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Puppy dillema

northumbrian_k

Registered User
Mar 2, 2017
1,144
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Newcastle
I was pleased to see that @Banjomansmate and @Seaholly mentioned greyhounds. We got ours from Northumberland Greyhound Rescue in 2015, before my wife's Alzheimer's was diagnosed although not before I knew that something was going wrong. He has been a wonderful companion throughout my wife's decline and especially (to me) since she went into full time residential care. As a breed they are placid, gentle, loyal, clean and generally lazy. Lead walking is recommended but muzzling is often unnecessary once the dog has had a chance to settle in and socialise. It is hard to think what life was like before Knight came to grace our home with his quiet affection. In normal circumstances I would recommend a greyhound to anyone thinking of getting a dog.

So why am I hesitant about recommending a greyhound (or any other dog) in your circumstances? The answer has nothing to do with the dog and everything to do with dementia.

From my experience, the whole idea of getting a greyhound seemed at first to have worked out very well. My wife clearly adored him. I had initial jitters about leaving him in her sole charge and worried about coming home to a distraught wife and disappeared hound, but these subsided as she seemed to cope well for the few hours that I went out cycling once a week. When we went out together she was the one who walked him (always on the lead) although she did not do any of the basics like feeding, grooming or disposing of his waste. I did not mind as her obvious pleasure in his company was great to see.

But as her dementia progressed, so her relationship with the dog changed. She began to rely on me to take his lead when we were out together, saying that he pulled or that she had a bad arm (neither of these were true). She claimed that when I was out she walked him a few times and made sure that he was comfortable. Yet her tales of the people she had seen and spoken to were the same every week. She would overfeed him on tins of sardines and gave him chocolate. We had a trip to the vets on the day she fed him 3 weeks' worth of dental sticks. When I came home one day and found him trapped and forgotten about in an upstairs bedroom I realised that what she told me no longer had anything to do with reality. My trips out came to an end..

Much of this may not seem relevant to your specific circumstances. My general point is that, as dementia takes over, so the person's ability to consider the needs of other people or pets diminishes to a frightening degree. By the time I began to realise that she needed full-time residential care (which was the only and also the best solution) she had become so confused that she would tell me the dog was hers, or he was mine, or he was her dad's,. She would ask who he belonged to, how long he was staying and if we could keep him. For over a year she was convinced that someone had threatened to steal him, was watching the house and would break in. Her memories of going to the kennels to meet him and all the joy he had given her were gone to be replaced by an anxiety for his welfare or (at times) complete indifference.

None of this may happen to you but the sad fact is that as the burden of looking after your husband increases so will your responsibility for the welfare of any pets. Only you can decide if the pleasure you gain may outweigh any potential disadvantages.
 
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