Dog dementia is for the birds

Don't let the face fool you: he's anything but innocent

If you know me, you know I love my dog. Caring for Chester has been a practice in parenting for me and Sarah (we share custody). Yep that’s right, the person who used to scoff at people who would include their dog’s names on the family Christmas cards is now comparing having a dog to parenting.

Through the Eyes of a Dog – an article I wrote for The Daily Awe – sums Chester up in a nut-shell. But the Chester we know and love is changing. At almost 9-years of age, he is now considered to be a “senior” and is aging rapidly. He’s had white “eyebrows” for quite some time now, but only recently the effects of his aging have shown themselves in other ways beyond a whitened brow.

Chester has dementia. A disease I thought was reserved for humans can, in fact, affect our canine companions. Dog dementia isn’t nearly as funny as it sounds. Chester’s sleeping patterns have been disrupted: he no longer sleeps through the night and lately he doesn’t like to sleep in bed with either of his Mammies. For a dog who ordinarily doesn’t leave our sides, this is so out of character. Formerly house trained, he’s now taken to using the living room as his personal toilet. This isn’t something “normal” Chester would do — it’s something that old Chester just gets confused about. Patience has always been a requirement when caring for this impish dog. Now patience has taken on a whole ‘nother meaning.

Chester with his best friend, Sandy

Whereas I like to sit and talk about how I feel about things, Sarah likes being able to take action and “fix” them. So now she’s got Chester taking a daily dose of supplements — including melatonin to help him sleep.  It sounds ridiculous, but having a dog who doesn’t sleep and who now stares at the walls instead of licking your face like he used makes you sad enough to want to try anything, including giving your dog ginko biloba to improve his memory.

We know the life expectancy of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is 10.7 years, which would mean Chester has 1.7 years left of life. Although the thought that he won’t be with us makes my chest feel extraordinarily heavy, I know what we need to do: enjoy him while he’s here. Keep on enjoying the entertainment & laughter he brings. One thing having a dog has shown me is that huge amounts of love can come in small packages. Small, sassy, furry packages.