My Blog

July 30, 2017

Elderly mothers and their dogs

“When are you getting rid of the dogs?” Mom asked the other day.

I looked at her askance. “In about ten years,” I said.

“They are taking up too much of your time,” she said.

I admit, they do. I have four dogs rescued from the side of the road or from friends or neighbors who were dumping them. It’s not my fault they need to be walked. When I have to leave her it’s usually to go walk the dogs. I used to walk them five miles early in the mornings. It took about an hour and a half but I was done by eight and ready to start the day. They got exercise and so did I. Now, however, my schedule has changed.

I load up the dogs, drive up to Mom’s facility, let the dogs run in the empty lot next door, go in and get Mom ready for breakfast, go back outside, give the dogs their treats, put them back in the car, go back inside, take Mom back to her room, turn the TV on for her (since she doesn’t know how), then take the dogs home and start the day. Lunch time, I can just stop in without the dogs. But the same routine goes on at 4 in the afternoon which includes feeding Mom and getting her into her jammies while the dogs patiently wait outside. And she says I spend too much time on the dogs.

Mom doesn’t care much for dogs. She’s not one of these “Oh, my baby, here’s another treat” kind of people. Dogs are for outside and they are for kids to play with. Not for riding around in the car with her. I’ve tried taking her with me on errands, but with four rescue dogs in the car, she would rather not. Dogs are not for her.

This is definitely not true for the many dog-lovers @Carriage Inn. One of the most agonizing aspects of moving into a Retirement Facility is having to give up a beloved pet. The Facility, blessings on them, agrees and allows people to keep their pets. There are, however, a few pros and cons associated with pet ownership.

The benefit, of course, is that the dog-loving resident has to get outside and walk the dog. That is exercise. And it provides a goal. And it is something to do. And the dog provides a loving companion that one can talk to even if they don’t answer. Their little tilted heads and perked ears and wagging tails are usually answer enough.

Love, as we all know, is food made visible. And how better to express our love for our pets than by feeding them. And there are so many tempting and tantalizing snacks available in the stores. The packaging, with all those pictures of tasty bacon and beef, are aimed at the dog owners since the dogs don’t much care what treat they get as long as they don’t have to eat plain old dry dog food.

So most of the dogs at the Facility are literally square—as fat as they are long. Too much food and not enough exercise. One dachshund could not get his belly off the ground. Many are in dire need of gastric bypasses—or owners who feed them less. Others, as elderly as their owners, with graying whiskers and rickety legs, wobble along, belly’s swaying, beside their equally rickety owners.

There are also some disadvantages to pet ownership.

“No dogs in the halls!” Lady M screeches when she sees 98-year-old Lady J walking Fido outside to poop. I understand her concerns. Yesterday I came across one of those yellow plastic warning tents that someone had very carefully placed across a tiny pile of dog poop left in the hall. Evidently, Fido had not made it to the outside. I brought a plastic bag from Mom’s room and picked up the poop.

Fortunately, most of the dog-owners have chosen apartments near an exit door. Lady J has just been moved into one of the very nice (and expensive) Patio rooms that has a door that opens out into the beautifully landscaped and carefully maintained courtyard. Yesterday, to my horrified embarrassment, one of my dogs got into the courtyard and left a very large dump. I hurried to clean it up before anyone noticed.

Unhappily, Lady J will continue to use the hallway. She has gotten used to going out the side door to the green belt around the facility. She doesn’t yet realize she can walk Fido in the courtyard. Which is probably all to the good since she doesn’t see well and has a hard time leaning over to pick up poop in a plastic bag.

The problem, of course, is when summer hits in Texas. Walking the dog outside in 100-degree heat becomes a chore. The owners anthropomorphize the dogs. Their “babies” Fifi or Fido said they didn’t want to go outside this morning. So they don’t. And poop in the hall.


Joey and Muffin

I admit, one of my dogs will stare back at me at me and refuse to budge when I tell her we are going for a walk. She, too, is nearly square. So, maybe Mom is right. But how could I possibly get rid of my “babies”?

About Caroline Castillo Crimm
Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!
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