White Dog crawled up on the pillows next to me. It was 6:30am and Steve had just gone to the office to work on his schoolwork. "He is sleeping soundly now," she said referring to Oso. "Try to get some rest yourself."
I was exhausted. Oso had a really rough night and none of us faced the new day with restored energy. In fact, we were certain that Oso would not make it through the night to see dawn. As we waited for Steve's late night return from teaching I held the nearly comatose Little Man and listened to his ragged breathing. His eyes were open but unfocused. He was limp. For nearly an hour the White Dog Army huddled around him after respectfully touching his nose. Michael sat stroking his fur and tried to hold back tears. "I love you, Oso," he said over and over.
Steve and I sat alone with him after dog walks before bed. Oso was Quinn's "Mini-Me" and his end days are taking Steve back down Quinn's journey as well. It is not easy for him. We anointed Oso with rosemary as we do each night, "for sweet dreams." Steve tucked him in...neither of us was sure he would awaken again.
But at three am the night terrors struck and poor Oso was screaming and trembling and panting...beyond comfort. We were all instantly awake and wrapped him in our arms and paws. And so it went all night. He would fitfully fall into slumber only to bolt into another panic attack that would last twenty minutes before extinguishing itself in the comfort of warm arms and soothing voices. The WDA was unnerved and fearful.
Finally as the dark turned grey the little tortured soul allowed himself to be tucked securely into the stroller and gently rolled back and forth. There was a subtle shift in his posture as his muscles relaxed and his breathing become more normal.
I could not help but think in the darkest hours of the night about how many other family members were also sitting with loved ones, holding hands, brushing hair from brows, softly stroking sides. The many faces of dementia affects nearly 36 million people worldwide (according to the National Institute on Aging). Clinical signs of cognitive dysfunction syndrome are found in 50% of dogs over the age of 11, and by the age of 15, 68% of dogs display at least one sign. Cats, too, can develop dementia.
There is no comfort in knowing how many others share this burden of love, facing the demons and hellish reactions night brings all for the morningsong of joy that some peace returns. We are a sisterhood/brotherhood in which I pray each of you is spared membership. But I beg you to understand and quickly forgive if today we are a bit snappish or off our game or slow to react...
We are trying our best.