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Friday, June 15, 2012

Happy Birthday Dodger!

Dodger and I at the beach
 Dodger, a male golden retriever, came to us from a lady whose husband was at the rest home with Dad. She found an ad in the paper listing him with other dogs for sale to good homes. She herself had a golden puppy, her son's dog, who Mom adored, and Dad responded to with his Alzhiemer's.

At first, my mother was leery of a male golden, she had her heart set on a female, full grown and wished for one like that. That night, she gave in, she said, "call the number and find out about the dog."  I did, and then Mom decided we should go out and look at him. It was June 2010.

When we arrived, I sat on the ground and Dodger walked right into my lap like he had known me forever. He bonded with Mom who decided she wanted him right there. Deb, the breeder, told us that Dodger had been in a group home and was abused there and brought back to her where his Dad and brother lived with other dogs and animals who she had taken in that were abused.

We went out to Fleet Farm and bought a cage and dog food etc. That night, I worried about if I could take care of a dog in addition to Mom and looking after Dad. I couldn't sleep as it was added responsibility, and I almost told Mom  forget it. But I am so glad I didn't now.

Mom holding Dodger two years ago in June 2010
 We got Dodger in the car, and he jumped in the back seat like he knew us for the ride to his new home. He fit right in, and Mom was so happy having Dodger. He was her fourth golden. There had been two females, a male puppy they gave up, and now Dodger. 
Dad and Dodger before Dad died a few weeks later

At the rest home, he worked, he knew how to say hello to the inmates there in wheelchairs and those confined to bed. He drew a lot a smiles. One lady who had not talked in years started talking to him and petted him. The staff was amazed. Dad responded to Dodger very well, and talked and smiled and petted him. I would give Dad his leash to hold and it would make Dad feel normal again. Mom's nickname for all her Goldens is "putzie." That is what I call Dodger too sometimes.

Mom and Dodger at Christmas 2010
 My little niece still loves to pull his tail, play fetch with him with her stuffed animals, and crawl, poke his eyes, and kick all over him. He adores her even with that going on at her young age.

At first, Dodge would fetch a ball and bring it back to you, but got lazy after that. Dodger came with some bad habits we had to break him of, drinking out of the toilet, and jumping up on the kitchen counter. He stopped when scolded. Smart dog. Mom loved him, and she had us put him in a dog kennel cage at night, something I was not happy with. He didn't need it. She wanted him to have his own space when he needed it.  In time, when we got to know him and trust him, he slept in my room at night, sometimes on my bed, which would make Mom yell if she walked in and caught him. Dodge went exploring a few times when Mom would let him out and forget him, and I would freak trying to find him, but he would be okay.

When Mom found out that Dad was in the last stages of Alzheimer's, she started wailing with tears, and Dodger lept up and put his paws around her neck and licked her face to comfort her. During the week Dad died, Dodger knew, and came and licked his hand while he lay dying. After Dad died, he kept Mom and I going for the next year with the grief, then Mom died in September 2011 unexpectedly at Mayo.  He was very close to my Mom, Bernice.
The neighbors had Dodger for the week we were at Mayo Clinic. When I arrived home without Mom,  Mrs.Nicholson said Dodger had been acting so strange since Sunday afternoon. He knew Mom died from 350 miles away. I took him to see her body at the church and he led me to her. He whimpered when he jumped up on the side of the coffin to see her. My heart broke.

Since Mom died and we sold her house and divided everything up, I became Dodger's master. He has kept me going during the times when the waves of grief hit. Just the other night, something hit me and I lost it, and Dodger was right there comforting me with his kisses and hug.

"I am still on your bed, Jimmy!"
 If there was any reward after caregiving, Dodger is my reward. He keeps me going and is my constant companion. We take walks everyday in a wooded park nearby the place I am renting. He watches me while I tend the yard and garden. He loves to say hello to people and loves kids and elderly people in rest homes. In the Frisbee golf park in Appleton, he loves to chase Frisbees and not give them back to the owners. On trails, he will wag his tail and gives that puppy wag tail greeting that melts most people.  The other day at Lake Michigan he became a sand puppy after rolling wet in the sand. Our tub became a sandbox after washing him. He is getting a little grey on the face, but still is a big puppy and loves his Jimmy.

Jimmy, I rolled with sand on your towel and shoes, being a sand PUPPY!
 Yes, he is a great dog and thanks to Mom, is the last thing I have of her to remember her by.

Anybody thinking of getting a dog while caregiving should consider a golden. It will help you with the stress and grief thereafter.