Saturday, December 11, 2010

Babysitting a King Charles Cavalier Puppy

Saturday, December 11, 2010

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of babysitting a friend’s King Charles Cavalier puppy. Lilli’s absolutely adorable, and I was SO excited to have her here. Her mom dropped her off on Thursday evening and would be picking her up sometime on Sunday. I’d initially planned to do some writing and to start decorating the house for Christmas, thinking my husband would be there to help with Lilli. But he ending up going out of town on business until Saturday evening, so I was on my own.

Let me start by saying that no writing took place, and I didn’t do any Christmas decorating, either. Somehow, I’d forgotten what it’s like to have a puppy around. She got into everything. And she put it all into her mouth. I must have pulled at least five forbidden items from her mouth, including a paperclip and part of a golf shoe cleat. I don’t even know how a golf shoe cleat came to be in the house.

By the end of the day, after Lilli had been here only six hours, I was wiped out and decided to go to sleep early. Her mom had told me that Lilli slept with her and that she loves to cuddle. Well, Lilli ended up sleeping on my pillow, wrapped around the top of my head. I kept moving her, but she kept coming back. I ended up getting less than three hours of sleep that first night. And I had a stiff neck from the way I had to stay crunched up, so that she wouldn’t be pushed into the headboard.

On Friday and Saturday, it was impossible to do anything, because she wanted to be picked up, or she wanted me to throw toys to her. If I was moving from room to room, she was literally under my feet. Thank God for our dog, Maddie, who played with Lilli much of the time. The only time I got her to rest was when I watched television for an hour. She was content to lie on the sofa next to me and sleep. Otherwise, she was in constant motion.

And she was funny as hell! She barked at her reflection in the fireplace glass. In our little office, she spotted some Beanie Babies on the floor, and she barked and charged at them, until she finally figured out that they weren’t alive. I laughed a LOT last weekend! She challenged my Amazon parrot to a fight by barking incessantly every time she saw him. I had to watch them, because he climbed down his cage and was hanging off the stand, trying to reach her. Like I said, I couldn’t take my eyes off her for even a minute.

And probably because she was in a new environment, she had accidents. I mean she really had accidents. By Saturday evening, she’d peed in five different rooms and had also pooped five times in four rooms. And I was taking her outside at least every two hours! But then, a few hours after my husband came home from his business trip, Lilli outdid herself.

I was folding towels in the bedroom, and I had Lilli sitting on the bed, so that I could keep an eye on her. As I looked up from my laundry task, I saw Lilli squat. Realizing that she was about to pee, I said, “Lilli, NO!” Well, that scared her, so she started squirming to get away from me, peeing as she moved. I ended up having to wash the sheets, mattress pad, a down blanket, a fleece blanket and a pillow. I couldn’t believe what had just happened.

We were finally able to go to bed at 3:00 a.m. All my husband said was, “I thought she was housebroken.” Hopefully, it’ll be years before he finds out that Lilli also chewed the molding on the bottom of an antique desk. (I colored it with one of those furniture fixing pens.)

I love Lilli, and her mom’s a good friend, but I think I’m going to hold off on babysitting her until she’s at least a year old. For one thing, we’re getting new carpeting soon – need I say more? And I’d rather wait ‘til Lilli gets past that high-maintenance puppy stage, so I can really enjoy her.

Photo by Dedi Sharabi
Title: Bojan


Communicating with Dementia Patients

I wrote this article for Type-A Parent ( and thought it was important enough to repeat on my blog. As the population ages, dementia is becoming a huge problem. And the woman in the article has found a way to communicate with dementia patients, even after they stop speaking.

Here’s a link to the article:

It’s frustrating for grandchildren of any age to witness a beloved grandmother going downhill because of dementia. Unfortunately, lots of young people don’t visit their grandmothers because they’re uncomfortable with the disease. They often don’t know whether to attempt a conversation, or what to say when they do. It’s especially difficult for the young, because they usually haven’t had much exposure to dementia.

Well, Michelle S. Bourgeois, a speech-pathology professor at Ohio State, has come up with a method of making those conversations go a little more smoothly. According to an article in the November 21, 2010, issue of Parade Magazine, Bourgeois discovered that Alzheimer’s disease first strikes the part of the brain that controls learning and memory processes. But, because reading is a skill that becomes automatic, after doing it all our lives, patients are often still able to understand simple printed explanations.

For example, while volunteering for hospice, I had a patient who would ask about every five minutes when her daughter would return home. Bourgeois suggests using flash cards with simple messages printed on them. So I could have printed “Your daughter will be home at 6:00” in large letters. And in many cases, patients understand the message and stop asking so often. If they do repeat the question, simply tell them that the answer is on the card.

Reading can help even in cases of anger and anxiety in people with dementia. Bourgeois tells of a situation where the patient refused to shower. So her aide made a card that read, “Showers make me feel fresh and clean” and gave it to the patient when it was time to shower. It actually worked. Bourgeois said, “Even when dementia is so advanced that people cannot speak, they can read if the words are large enough.” She goes on to say that spoken words aren’t stored in memory, so they’re ineffective.

In another situation, Bourgeois tells of a patient who told her daughter, “You’re not my Susan.” So the daughter gave her mother two photos, with notes written under them. One said, “This is my daughter Susan at age three.” And the other note said, “This is my daughter Susan now.” When the patient looked at the two photos and notes, she replied, “As beautiful as ever.”

I am really excited about this and will definitely try it with my next dementia patient. I’ll also share the Parade article with my patients’ caregivers and the hospice organization for which I volunteer. (In the meantime, if any caregivers out there try this with a dementia patient, I’d love to know if it was successful.)
But I’m writing about it here, because it would be tragic for grandchildren to stop visiting grandmothers afflicted with dementia. Bourgeois says that people tend to treat these patients as if they’re not the persons they were, “But they’re still here.”

Photo by: Charlmers Butterfield©
Title: Elderly Woman


Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas is Shrinking at Our House

Monday, December 6, 2010

Where did this year go?! Everybody always says that as we get older, time passes ever more quickly. But I didn’t expect it to be like this! I need more time to “do” Christmas the way I usually do it – 4½ trees (two 6-foot, a 7-foot, a 12-foot and a 4-footer that stands on a table in the vestibule); garland everywhere; snowman, Santa, nutcracker and Baccarat collections; holiday dishes and glasses, etc., etc. But why? What in hell was I thinking?!

I had become a slave to the season, making my house into a shrine to the retail gods. Don’t get me wrong – people say I haven’t crossed the line between festive and gaudy. But the amount of time I’ve invested in the decorating and the money spent on some of those ornaments . . . well, it’s just insane. But I’m through with that! We already gave away two trees, and I’ve decided to give away lots of house decorations and tree ornaments.

I also gave away several nutcrackers, and now I’m going to dramatically thin out the snowman and Santa collections. Oh, and I forgot about the Snow Babies. When I started buying all this stuff 100 years ago, I told myself it was an investment, that I’d sell them one day and make a small fortune. Uh-huh. Now eBay’s driven down the price of just about everything, and I can’t even get what I paid for those collectibles, in some cases, over 30 years ago. Since there’s not much use in trying to sell them, I’ll be giving them to family members. I hope they’ll take good care of all my little gems.

Will I miss it? I don’t think so. My nieces and nephews liked it when they were younger, and I enjoyed seeing their eyes widen as they took it all in. But, except for three 8-year-olds, they’re grown and past being impressed by Christmas glitz. And my son, who used to love it, says that he’s become indifferent to all the trappings of Christmas. (Over-kill on my part?) But this year I think he’ll like that his mom will be much more relaxed and easygoing. And that will be a gift to everybody here!

Photo by Sandy Laurence©


The End of an Unhappy Life

A man with whom I used to work died recently. I read the obituary in the newspaper, and I felt nothing. Now that’s very much unlike me, since I cry at funerals when I don’t even know the deceased. But I’m not grieving for the person who died, the person I never knew. No, I’m crying for my friend or co-worker who lost a loved one, because I’m feeling his or her pain. But not in this case.

I briefly worked in John’s department, although, thankfully, not for him. The people who did work for him had to constantly tiptoe around his feelings of insecurity or risk an attack. They either kissed his ass to stay on his good side, or he saw them as threats to his authority and set out to get them. He was a classic bully, always targeting those who were vulnerable.

While I was there, he had three “whipping boys.” One was a defenseless little old guy who got so flustered over the constant public tirades that his face glowed red, until we thought he was on the verge of a stroke. Another was technically competent, but socially inept, and John would treat him like his best buddy one minute and then viciously abuse him verbally an hour later.

His third victim was actually a kindly older woman. She was fiercely loyal to John, until the day when a couple of executives from another company came in to meet with him. Apparently, a minor problem came to light, and John walked over to the woman’s desk and started shouting at her in front of the guests until she began to cry. He walked away from her with a self-satisfied expression, just short of a grin, on his face, like he was on a power trip.

I saw many of John’s ugly displays and had absolutely no respect for the man. But there was more. He had two sons, and when the youngest was in college, John and his wife decided they didn’t like his then girlfriend, who later became his wife. Nobody knew the exact details, but John and his wife cut off all communication with their son. And John seemed proud of the fact that they weren’t going to accept the woman into their family. Eventually, we heard that they were no longer speaking with their older son either. And the last I heard, they had grandchildren they’d never met.

I wonder now if John and his wife ever reconciled with their sons. Maybe his death brought them back in touch with their mother. And maybe not. All I know is that this is the first time I’ve felt absolutely nothing over the death of someone I knew. I actually think he made the world a better place by leaving it. How very sad.