Geriatric dog

Mom’s beloved chocolate lab, Coco, is aging along with my mother. Her eyebrows and muzzle are gray; despite this, since she lost weight, she’s been more active. Still, the fact that we have no idea how old she is makes us feel nervous: how much longer will she be here? Coco was a rescue dog, saved by my vet-in-Pennsylvania sister, and delivered to my parents six or seven years ago. We hope she’s around 10, but don’t know. I finally made an appointment today for a medicated bath to keep the skin fungus she picked up somewhere under control. She’s supposed to have a bath every month, but what with Christmas and me only remembering to call when I wasn’t near my calendar, it will have been two months. I’d just made the appointment this morning when my in-town sister called to say that Bickford called to say Coco has a hotspot on her hind leg and it looked bloody. A hotspot is a place an animal will not leave alone and licks continuously until the fur and skin are gone. It can get infected, and they are very hard to treat successfully, because any medicine just gets licked off; ingesting cortisone, for example, is not good for the dog.

This particular hotspot is an old one that is probably flaring up because she hasn’t had a bath in two months, so I’m feeling a bit guilty about that. I wonder if Coco licks so much in part because she’s bored. She’s shut up in Mom’s little room most of the time, poor thing, which is why I offer staff members an hour pay if they will walk her. The bitter cold and snow here have dampened enthusiasm for walks, which I understand. I try to get her out of the room when I visit. She loves to play ball, though wears out much more quickly than she used to. Today I did take her out when I filled the bird feeders, which she enjoyed.

OK, yes, I’m back from the daily run to Bickford, along with a trip to the grocery store, the library, and the funeral home. This last was sad–after a successful leukemia treatment, this good lady died suddenly of a blood clot. MORE fodder for the Fairness Committee, wherever it is. Anyhow. I checked Coco’s leg, and was relieved to see that it was the same old hotspot, that it didn’t look any worse than the last time I looked at it, and that I needn’t take Coco to the vet before Jan. 31. I set that date for her bath so we could take my parents out for waffles (we’re out anyway by 8 a.m. to drop off the dog, so why not?) to celebrate Mom’s 88th birthday. I can just see her rolling her eyes about the number of years; she NEVER meant to get this old. Mom also mentioned today that her right eye has white stuff coming out of it. The eye has been red off and on over the last few months. When we called the doc before, they suggested Claritin, but now with what is probably pus forming in her eye, I think it’s time to try an antibiotic eye drop. But guess what? The doctor will want to see her eye, because she doesn’t want to prescribe without seeing it. Taking Mom to the doctor makes me feel exhausted just thinking about it; it’s time-consuming, hard work getting her into her coat, down the hall to the front door–which walking exhausts her, by the way–bring the car around, jump out, open her door, get her seated and buckled, put the walker in the car, reverse this process at the doctor’s office, up the elevator, wait wait wait, hoping Mom won’t need the bathroom which is back out in the hall, see the doctor after wait wait waiting in the examining room, and then back to Bickford. I can’t even write about getting her back in again–it just makes me too tired, and perhaps you are bored, but that’s part of the exhaustion: knowing exactly how it will go. And if the doctor says, yes, she needs eye drops, was this trip necessary? How about if I just take a picture of her eye and bring it to you? I asked the Bickford nurse to call and ask if we could just try antibiotic eye drops for a week and see if it clears up. Please? Pretty please?!

I saw Dad, too, and went through mail he’s had waiting for me, most of it throw-away because it’s medical EOBs (Explanation of Benefits) or notices that a debit will be happening on a certain date for the phone, etc. There were some tax forms I need to do something about; this is the first year that I need to think about taxes for my parents. Incredibly, last year Dad still got everything together himself for his long-time tax preparer. It hardly seems possible now, when he won’t even open envelopes to see what’s in the them. I did bring Dad and Mom each a chocolate chip cookie provided from a friend who likes to treat them with cookies as a small way to honor them. I only give them one at a time so Mom doesn’t feed a bunch of them to Coco, and so Dad won’t feel overwhelmed by a lot at once–do I expect him to eat them all today? What if they go moldy before he eats them? The responsibility of multiple cookies is just too great for him, but he loves one at a time. I was amazed to hear that he now prefers hot chocolate to coffee, and that in fact he never really liked coffee though he drank some in the Navy. Huh. Wonder why he raved about the cappuccinos from the local coffee shop?

I was pooped when I got home from all my running around. My husband and I unloaded groceries, I put together a casserole for dinner (heart healthy!), and admired the necklace I finished this morning. There is satisfaction at the end of a day like this, but it’s on the accomplishment side, not the in-the-moment side. Tomorrow perhaps a little more of that.

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One Response to Geriatric dog

  1. lindamortensen says:

    I understand the difficulty of transporting an older person all too well. I can remember my mom helping my very heavy (and partially paralyzed) grandmother into the car at her nursing home, hefting a wheelchair roughly the weight of a Looney Toons’ anvil into the trunk, and somehow finding room for my grandmother’s four-legged cane in the trunk, too. Then when we got to our house, an appointment, or a restaurant, it would repeat but in reverse order. I was too little to help much for many of the years my mom went through this routine, but I tried to help out as I got older. It was such a lot of work and always a little scary, too, wondering if Grandma would end up on the ground, and then HOW would we ever get her back up again from so low. When I think of all the weight my mom lifted over the years, it’s no wonder she has had back and neck problems.

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