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Friday, 1 December 2017

Animals and dementia

I looked at this topic in 2009, but I do think that its important these days too


There are lots of stories these days about using animals in houses and care homes, and it was only after talking about this with my wife, that some memories came back about our pets at home.

For years we have seen Guide Dogs on our streets, supporting those with eyesight problems, and now we are hearing more about the power of animals in the lives of those who have a long-term illness etc 

I heard the story of one dog, who was able to detect when it's owner was going into an epileptic fit, and would get between the owner’s head and the ground, to prevent injury to its owner. 

These days we hear about Dementia support dogs etc, who are trained to support those living with this illness, in the same way as support dogs assist those living with eyesight problems

There are also dogs which support those with chest problems, and  I personally find this to be amazing, but I think it’s because people have now finally realised that animals understand more about us than we thought perhaps 10 years ago.

It’s amazing just how far dogs have gone in supporting people who are ill these days. The way they can detect cancer, or the way an animal can detect that a person is going to have a fit, is inspiring.

I wonder how many people would have thought of this in the past


Looking back 

When this illness was starting to kick in we had a cat and a dog, who got on quite well.

 At first the cat would come and either sit beside me on a seat, or would lie next to me on the bed, when I was worried about what was happening. Sadly, she passed away and was a great loss not just to the humans, but also Ben our Labrador cross dog.

Ben had his own problems with his nerves, as he did not like loud noises, something that I was able to understand, when my own hearing became acute due to the Lewy body dementia.

But Ben would follow me closely when I was being diagnosed, and never let me out of his sight.

Although this was nice, it also drove me mad at times, because if I went to the bathroom, he would be sat outside the door when I came out.

 When I was on my own at times, I would lie of the couch downstairs, where I could lie flat, and occasionally I would wake up to find him snuggled up alongside me, then he would disappear as if he was embarrassed to be found there.  We wondered if it was to help me feel secure, or whether he thought I needed support, or he was keeping me warm, something we will never know

He would do the same if I was extremely tired and went to lie on the bed for a rest, he would be there as soon as my eyes were closed.

When I had problems seeing things during the day like hallucinations, I knew it was just my brain because he could not see anything, so I felt safe. This helped me to cope in the early days.

Even if I was up during the night with my bad dreams and nightmares, he would get out of his bed and sit by my feet, until I went back to bed.

After the diagnosis it became apparent that something was wrong with him, so we took him to the vets, where we were told that he was ill, and they would need to do some tests.

 This was distressing for me as we had become so attached. We were then told that his liver had started to fail, and it would be better to put him out of his misery as he would have been struggling.

After talking to the vet later she told me something which left me in tears, because it was so moving, and as she said, was possibly very true.

I was told that Ben had been ill for over two years, but it had not been obvious to us, but once I had been diagnosed, he simply gave up the will to carry on. In other words, he knew I was ill and looked after me, until I was diagnosed and on medication, 

I had been in the medication for around 6 months when he died.  I never got over this, as he had been a close companion for nearly 18 months while I was going through the diagnosis, never letting me out of sight, unless my wife was around.

This broke my heart, because he was not just a dog, he was a big friend, too me 

The odd thing was that after I had retired we had walked miles together and kept each other company, during the long days of the diagnosis, he was walking slower but always alongside me.

How can anyone say that animals are dumb and don't understand.

I confess that I really miss not having an animal in the house, because they can support us in many ways these days.

Not only that, but having a dog means that you must go out and take it for a walk, which also means that you yourself get exercise

I cannot have another dog now, because it would tear me apart now if anything happened.

But I understand, that when you have a cat or dog, , they ask for nothing, but give you 100% unconditional affection and attention in return for a home and food.

Life would be different without our furry friends, bless them

Trevor Jarvis Friend and Mentor

I had stopped writing this blog because of difficulties putting words down on paper. But after finding a new software, and way of doing th...