The Dog

Our story in this season of sickness…

As his imaginary world becomes more entrenched the husband is always asking me where his dog is. He mentions this dog at least once a day, and this morning it wasn’t just a curious inquiry, it was a need.

It was early in the morning and he was being moved and cared for, but it was upsetting to him. The words were quite clear. “I need my dog.” It was repeated with conviction. “Where is he?”

I have gone the route of explaining that we don’t have a dog, but that he has seen a dog in his mind and that’s okay. That doesn’t seem to help lately, so I have begun telling him that the dog is probably outside since it is not in the house. People take their dogs out in the morning – they have to pee. His dog does too. He wants to know if I can see him and I say no. I tell him not to worry because he has told me himself that the dog is very smart.

Eventually he will ask for the cat. I can produce a cat. He will hold Shadow on his lap and feel her and this morning he settled down. I am grateful that she does cozy up to him and sit on his lap quite often. She is little and black, like “the dog”.

The cat will have to do.

My theory has the dog being important for several reasons. The husband needs unconditional love at a time when he knows he is unable to give back. It also comforts him to feel responsible for a creature, to still have purpose. Lastly, I don’t know, maybe he always wanted a dog when he was young and never had one. He has always enjoyed some things about the dogs we have had in our years together, but he didn’t have the need that he does now.

His condition continues to decline. I feel there is less engagement overall. There is more confusion, more resignation. One morning last week I asked him if he was okay as I often do when he’s had a coughing spell or seems upset. “Not really.’ he said. He also has started asking me “Am I confused?” These are new admissions for him.

Lest you think that he does a lot of talking, I am recording here most of the significant conversations, and there aren’t many of them. He doesn’t usually talk when we are working with him. His eyes are closed much of the time. He unfailingly produces a smile when asked. Every now and then something will make him laugh. This morning when I told him the dog was outside “taking a leak”, as he calls it, he laughed and said “We’re doing the same thing together.”

They were, and that’s okay.


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