Actually it is like I have two homes. The river home and the facility where some people end up living when they can never go home again.
By Hugo (the Dog)
Alzheimer's Reading Room
I am Mary and Aristides’s dog.
I am now six years old and they got me when I was two and a half.
My life is quite different compared to when I first started to live with them because Aristides now lives in a long term care residence. I live with Mary - just the two of us.
Actually it is like I have two homes.
The river home and the facility where some people end up living in when they can never go home again.
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It’s a place where I have a job to do. It’s where I feel welcomed and loved.
I can tell you what my first day was like in there. Or even better, what my first day was like when I was with Mary to help move Aristides from the hospital to the residence.
Mary knew that that day was a special day. I could tell something was up as she was packing up a suitcase of clothes. Not her clothes but my master’s clothes. Were they going on a trip? Would I be included?
It was the day when Aristides would be finally discharged from an acute care ward into his new home on the other side of a large 75 acre urban park.
There was a delay to get an ambulance to do the transfer because of a strike. The head nurse at the hospital asked Mary if it was okay to
“hoof” Aristidesthrough the park in a Gerry chair – and to heck with waiting any longer.
You know Mary. She was all for that and once they had Aristides outside into the bright July sunshine wrapped in a blanket I was let out of the car which was parked nearby. I ran along beside them on the park pathways.
I had to stop to be a good boy in the bushes somewhere. Mary didn’t have a plastic bag with her. Karen, the nurse who was pushing the chair said not to worry. She gave us the bag she was using to carry important hospital records and transfer papers. She tucked the records inside her blouse and Mary got to use the bag for me.
The four of us continued our journey through the park, down a back lane and into the gardens of the residence. I was tied up outside for awhile. That is when I got my first glimpse of this new place and the strangers who were sitting outside got to meet me.
They didn’t know my name or who I belonged to. I was called the friendly, curly hair boy. Later they called me by my name and in the following weeks, this place started to feel okay.
Some of my first experiences were similar to Mary’s.
She used to say things to me like, “you’ll get used to it.” I think she even said words such as “adjustment,” and that “transition” word.
I don’t really know the meanings of those words. I do know that since the summer of 2009 I understand words “let’s go see Ris,” or “time to go to the Res.”
When I go into the building I immediately smell food! There are no unpleasant smells in there - food for sure is the dominant smell for me. Oh, and lately hand soap. Lots of it. Because there has been a flu outbreak. Mary’s hands smell of alcohol and something else.
The Res is no ordinary place. All of the people who live in there are in wheelchairs. Nobody can stand up or walk around. What’s neat about that is they’re easy for me to see and touch them with my paws or nose. They’re at my level!
The food trolley carts that hold stacks of meal trays are also down low. In the first few weeks on several occasions when nobody was paying attention I helped myself to some salmon suppers. That’s when Mary yelled at me to stop.
Sometimes when the rehab staff (and Mary) are distracted running large tea parties they have left the cake wagon unattended. I know chocolate cake is not good for me - but it sure is tasty.
I love it when we go outside for a walk together into the park. It is only minutes away. Mary lets me run off leash. I used to chase the rabbits and squirrels. I will admit I am not the fastest running dog on this planet. Don’t worry I would never hurt them because those guys can run away very quickly.
One day I misjudged the depth of the water beside the lake. When I leaned over to get a drink I fell in over my head. The water was freezing on that November day. Don’t tell anybody but I am afraid to go over my head. I know I am a Portuguese Water Dog who is supposed to swim. Mary is pretty good about not being disappointed in me about that one because she loves me for who I am.
When we return to the residence there is usually an older fellow named Cory who calls out, “You hound dog, did you have a nice walk?”
I’m back inside a place that the manager, Pat recognizes how my presence has made a difference. She wrote this when Mary wrote about “Me and My Dog Hugo” a few weeks ago.
“He is the good will ambassador to the many residents and helps to reduce loneliness, helplessness and boredom at Minoru.”
I am invited into meetings Mary attends in the home, and I tag along when she volunteers to work in the gardens or paint murals upstairs in the bath tub rooms.
I never thought I would be a dog who has a second home in a residence. But I am – and it makes me happy to know I have an important role to play.
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Original content Mary Gazetas, the Alzheimer's Reading Room