Lewy Body Dementia, RR Dog Herd Stories, RR Dog Stories, Uncategorized

When Lewy Body Entered Our Lives: The Case of the Missing Dog

The Rescue Ranch is a rescue sanctuary that I co-founded twelve years ago to take care of special needs dogs.  They were just being euthanized or killed because no one would help them and that bothered me deep in my soul.  They had every right to a good life despite being abused or hit by a car or being kept in an infected shelter and contracting an illness.

Vets, rescue groups, shelters, owners…all email or call with situations to go save dogs’ lives (or to come pick them up or some just “dump” them on us) that require beyond-normal time and effort.

A complicated pregnancy, a spinal cord injury, broken legs, smashed mouths (many causes), Distemper, Parvo which are now curable (contact Kind Hearts In Action!), Brittle Bone Disease and so many other afflictions.  If the dogs had surgery, were fixed up, treated, they would be available for adoption or returned to their original referring people/organization.  That was the theory at least.

We found that no one wanted to put in the continued time and effort, and we would soon discover the very unexpected escalating expenses as they aged to keep them stable–not the rescue groups, not adopters, not their original families would take them back.  Since we had made the promise to help them and give them sanctuary, basically, we made the decision that they could stay at the RR until God called their names. Many are still living happily but it takes it toll especially on me, especially now. (We have a whole lot of furry friends that depend on the Rescue Ranch and its angels–will you become one?)

Mr. Lewy Enters the Picture

Taking care of the RR dogs used to be a partnership but as they say, Mr. Lewy, or Lewy Body Dementia, a terminal, in this case, early onset (not just seniors get it) brain disease came to land in the brain of my co-founder and primary benefactor of the Rescue Ranch, right before Christmas 2015.  His salary, bonuses, and lots and lots of overtime all went to pay for the overhead and bills, with help from angels to supplement with the dogs’ expenses. We gave up and have given up everything to help them all.  That said, all of that support evaporated in 2015.

“You have Lewy Body Dementia,” I remember the head doctor, or “Dr. Genius” as we called him, of the neurologic specialty group of rare diseases saying to him–herein called Someone–with not so much as a tint of emotion (diagnosed after five high-level brain scans over ten months time).  Huh??  “It is a terminal illness that lasts from two to seven years and ends when you die–usually because you lose the ability to swallow and you drown in your saliva…”

We sat there in shock and silence for about half an hour and then were ushered out only with a letter to turn in to apply for his permanent disability benefits. Needless to say, we skipped Christmas that year and I pulled the comforters over my head for what seemed like a month (getting up only to do the necessities of self and dog care).  He didn’t think he was sick so it was life as usual.

Well, Mr. Lewy is a bizarre disease with ups and downs, bizarre twists and turns, with unexpected moments of lucidity–or Someone coming back to himself for a few hours a day–but in a weakening body that is just falling apart.  (No one warned us that this disease takes apart the skin, teeth, gums, bones, and so many more parts.)

I am always on alert now pretty much–twenty four hours a day, seven days.  I wait for the moment every day or many times a day, to fix whatever Someone did “wrong” or broke or lost or or or. When I hear, “Uh-Oh,” my heart skips a beat and I start running. I never know what I am going to find.

Gracie is Missing.  What?

Early this morning, around 4:30 AM, I had to ‘string chicken’ as I call it as a vegetarian-sometimes-vegan (I say a prayer for each chicken that gave its life to feed these dogs–and no, I am not nutty)–basically making chicken breasts into small pieces to mix into the dogs’ dinners who won’t eat regular dog food. With special needs dogs, the need for fast food (for doctor or hospital days when I just cannot do high-level meal preparation) or people food or alternatives is paramount. Every night it is like having a dog restaurant to open and close/clean up and not every night is the same.  That said, it is better than syringe-feeding or hand-feeding each dog because they refuse to eat or drink.

I heard the back door open and Someone yelled IN, “Gracie’s missing.”  I was watching the early morning news, thought that Someone was taking a break in his recliner because all was quiet and I was just working on the chicken, not in the “alert” mode.  I didn’t know that he had gone outside at that hour.

At first, I was not too worried about Gracie since I figured she was probably in another room that Someone hadn’t looked in, happily sleeping.  If she was outside, the entire property has a seven foot fence so I wasn’t too worried other than about the cold weather.  The only concern I had was that her collar may be caught on a bush or maybe she was stuck in some mud because I didn’t hear any barking and there was no movement outside at all–not even a twig snapping.

My radar started to go off.  Dementia was somehow rearing its head and I needed to find out what was happening.  Gracie was not on the property and after a full sweep of the RR, she was not inside.

I ran outside with no jacket and in socks and it was freezing out (thankfully, we live in the South). I had to solve this problem fast.  I stood before Someone who basically looks back at me now with a blank stare and started bombarding him with questions.  He would answer me! despite his decision to not bother responding to questions any more.

“What happened? Where is she? Where could she have gone!!!??” I started asking in my calmest, loudest voice.  I had to force an answer out of a demented-in-that-moment person (he was not lucid) with only the tone and strength of my voice.  As a low-key, calm, pretty gentle person this is very difficult personally for me to do.

“I looked through the fence and she is outside the gate,” Someone said.  OMG I thought. “How did that happen!?”  We have two big gates to get out of the fenced area but you can’t see one from the other. I knew that they were both locked.  He said that he was trying to open one of them when he saw Gracie through the slats, who is nicknamed, “The Wild Child,” but she disappeared, happily running.  He couldn’t get the gate opened, couldn’t figure out how to get to her so he came in to tell me.

“Well,” he started again. “Last week when Gabe was here to cut the lawn, he closed the other gate wrong and it cracked.  He said that he would fix it in two weeks.”  Why didn’t anyone tell me?  Before the sun went down that same day, that gate would have been fixed, and most likely I would have had to fix it myself. Screws, saws, drills–I have to learn now to do it all–and I am still learning.  (Caulking and Gorilla glue solves a lot of problems! LOL)

I “ran” over to the other side of the property. Sure enough the bottom horizontal beam at the bottom of the gate was completely off.  The crack had weakened the beam and the screws and the cold weather must have contracted the wood enough for it to just come lose.  Gracie is only about twenty five pounds and fast as lightning and must have just run through the hole.

Thankfully, and Thanking God in that moment, that I give the dogs lots of bones and treats and love and attention every single day because they respond really well to me. I give them a taste of my dinner–one by one by one by one by one…–and share whatever I can.  So, when Gracie heard me yelling for her a few times over, she came screaming through the now open gate and ran past me and right inside!  I was so grateful.  It was cold and dark and she can’t really be seen at night, except that I made sure that her collar has reflective thread in it so I can see her outside at night–in the yard!

So, all is well for the next few hours while Someone sleeps then it starts all over again.  I wonder what today’s challenges will be! I cannot even being to imagine. You cannot plan for any of this. Sleep for me, will just have to wait.

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I hope that you become a Rescue Ranch angel, too.  My gift to you is my writing, sharing my stories, sharing my knowledge and my love but I can’t do this alone. I need virtual support, prayers, and your gifts really make the difference in being able to finish this mission that I’ve been given–or falling flat on my face.  I am trying as best I can with all that I am.

Link to help: https://www.gofundme.com/gofundmecomicantbreatheblogfeb2019

Grateful.

Jane

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

 

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Animal Health, Autobiography, Human Interest News, In the News, RR Dog Herd Stories

Animals Are Best Kept Inside During Extreme Weather

Wheather the temps are below freezing–or when they are scorching–all animals must be given shelter, a way to keep warm or cool, plenty of food and a way to access water that isn’t frozen or too hot to drink. I think a bone to chew on or something to do like having access to a cat climber should be included in the list of “must haves.”

As a life-long animal rescuer (since I was in junior high), unfortunately I’ve seen it all.  I have been called to help animals who have been left outside, chained to trees or to houses or to their dog houses, with rocks in their food buckets and solid ice in their water dishes.  Some, left out in the yard while their guardians are at work, have no shelter or are expected to use the concrete porches as their escape from frozen ground or blazing sun.  That is no solution! I gauge the situation with this premise. If I can’t walk across the concrete, or sleep on it, in the freezing weather or in the heat of the summer–in my bare feet–the animals can’t either. That’s my outside barameter.

Right now, all of the animals that I care for are inside, tucked into warm beds. Those beds are on top of pads to create a barrier between the bed and the floor, covered with quilts and soft blankets.  If they accidently roll over and uncover themselves, I get up and tuck them in again, sometimes getting up twenty times every few hours.  The barameter I use inside is that if my feet are cold or if I need to put on a sweater or a bathrobe, the dogs all need a way to keep warm, too, so I give out extra blankets and put myself on “tuck-in duty.”

The health risks and damage that can be done by not being conscious of the weather conditions and protecting your animals from it can either cost them a body part, cause an extended illness or worse, even compromise their little lives no matter how big or small or young or old that they are.  It can cost you a small fortune to go to the vet as well as a lot of time and heartache that could have been easily avoided if you just apply some common sense.

I have seen the damage that ice does to animals’ feet and mouths.  The ice or icicles can puncture or slice open delicate skin on their tongues or gums while the pads on their feet–that they absolutely depend on 100%–can be torn, burned, split open or worse and it is very painful.  Hot surfaces like asphalt and concrete can do the same damage. If you are not around to help them, they could bleed to death.  Even if you find them injured–as I have been called many a time to rescue these animals–the scene and injury can be horrific and it takes much TLC and nursing care to help them recover.

I had a neighbor who left his dog in a igloo dog house out in the middle of a full sun/full cold spot in his yard, penned in by a portable chain link dog kennel.  The dog had no shade, no protection from the cold of the ground, and cried all of the time–and the man worked very long hours.  He thought that because the igloo house was insulated that the dog was OK.  She was not.

During the summer, I would make ice balls and pitch them into the kennel area so the dog could cool down (they sweat through their mouths and foot pads since they don’t have sweat glands).  During the winter, I would make warm food balls and pitch those into the fenced area. (My throwing arm is pretty accurate now!) Eventually, I decided to go over and talk to my neighbor and wound up volunteering to babysit his sweet dog during the days and weekends so she wouldn’t be alone and in a compromised situation. (He didn’t want to leave her inside the house while he was at work, lest she went potty on the carpet, due to his long hours away.)

Lady went to the dog park with us, to the store, and really was loved like one of my dogs except she went “home” at night. I regret that I didn’t offer to just adopt her but people and how they care for and love their pets is a very delicate subject to broach.  I didn’t want the aid that I could offer her to be shut off.  I did as much as I could until we eventually moved far away.

Please treat your animals like your children.  They need you to be their caretaker, their guardian, to watch out for their well-being both physical and emotional.  If you cannot do this, please find a new home for your animals.  (Please note. Shelters are not considered a responsible way to rehome your animals.  Many shelters kill owner-surrendered animals within an hour of being brought in.  They are not a “pet hotel” in any form of the imagination.) Network with friends, coworkers, relatives to find a safe, happy place for your animals to live or to stay while you are away.

Thank you for caring about your animals–really about all animals–and try to live your life without leaving any regrets behind.

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About this blog

Created at the end of January, 2019, by a published writer and author for almost 20 years, this blog is both an outlet for Jane to share her knowledge about animals and dog and people health and products, but also to chronicle her journey as her husband approaches the middle and end of a journey afflicated with Lewy Body Dementia.

Unable to go to work because of the need to be on call/duty 24/7, expenses are extreme with a ranch of special needs dogs and a husband with a terminal illness. Every month a link will be in the menu above to offer help when you can.  It is impossible to provide for everyone’s needs without help.  To help, the link for Feb, 2019 is: https://www.gofundme.com/gofundmecomicantbreatheblogfeb2019

Please sign up for email notifications of new blog posts under the “Contact” button and click on “Like” after posts when you feel so motivated.  It is hard to be a caregiver of so many so having some virtual support and encouragement, prayers and all gifts would be very much appreciated.

Thank you for caring. Especially for caring.

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” –Anatole France

 

 

 

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Autobiography, Human Interest News, In the News, People Health

Caregiver Relationships Are Sacred: In Defense of B. Smith’s Husband

A caregiver seeking out a new relationship while their ill significant other is still alive is not about the sex.  It is about validating that they are a human being.

Since my husband’s devastating diagnosis of early onset (mid 50’s) Lewy Body Dementia (huh?) just before Christmas, 2015, I, too, would have judged Mr. B. Smith/Dan Gasby for having a new girlfriend–and bringing her into the family home to live–while his wife is dying from early-onset Alzheimer’s.  Not any more.

First of all, early onset means that not only is the person 20-40 years younger than those normally affected but it also can mean that it is fast-progressing and manifesting in unimaginable ways.  I know in the case of my husband, who will be called “Someone” hereafter in this blog, I struggle daily, sometimes hourly, to retain my own sanity, my own dignity, my own grasp of reality when dealing with the episodes when this disease rears its bizarre and ugly “head.” (Lewy Body is not a steady decline like some of the other dementias–it is erratic and bizarre and the person that was actually comes “back” for a few hours a day here and there–until the end.)

I am sure Mr. Gasby struggled to take care of things for a long time by himself.  He and Ms. Smith could have even had private conversations about his being able to move on when she either passes or gets to the point where her normal consciousness has left.  We don’t know what their personal arrangement is nor can we judge.  These situations are all different and all so very, very difficult on the caregiver especially, who is usually the spouse or significant other.

The decision to take on a partner is not about the sex.  Believe me, it is the last or next to last thing on your mind.  I am sure, being in the thick of it now, that it is about having someone to come home to, or to be at home with, who asks how your day is going, or to admire the beautiful day with or the stars or the yummy dinner you just made.  It is almost impossible to be a whole human being without anyone to give you a hug, a kiss, even just a simple “hello” or a smile.

My Someone doesn’t even remember my name anymore and decided a few months ago that there is no sense in responding to my talking.  Sure, he can hear me but he made decision to not respond. “Why bother?” he told his doctor. When I ask things like “Honey, would you like butter on your potato?” or “Sweetie, would you like to come and watch a movie with me and I’ll make some warm popcorn,” there is “crickets” for a response as he shuffles around the house, going from task to task to task, each never started and never finished but the messes are all left strewn behind.

The Someone’s who are afflicted with these neurologic illnesses become gradually like blank slates.  The person we loved and knew is being erased or is fading into oblivion.  With thirty or forty years left of my own life, I know there will be a future (after a few years to just recover from this experience). I don’t want to complicate things now by bringing in another love.  Quite frankly, I don’t even have a minute to go find one!

That said, someone else’s way to survive this maybe be the way B. Smith’s husband is choosing.  The primary benefits–and it is not sex!–is that he gets companionship from the new person, which can make him a better, refreshed, vibrant caretaker of his wife instead of what eventually becomes a depleted, exhausted, frustrated shell of a caretaker–and B. Smith gets another caring person to take care of her, her home and her precious husband.

Before you judge, please walk a mile in someone’s shoes.  I have walked half way around the world, or so it feels, and know what this feels like, what the needs are, and have learned not to judge any caregiver’s way of both dealing with the situation emotionally nor how they get through their days–as long as the afflicted person is taken care of in love and in honor.

Afterthought…You know what I miss alot?  Someone saying, “God bless you,” when I sneeze.  It kind of feels like you just don’t matter any more when that is no longer said but rationally, I know it is just a byproduct of LBD.

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I hope you come back regularly.  Between dealing with Lewy Body Dementia (a post for another time–but in a nutshell it is dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Bipolar, Depression and a bunch of others all rolled into one) and a small ranch of special needs dogs, some in wheelchairs, some with other disabilities (I will share their stories here, too), please click on the menu above this blog and give regularly when you can.

If you don’t have time to do all of that, please go to this link and leave a gift: https://www.gofundme.com/gofundmecomicantbreatheblogfeb2019  It will help me keep this ship afloat. I choose to spend this precious time with my special Someone–and I can’t leave to go to work nevermind relax or sometimes even sleep.    God knows, I don’t wish any of this on anyone so please understand that we, caregivers, all need to do what we need to do to just keep breathing sometimes.  It is that hard.

Thank you.

 

 

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