogs have for us. They wait for us to return and whether it is two minutes or two months, great us with the same enthusiasm and joy. They willingly seek to serve us, to be a part of our lives to celebrate our triumphs and console us in our losses. A dog will guard our homes (and trash cans), willing put its life before ours to protect us.
And for what pay? Just for us to let them love us, that is payment enough.
Please feel free to leave your comments below.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011 11:34:59 AM

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