Rescue me

I lost another dog, my beloved Bambino, on Aug. 3. He had a tumor in his sinus cavity, and it started to interfere with his breathing. He was still craving food and interested in taking walks and chasing chipmunks, but he had three bad nights of impaired breathing, so we asked our vet to make a house call and peacefully end his misery. He didn’t act miserable, but, as our vet said, “He is fighting for every breath.” I feel like I’ve been fighting tears ever since. The grief has taken me by surprise.

Bambino with Mom - probably Christmas of 2007.

Bambino with Mom – probably Christmas 2007.

I don’t know if I took his death extra hard because I’m already in a low-level perpetual state of grief or if I have been feeling more gloomy about Mom recently because I had a sick dog that I knew was going to die of cancer – and then he died. It’s not important to know, I suppose. But I wonder. I imagine there is an uncomfortable truth influencing lots of my thoughts: that we can humanely euthanize our pets to end their suffering. Meanwhile, Mom’s condition now looks like suffering more than it ever has. And there is nothing I can do to change that, except hold her hand and stroke her head and hope my touches don’t scare or annoy her.

And then last Sunday, on Aug. 23, we adopted a new beagle named Carrie from a shelter. She had been caught as a stray with her presumed sister, and someone adopted that sister rather than keeping the two together. We had been watching the shelter’s site for a few weeks, and when we saw her story, we felt compelled to scoop her up and give her a home so she wouldn’t be lonely. Her arrival caused a night or two of anxiety for all of us (including Henry, a beagle we adopted from the same shelter a year ago), and I worried that perhaps I had been hasty in rescuing what I called this tiny tortured soul. But we have all adjusted nicely and it is comforting to have her around. Her cuddles are good medicine.

Laura feeds mom

Laura feeding Mom her lunch – French fries and a chili dog.

In between those two events, my siblings and significant others and nieces and nephew came to town for a family reunion with my dad and stepmother over a long weekend. This created a rare opportunity for Mom and her immediate family to be together. We all – sister Laura, brother Jeff, nieces Julia and Lily and I – visited Mom for lunch on Friday, and most of us took turns feeding her. Mom was silent for the most part and barely opened her eyes. There was nothing much to celebrate, but it was an occasion to be marked in our lives and in Mom’s.

Bonnie in her new room at the Alz center, August 2009.

Bonnie in her new room at the Alz center, August 2009.

Laura and I met again on Monday, after everyone else had gone back home, and fed Mom her lunch. One doesn’t want to be too negative while visiting a very sick loved one. But truth be told, it is a rather dismal affair to spend time with Mom at this point in her illness. I am still visiting once a week to feed her at least one weekend lunch. Today, her eyes were more open than usual and she looked at me from time to time but didn’t register that she was seeing anything significant. She dutifully ate and drank. I said encouraging things to her. She smiled just once. When she was done eating, I rubbed lotion on her hands and forearms. She knitted her brows, and I tried to massage that fretful look off of her face.

I think about this blog quite often, but sometimes I put off writing a post because I am tired of being a downer. While fixating on what kind of post to write, I missed a milestone – Aug. 28 marked the sixth anniversary of Mom’s move to the Alz center.

It’s another one of those things about Mom that represents the passage of time and is not worthy of celebration – except that her experience there has been as good as an Alzheimer’s patient’s nursing home experience can be. That is something to be thankful for.

5 comments so far

  1. Suzanne on

    Emily, thanks again for writing this blog. We have been on somewhat similar paths this month! When we learned of our beagle/bassett’s cancer and tried keeping him comfortable for a week, it reminded me so much of watching my mom in hospice at the end of her life. His suffering reminded me of all the feelings I had watching her suffer. We realized we needed to let him go, and our vet paid a house visit. And, we got a new dog from the shelter and also wondered if we had acted too soon! But she is starting to settle in and I think all will be well. Glad you brought a new poochie home, and I’m thinking about you and your mom.

  2. David Hoover on

    I agree this is not a downer. This is, instead, hopefully cathartic for you and informative and eye-opening for many others. Keep it up. We all need it. xxoo

  3. momsbrain on

    Suzanne: Very interesting about our similarities. I’m glad to hear Lucy is settling in! And, belatedly, I’m sorry about your mom’s suffering. I alternate between thinking Mom can’t possibly be suffering because she has no awareness and then thinking we really just have no idea what’s going on the damaged Alzheimer’s mind.

    David: Yes, cathartic and therapeutic for me. Thank you, dear.

  4. Julie McDonald on

    We thought we might lose our Mum on Wednesday and Thursday this past week. After having gastro at her nursing home, she was hospitalised and her heart rate soared through the roof to 200 bpm then plummetted below 50, time and again. Poor love would go into a full anxiety attack as this was happening as she didnt understand what was happening.
    They seem to have slowed her heart so it doesnt get so high but there is no way of curing this irregular heart beat – only by pacemaker and that is not an alternative with AD. Its been a big few days but she should go back to the home tomorrow where she’ll be more comfortable. We dont know how long her heart will behave.
    Im sorry about your dear dog but also glad you have rescued another one to love.
    Thank you for sharing your mother’s journey.

    Joolz xx

  5. momsbrain on

    Joolz, I’m so sorry I haven’t responded to your comment. And that you are experiencing these frightening episodes with your mom. I hate to hear of her anxiety – and I imagine that caused you quite a bit of anxiety, too. As another daughter and I agreed today at my mom’s nursing home: It’s a long road. A really long road. Take care and thank you for reading and commenting.

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