BARRY’S JOURNEY – Dogs for the heart.
Dogs in his life
A few weeks ago, Barry had an extra special four-legged visitor named GoldenGirl Getty. GoldenGirl is a very well-trained golden retriever therapy dog who is busy doing all sorts of things! She listens quietly as children practice their reading. She helps at the airport with autistic children flying for the first time. She is smart and oh so sweet!
When I first met Barry, he had a golden retriever named Dame. I fell instantly in love with her and she accepted me right away into their lives. Dame was like our child and we took her everywhere with us. When Kelly was born, Dame would quietly place herself in front of the baby when anyone came to visit. She was going to make certain Kelly was safe. Dame was the model for Harriet in my first series of picture books. We both loved Dame so much and were heart broken when she died at age 16. I still have her ashes and hope to spread them on Rose Lake in The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness someday because Dame loved canoe trips best of all!
Next came Daisy, another golden retriever, who was the perfect dog for a growing family. She helped our kids learn to walk, she was patient and oh so tolerant of toddlers. Daisy wasn’t the smartest dog in the world but we all loved her. Then came Carmel the cat who thought she was a dog and would try to jog with me if he was outside whenever I left for a run. Barry just tolerated Carmel in the beginning, but by the end of Carmel’s life, he loved him as much as we did.
Our last dog was Lily, a mutt the kids and I brought home one day from the Human Society without discussing it first with Barry. Barry was really mad, rightfully so, because I didn’t run it by him and the kids were already in love with Lily! He did not want another dog because we already had Daisy, Carmel and gerbils that were multiplying each and every day! Barry told me he would never do anything to help with that dog. EVER! But as it goes with dogs, Barry fell for her, too, and Lily became a long-time member of our family.
Lily was a wild, energetic dog that needed long runs and jobs to do. She policed the yard, watching out for foxes, wild turkeys and deer. Each night she lay on the floor next to my side of the bed, alert to my every move and waiting for morning when we would go for a run. She had so many run-ins with porcupines at our cabin that she needed to be on a leash or tied to the deck with a rope. She really hated porcupines!
Obsession with Lily
After Daisy and Carmel were gone, there was just Lilly. As I look back, the first signs of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) came out in Barry when he became obsessed with Lilly at the end of her life. She was almost 18 years old and Barry would spend most of his days trying to feed her. He made her special meat loaf with ingredients from an expensive grocery store. She had a problem with her teeth, but at the time we were too broke to bring her to the vet. So Barry went to the pet store every day to figure out things she would eat or things we could do to help her teeth. All this was time and energy not spent on helping me with our business.
I had no idea that an obsession like this is an early sign of his form of dementia, and I was irritated with him. I loved Lilly, too, but I also knew it was time for her to go. She was thin, tired and showed signs of dementia herself. She was one month shy of 18 years when I finally told Barry that it was time to put her to sleep. It was a hard day for all of us. But it must have been really hard for Barry because now what would he do with his time? His mind was becoming confused but none of us realized it yet. It was a few more years before we discovered that Barry had FTD.
But now here we were at the care center where Barry lives and GoldenGirl Getty was trying to comfort him. Barry had a hard time at first focusing in on her until she jumped in bed with him. Then he seemed calm as we helped him pet her. I wasn’t sure if it was because he had a little cold or something, but there were tears on his cheek as GoldenGirl laid next to him. We won’t ever know what he was feeling, but I like to think he was remembering our past dogs that he loved so much. And maybe he was touched and comforted by a body lying beside him. I think when I visit from now on, I will lie next to him and read the newspaper or just listen to music for a while. I personally know that it is pretty lonely not having a body next to you — whether human or dog!
Thank you GoldenGirl Getty for your visit!