Doggie Grover in 2020

Doggie Dementia

Grover’s Background
I was fortunate to live with six different dogs throughout my life. Only one doggie seemed to have dementia issues, and that was my recent fella, “Grover”. “Can dogs get dementia?” you might ask… Well, yes. I found that out by googling when life was most difficult with Grover in August of 2023. I had spent many a night up with him. Grover’s sleep-wake cycles were awfully disturbed, and he would have bouts when he would pant heavily and couldn’t get settled. Googling in that information brought up “Canine Cognitive Disorder (Dog Dementia).” So yes, it seems doggies can indeed have dementia. Thus, we will tell Grover’s story in this blog.

Finding Grover
One day at work in my University of Wyoming office, a student new to Laramie came in to ask how to contact the animal shelter, since she wanted a part-time job while in school and hoped to work with animals. I googled our Laramie animal shelter, found the address and sent her on her way. But before closing out of the animal shelter site, I made my first mistake: I clicked on the “adoptable pets” link, where I uncovered the cutest face ever. My second mistake: I forwarded the link to my daughter Teresa, who was home from college for the summer. The next I heard from Teresa was in the form of a picture from her phone of TERESA holding THE DOG at the animal shelter (left picture in the grouping below). We had a new doggie. The right picture below was taken after Teresa visited a pet shop and got a warm sweater for our little naked addition to the family. Doesn’t she look like a proud mommy?!!

Grover was part Poodle, and I think part Bichon Frise. Such a cute little boy and SO SWEET. The veterinarian guessed his age to be about 4 years based on his teeth. Grover had been homeless, wandering the streets. When he was dropped off as a stray, the veterinarians had to shave his whole body due to his terribly matted hair. They only left a teeny bit of hair around his face. So with that new “do”, he looked just like the Sesame Street Grover Monster (minus the blue coloring), thus his new name. Grover lived until he was 18 years old–pretty old for a doggie, yes?!

Husband’s and Doggie’s Dementia Coinciding
So Grover lived with us for 14 of his 18 years–a very full life. Grover’s dementia became noticeable in the last year in Laramie, while Denny’s dementia was worsening. One day in particular, I remember Denny coming upstairs to tell me something, only to go back downstairs and then come back up just minutes later to tell me the same thing again–typical of dementia’s short-term memory lapses. At the same time an interesting phenomenon was taking place: Grover kept running to the back sliding door, begging to be let out to go potty in the back yard. I would go let him out, see him run down the steps to the grass and potty. Then he would come up and I would let him back in.

Then Denny would come up again; tell me the same thing he just told me; then descend again to the basement. Grover would run to the back door and bark to be let out. I would go back and open the sliding door. This time, he didn’t go down to potty. He stayed on the porch briefly–looking confused– then came back to the door wanting in.

That scenario repeated SEVEN times right in a row… with both Denny and Grover. Denny didn’t remember he had just told me what he wanted to tell me; Grover didn’t seem to know why he was out on the back porch and immediately turned around and wanted back in. Seven times.

Sudden Move to Colorado Springs Hard on such a Doggie
A woman in our Laramie dementia support group gently noted that it would be kinder to put an elderly pet down than to take him to a different town as we were planning to do in the impending move to Colorado Springs following Den’s leg break. I couldn’t conceive doing such a thing; but in retrospect, she was probably right. It was VERY difficult for Grover to navigate a leave from his familiar territory.

Grover and I first moved in with my daughter Teresa upon our arrival to the Springs when we came to place Denny in a transitional nursing facility. Being at Teresa’s house was a shocker for Grover, since Teresa had cats. One of them–a big beautiful black cat named Charlie with gorgeous green eyes–was not happy having a little dog in his house. Charlie would hiss up a storm when Grover was near; but Grover couldn’t hear nor could he see well. So, he didn’t KNOW he was walking right into trouble most of the time. He also would try to eat the cat food and the cats would eat his food. Everyone’s tummies were mixed up.

ABOVE: Grover at Teresa’s house: He usually found the edge
of his bed…but didn’t seem to know to get to the center of it!
But isn’t he the cutest little thing?!!

Move to a Condominium
When the transition nursing facility in Colorado Springs told us they were going to be releasing Denny after his month-long stay there in 2023, we had to find something quick to move to, so Teresa found a condominium for me to rent that summer. Once again, Grover had to acclimate to yet another new place. There was an unfortunate problem at the condo: whenever I needed to take Grover to potty, I had to get dressed MYSELF and take him to the facility’s dog park area to do his business.

One time I was in a hurry, picked him up and ran down the sidewalk to the dog park. But one sidewalk square had a tipped lip that caught my toe and threw me into a fall. Usually I could run out of such a fall. You know, you run really fast and you can pull your body back up and not fall? Have you ever done that? Well, I had been successful with that a few times in my walks to and from work in Laramie, but evidently couldn’t run that fast in my current circumstance (probably due to Birkenstock sandals!), and instead felt myself falling… and knew I was heading down. What an awful feeling. I fell right on the arm that was holding Grover. He yelped and I hurt my hand pretty badly. Daughter Emma and her little boy took me to Urgent Care. No more running with doggies. Grover was okay though–my hand protected him. And if I hadn’t been holding him, I would probably have broken my wrist, so he protected me in a roundabout way.

Grover not only was normally confused, but now was particularly confused with the layout in the condominium. I believe he couldn’t see. His eyes looked whitened. So he was pacing most of the time trying to find me or his food or a bed. He never knew if he was sitting in his bed. He usually ended up sitting on the outside of the bed, looking like he was going to fall over at any time, as he had done at Teresa’s place.

One cute thing I just remembered was that he could see well enough for a while, anyway, to see bright reflections evidently. When he would go into Teresa’s kitchen or mine in the Condo, the shiny dishwasher made him get really excited and wag his tail. Not sure what he saw, but he evidently thought he had a new friend in each of our kitchens.

Holding Grover Miffed Denny
The last few years in Laramie and then in Colorado Springs, Denny seemed incensed that I held Grover so much. Denny even said he felt cheated on, like Grover was my love or something! I countered him by saying I was always jealous of Denny with the attention and the love his two little doggies Poker and Chips gave to him. They simply adored their master. I had always wanted to have a dog that loved me as much as Denny’s dogs loved him. Grover was the answer to my prayer evidently. But that explanation didn’t placate Denny in the least. All I can figure is that I must have short-changed Denny on hair patting in our marriage or something to make him feel jealous! I am not sure how to process that!

I remember when we were at home in Laramie, I ended up needing to sleep upstairs on the couch (with Grover) after a while, primarily since Denny’s snoring and coughing and his up-and-down constant going to the bathroom and back to bed kept me from sleeping. Especially during the years when I was working two jobs, I needed to get better sleep.

So Denny blamed Grover…and me…instead of himself for the situation. I didn’t sense that Grover ever held that against Denny (!), nor do I, except that I still feel guilty. Writing about it doesn’t make me feel better somehow. But as I am thinking this through, I am sure Denny was insecure with his illness and his dementia. He must have needed extra reinforcement that he was loved in spite of the difficulties. I was in a new role of having to do everything. I hope I was kind. I hope I was gentle. I did the best I knew to do in the situation at the time. So I choose to make peace with this, forgiving myself for whatever shortcomings I had/have! I am not perfect, darnit.

Grover was to have had his monthly grooming appointment the day AFTER we had to rush Denny down to Colorado Springs. I called to see if we could get Grover in before we left, but the busy groomer had no openings. So Grover left town in need of a haircut. Once I got settled in the rented condominium in The Springs, I found a mobile groomer who would work on Grover in her van outside my condo. She called while in the midst of the grooming and said my doggy was so nervous that she would not be able to blow him dry. So I brought some towels to collect him from her van, then placed him on the floor in front of my fireplace, trying to blow him dry with my own hairdryer. He was not a happy camper.

Move to my new Townhouse
Following Denny’s death, I bought a townhome close to Teresa and her husband, taking Grover with me into yet another new place to navigate. Grover’s hair was growing and tangling, in spite of my attempts to brush and groom him. I couldn’t get the hair cut around his eyes safely. I called around and NO GROOMER was willing to take an old doggie. So Grover was in a downhill spiral. I had him see a veterinarian once again, who did give us medicine to help our sweet doggie. Unfortunately, Grover could no longer see enough to even think that the dishwasher was his friend anymore, as he did in previous places. So that cute happy part of him was gone.

But as I was preparing this blog, I came across texts to myself when I was noting how often Grover woke me up. Neither that little dog nor I got much sleep in August of 2023. I tried putting his bed on my bed and tried to keep a hand on him, but if I lapsed into sleep Grover would inevitably get up and move around, resulting in falling out of the bed. So next I tried putting his bed in a leather armed recliner. I pulled the recliner up to my bed so that (1) he couldn’t fall out the front and (2) I could reach over and pet him often. But he would get up and walk off over the armed side of the chair, falling to the floor in the middle of the night when I was sleeping too deeply.

So I gave up trying to sleep in a bed that month, and instead took Grover downstairs, placing his bed on the floor by the couch, where I’d sleep under a blanket throw. Then I would awake frequently to the sound of him tip-tapping over the wood-plank flooring, pacing around trying to figure out where he was and where I was. I would go pick him up and take him out to potty on the back grass, but the yard was tilted downward, and Grover would fall into the fence–and I fell into the fence once too in my sleepy stupor. Then one night Grover couldn’t “go” and was in pain. That was the final point. I couldn’t handle it anymore, knowing Grover was so uncomfortable. It was time to put him down. I suppose it was way PAST time. And it took my writing of this to convince myself it was the right thing to do.

Saying goodbye to Grover
Daughter Teresa drove us to an emergency night veterinarian on September 1, 2023. It seemed appropriate that she held him as he passed, since she was the one who held him and loved him originally, bringing him to our home for his 14-year stay. Goodbye, sweet boy.

Check in Next Week...
for an upcoming post titled, “A Toddler Processing Dementia and Death”

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