Today my kids and I brought Lucy (my Dad’s little gray yorkiepoo) in to visit him in the nursing home. It had been a week or more since we did so. The dog did not greet Dad, who had been her favorite place to be when he lived at home. She had to be held on the bed for him to pet and still then would not look at him. She looked away, very uncomfortable and very not wanting to be there. And my mind wonders whether dogs know something we don’t know or sense something we don’t sense or if it is a matter of him just smelling different in a different environment. And my mind races to wonder at these things. And because of this nonwelcome, my dad ended up wiping a tear away and felt she rejected him or didn’t remember him. His sadness was more than I could bear. And on top of trying to work with this scenario, my mom was unknowingly demanding my attention to serve her and take care of what she wanted. So, I smiled my best smile and kissed Daddy and took Lucy home, knowing that I would not be repeating such a visit that caused more sadness than happiness. And the pictures I brought him of Lucy will be a better happier memory for him than her presence. Sometimes empathy dictates action and something which sounds good on paper does not work well in life. And happiness should be emphasized in the last days, months of life and not press upon it that which brings grief. So, out of love for my Dad, Lucy will remain home. Sometimes, as with my children, you shelter those you love from harm sometimes. Wisdom is knowing when to do this. And I long to be wise and hope this is the trait I am using in this decision. I know my Dad better than anyone but Aunt Barb, his sister, and were he still of his full mind, he would decide this for me if our roles were reversed. Sometimes loving someone best is not forcing their hand to accept that which you think is best versus that which is indeed best for them. It is unwise and unloving and impractical to push a rope. You may momentarily win at something, feel good for a moment, and if you weren’t paying attention may think you were doing the right thing, but right for you may not be right for them. I am not talking about right versus wrong, which line should not be blurred, but right according to your prescription versus what the person you are caring for actually needs. My Dad needs peace and calm and love and visits that promote these things. Sadness is not one of those things. Lucy is precious to him and always will be but sharing her memory when she cuddled him and slept on his bed may very well be the best time with her. Moral: what is best for you is not necessarily the best for someone you are caring for. Taking care of them implies you are looking to their best interest and not your own. So, there it is. And I will continue to wonder at Lucy’s bizarre reaction and what that means, realizing that dogs understand many things we do not in ways they can only communicate to us through their behavior. My Dad taught me that.
My Grandparents had a black lab/dobermin mix named Sheba on the farm in SW Michigan. She was gorgeous and looked just like a big black lab, I rode her as a child around the yard. We were buddies. She shared her doghouse with me and I shared lots of back scratches with her, her favorite thing. She had the kindest eyes you can imagine and a tail that wagged happy to see me but if too close could feel like a whip. When Grandpa and Grandma passed and we moved onto the farm, we inherited Sheba. She was rally my dog, since I was outside the most, and because of the tail situation and the farm’s muddiness, she was strictly an outside dog. So she would help me in the garden by sitting politely on the vegetables and help mom out with her flowers by freshly pressing them every day with her big tummy and she would only bark if someone new came o to the property. However, she had her heroic and quite amazing deeds as well that I am writing down to celebrate. She allowed us to have corn because she kept every sneeky racoon and every hungry deer in the woods away from our rows of corn. She cornered opossum and chased them away before they could harm anyone or anything. She was my constant companion on long runs through the woods and fields. She knew the way and led me several times in the dark when I lost track of time. She walked with me to McCoy Creek park and swam in the creek with me. We had a beautiful friendship. And of course there was the one time she saved my life. We were almost to McCoy Creek one summer day after chores to cool off and three big dogs came running after us with snarls and barks, up to no good at all. Before I could even tell her to, she grew about two feet of hair and faced those three aggressive dogs singlehandedly. They decided she wasn’t worth trying and turned tail and ran off. I gave her my steak that night for supper as a reward. So, rest well in doggie heaven, my beautiful Sheba, most loved and noble of friends! I still remember and love you!