Return to the Land of Dementia

Truffle:  Confused but ALWAYS CUTE

Confused but ALWAYS CUTE

I have spent a lot of time dealing with dementia in my life. My grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. My father contracted Binswanger’s disease, another brain disorder that leads to confusion and memory loss.

Most recently, as many readers know because I discussed it in my book Pulling Taffy, my mother had Alzheimer’s disease. She died two years ago.

A month ago I would have told you that I was through with dementia—at least until such time as it might hit my own brain. Unfortunately, I was just plain wrong.

I am now dealing with … doggy dementia!

Recently my 12-year-old cockapoo, Truffle, has become irritable late at night. When the time comes for her to go outside just before bedtime she growls, snaps, and barks aggressively. This behavior is just NOT like my little dog. In general, Truffle acts as sweet and cuddly as the stuffed animal she resembles.

Once Truffle gets back inside after her late-night walk she returns to her normal affectionate self and snuggles all night. Those moments of panic and confusion (on her part), of fear and anxiety (on my part), mar the evenings, however.

So I consulted with her Virginia vet, Terry Donahue, yesterday. Sure enough, Truffle appears to have cognitive dysfunction syndrome, a.k.a. doggy Alzheimer’s disease.

We are trying various strategies to cope with this. Some are (surprise!) expensive. Terry has prescribed anti-anxiety pills and suggested special food and nutritional supplements. These are certainly worth a try. It always amazes me that Truffle’s haircuts cost more than mine. Now her daily food and medicine budget may grow greater than mine as well.

Some remedies are already in the home. I turn on as many lights as I can as the sun goes down each evening to increase Truffle’s feeling of being bathed in light and to decrease the sundowner’s syndrome she seems to be enduring. The apartment now looks as bright in the evenings as it did when I was taking care of my mother. It goes against my Scotch upbringing to use so much electricity—but I have to admit that the brightness cheers even me in dark, cold January.

The greatest gift I can give Truffle, of course, is love. As I did with my mother, I try to be as patient and gentle as I can. It’s not Truffle’s fault that she has no idea who I am or what I’m trying to do with her when I ask her to go out at night.

The world always offers us more lessons to learn. Next time it’s time for me to further my education, I’d prefer to learn about something OTHER than dementia. For now, however, Truffle and I will do the best we can and enjoy life as much as we can.


19 comments on “Return to the Land of Dementia

  1. Wendy says:

    Truffles is very lucky to have a doggy mom like you

  2. Jude says:

    Love & hugs to you Truffle & Ruby. xxxx

  3. Greta Perry says:

    OMG – I am dealing with cat dementia now! I have a room filled with puppy pads. So is our lives! Good luck!!!

  4. Grad says:

    Oh no. I’m so sorry. My mom does not seem to be suffering from sundowner’s syndrome (yet), but now that it’s winter, I come home and find her sitting in the pitch dark watching television. I find it very depressing, and try to explain I don’t think so much darkness is good and proceed to turn as many lights on as possible. If I go into the kitchen or upstairs for a minute, she starts turning them off. She takes anti-depression pills and they seem to be working. (My fear is I’ll need them soon!) Anyway, hang in there Tinky. Truffle, I’m sending you good karma too.

  5. Chris Miller says:

    Hi Tinky,

    I’ve had some friends who’s senior pups have suffered doggie dementia. It’s tough. But Truffle is in the best hands ever with you! I’m sorry that you both are going through this.


  6. Virginia says:

    So sorry, Tinky….that is such as touching piece; can’t pin it down but there’s a profound lesson there…. I guess I’m thinking of how precious and fragile all loves are.

  7. Roxana says:

    Oh Tinky! This is unreal. So sad. You are amazing that you deal with all these situations with such grace.

  8. Dian and Donna says:

    Dear Tinky, Donna and I sat down together and had a good cry for our darling Truffle, for you and for ourselves. We love you all and wanted smooth sailing for you. But then Life doesn’t always supply that. Truffle, you’re in good hands and we send supportive love!

  9. Gabrielle Pellé-Hyvon says:

    I’ll be thinking of you both !

  10. Deborah Rowell says:

    Hi Tinky,

    I’ve been out-of-town for the last week and just sat down to read your message about Truffle. It broke my heart for both her and you!!! I’m so very sorry to hear this news, but I know that Truffle couldn’t have a more loving and devoted mother and care-taker. When you wrote about keeping the lights on, it reminded me of my sweet Sophie. She died last year at age 12 of a rare disease (Intestinal Lymphangiectasia) and she increasingly hated the dark in the last few years of her life. Like you, I gladly paid the increased electricity bills. I guess Sophie was also experiencing some of the mental symptoms you write about.

    I’m so glad that I was home a few weeks ago when you stopped by. It was wonderful having even a few quality minutes hugging and kissing little Truffle. It was so endearing that she put her paws on my legs when you were leaving . as if she didn’t want to leave my loving embrace. I hate that your sweet baby is going through this.

    Would it be OK with you if I share you message below with the Pet Club? I don’t think many people are aware that dogs can experience dementia. Please let me know if I have your permission. I’d also like to mention your book Pulling Taffy and the fact that it’s available on Amazon. Is that OK?

    Mom and I are both planning on being there on Feb. 26th to hear your presentation. She’s really looking forward to meeting you. We both loved reading your book. I’ve just bought a copy of your Pudding Hollow Cookbook to give Mom for the next holiday, maybe Easter or Mother’s Day. Amazon says it should arrive this weekend.

    I hope you and Truffle stay bundled up and warm in this freezing weather. Of course, being from Massachusetts, you’re more used to it than this Mississippi girl is.

    I hope to see you soon. Deborah

    P.S. Those were some VERY nice children’s gifts that you gave me to donate to the UMC Back Porch Thrift Shop. It’s going to be next week until I have time to deliver the stuff. Are you sure you don’t want any of the items back to give some of the kids in your life for birthdays and next Christmas? For instance, there’s the Monopoly game, Hot Wheel cars and the wooden Jenga game. If you do, let me know and I’ll hold those back. Otherwise, I’m sure UMC will be thrilled.

    • tinkyweisblat says:

      Deborah, I’m going to send you an email, but please do keep the gifts. I always purchase gifts I like for kids in need. And I’m sure Truffle would be honored to have you share her/our story.

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