By Marie Marley
Alzheimer's Reading Room
They can often reach patients in the advanced stages of the disease when little else can.
I had a 17-year-old Shih Tzu, Peter, whom Ed loved dearly.
In fact, when I took Peter with me to visit, Ed ignored me completely, put Peter on his lap and petted and talked to him.
One day Ed asked me, “Does he like it when I ‘pad’ him?”
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“Yes,” I answered. “He likes to be petted.”
“Oh! I’m so happy he likes it when I ‘pad’ him.”
Peter was an unofficial therapy dog for the other Alzheimer’s residents as well.
Whenever they saw him their eyes lit up and smiles came to their faces. Some leaned down to pet him, and I held him up to be petted by those who couldn’t bend down.
Once a visitor asked me to take Peter in to see his mother, Pat.
“She loves dogs,” he told me.
So I took Peter into Pat’s room.
She was resting in bed when I entered so I held Peter up near her. Peter began licking her face immediately. She smiled and laughed.
“Gee, I’m surprised,” I said. “He doesn’t usually ‘kiss’ people he doesn’t know.”
“Dogs are very selective,” she said.
I was astonished. That was the first lucid remark Pat had made for months.
Another resident, Judy, never returned my greeting or said anything to me. In fact, I’d never heard her speak to anyone. But when she saw Peter her face, too, light up and a big smile always came to her face. She petted him enthusiastically.
Then one day I went to visit without Peter. When I passed Judy in the hall she stopped and said in the softest voice imaginable, “Where’s the dog?”
I was amazed. In just a few short visits Peter had gotten her to talk – something I hadn’t been able to do in seventeen months. This was just further proof of the power pets have with people who have Alzheimer’s disease.
Note: I must sadly report that Peter has just passed away. In memory of Ed and Peter I have established a fund to pay for critical care for pets whose owners simply can’t afford it.
To donate write a check to Peter’s Fund and mail to Ed & Peter’s Fund 14327 Metcalf, Overland Park, KS, 66223. Your gift will be deeply appreciated. Marie
Marie Marley is the author of the award winning book, Come Back Early Today: A Story of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy, and a frequent contributor to the Alzheimer's Reading Room and Huffington Post.
Come Back Early Today:
A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer's and Joy
- Why Do the Deeply Forgetful Say No So Often
- Are Alzheimer's Caregivers the Forgotten?
- Alzheimer's Disease and the Five Stages of Grief
- Urinary Tract Infection, You Can Learn From My Experience
- Frightened, Bewildered, Apprehensive, Anxious, Angry
Original content the Alzheimer's Reading Room