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.
Through my parents’ recent ailments, we have for a time inherited a dog. The dog looks like a gray Toto from the Wizard of Oz, but that’s not important now. I had dogs growing upon the farm and had one precious one as a young adult on my own. However, moving around so much has its disadvantages and I haven’t had a dog for a while. Now that we have this little lady, I remember that I am a dog person and dogs are wonderful. They encourage you to exercise regularly and reward you for it by their sheer joy and the pleasure of not having soiled carpet. I have gotten in much better shape since we’ve had her. Also, they are good for the mind because whatever’s bothering you, you just take it out and pet the dog and play and the problems wash away magically. They are happy to see you no matter what you look like. And I am convinced within myself that God built into the the ability to understand us and help with what we need. There are also life lessons to be learned from dogs. One is to treasure the here and now. We tend to look back or ahead but now is what we’ve got, so now is when we chase the squirrel. Each moment takes care of itself. Here I am, world, what can I chew? Sniff? And we can learn that life happens. The dog needs to be walked several times a day, rain or shine, cold or hot. Whatever is going on, no matter the storms around us beating on all sides, ya still gotta take care of business. There are certain things you must just do. Whether you are sick or well, life continues and you have to attend to business. Time waits for no mammal. And a dog teaches about the responsibility we have to care for a friend, bathe and walk and feed them. You realize this animal’s life and well being depends on you being faithful in caring for them. Many relationships in life are like that. We have to nurture relationships by constancy, care, compassion, love, gentility, honesty, faithfulness, etc. Dogs also just love to play. They remind us that in life we need to make room for play. Work is important but play is also. Fun isn’t everything but it certainly is something and it is therapy for our souls. God knew what He was doing when he made dogs.