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The elderly lady and her little dog lived alone in a quiet neighborhood. Their house was small and cozy. Now in her 90s, the woman rarely left her home, as she had given up driving years ago. Her sister visited often, bringing groceries and dog food. She kept the pantry and refrigerator well stocked. The house was always tidy and appeared clean. All seemed well, but it wasn’t. You see, the elderly lady had dementia.
During one of the sister’s routine visits, she noticed that the dog food was not being used. Come to think of it, she hadn’t seen the little dog for some time now. When asked as to the dog’s whereabouts, it seemed that the elderly lady had put her in the kitchen sink for a bath, but the dog had become frightened and jumped to the floor, “injuring” her front leg. The elderly woman remembered putting the dog in a pet carrier for “safekeeping” but didn’t remember what had happened after that.
A frantic search of the house ended in the guest room where the sister found the dog still in the pet carrier, weak but alive. As the sister was an acquaintance of mine, she quickly called me for guidance. My reply – Get her to me – now!
Less than an hour later, I met her at my gate. In the pet carrier lay a small gold and white terrier. She wearily lifted her head, looking deep into my eyes as if asking for my help. “I’m here,” I assured her. “You’re going to be OK now.”
The sister acknowledged the fact that the little dog named Josie would no longer be safe living with the elderly sister. I agreed to take Josie as my own. Through tears of gratitude, the sister thanked me. I gave her a hug, then darted for the house, clutching tightly to the pet carrier containing my new little charge.
I spoke her name softly as I lifted her out, holding her gently in my arms. She was thin and dehydrated, weighing only about 10 pounds. It was obvious that her front lower leg had been broken in the fall and had healed improperly.
Well, little Miss Josie, where do we start? Fluids, a hot meal, warm bath and lots of love; that’s where we’ll start!
She began her road to recovery immediately. Now clean, with a full belly, wrapped in a cozy blanket, she started to adjust quickly to her new home. She was a sweet-natured little girl, appreciative of the abundance of attention being given to her. It wasn’t long before she was up and about, playing with her new roommates. A few months after her arrival, all symptoms had disappeared except for a slightly crooked front leg and a minor limp.
As for the elderly lady, she now resides in a very nice retirement home where she is receiving medical care and 24-hour supervision. Her sister wisely chose a facility that is home to several therapy dogs and a few cats for the residents to enjoy.
Josie’s story came very close to ending in tragedy through no intentional neglect or abuse by the owner. Please, when checking in on elderly friends or family members, check their pets as well. This will prevent Josie’s story from happening to anyone close to you. The diagnosis of dementia affects not only the patient, but also friends and the family pets.