Buddy was my first dog and is even dearer to my heart because he is a Senior Concerns’ dog.
Ten years ago Buddy was rescued from the pound by an employee of Senior Concerns. Three years later Buddy’s owner had to return to Hawaii to care for an ailing family member and allowed my husband and me to adopt the dog.
Our days have been so full with Buddy in our lives. I love our morning walks, and through Buddy I really did learn how to stop and smell the roses.
I also learned the real value of “things.”
Buddy ate my husband’s expensive leather shoes, broke the face of his watch, pulled at the tablecloth and destroyed my heirloom vase.
But these were only “things,” and Buddy gave us so much joy that none of it mattered.
Buddy We saw Buddy through a number of health scares, the most serious being a mast cell tumor that resulted in the loss of his tail.
I began to think then about his mortality.
Buddy is now 13. Over the past few months his behavior has become odd. He used to drool as he watched us eat dinner, but now he lies silently in the other room.
He has become disoriented at times. The other day I took him from the car and he began to make a beeline to our neighbor who always gives him a treat, but mid-dash he stopped and looked back at me like he forgot where he was going.
He sleeps more. Recently he stopped wanting to walk in the morning. For a week or two I would pull at the leash trying to get him to stay on pace with Rolo and I, but finally I just left him at home while Rolo and I went on our morning march.
Buddy sometimes stares blankly into space or at walls. He compulsively licks the carpet, over and over again. And he began having accidents in the house even though before he had been a champion of the doggie door.
I took him to the vet last week, and she also could see the blank look in Buddy’s eyes.
She’d read my column about dementia symptoms in humans that might be caused by a urinary tract or other infection, and she winked at me as she suggested we check Buddy for a UTI.
We did. Buddy did have a UTI, and while we are treating him for that, she also told me about canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome, which could explain the changes in Buddy’s behavior. Dogs with CDS exhibit changes in behavior just like humans with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
CDS is not part of normal aging in dogs, just as dementia is not part of normal aging in humans. Dogs, like humans, are living longer and experiencing more age-related health problems.
According to Pfizer Animal Health, by age 11 about one in three dogs shows signs of CDS, and almost two-thirds of dogs age 11 to 16 have CDS symptoms.
Just like human dementia, there is no cure for CDS, but drug treatment can provide better quality of life and slow the progression of symptoms.
When my friends ask me how Buddy is doing, I tell them he has doggie dementia.
They are floored.
It seems ironic that my dog would have dementia when my work at Senior Concerns involves helping families that have loved ones with dementia.
I know that what I feel now is the same as what a loved one of a newly diagnosed person with dementia feels.
I see now that his symptoms had been going on for a while and somehow I never put two and two together.
I am fearful of what the future will bring and can foresee that the course of progression will not be as predictable as I would like.
I want to learn as much as I can and do all I can to make his life enjoyable, but most importantly for now, I am so very thankful for the times when Buddy is his normal self.