Sunday, October 30, 2011

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Alzheimer's and Animals

Ever since that day last summer when when his neurologist confirmed to me during a private visit that he indeed had the Alzheimer’s type dementia, I’ve been trying to trust him to decide as much for himself as possible. This means I have released to him as much control of our day to day lives as has seemed feasible. He still gets to hold the remote. But I have learned the hard way he can't be trusted where animals are concerned.

The showdown came a week ago.

Animal cruelty is my line in the sand. This is the hill I am choosing to die on.

Every time he has wanted an animal, I have gone along with him. I knew he was an animal lover before I married him. That’s always been high on my list. It started with Suze the cat. He had her with him when he was driving a truck. Of course, once he brought her to my apartment she never again saw the inside of his truck. My labradoodle Lily learned to tolerate her.

Suze stayed with me and Lily until he retired. He got tired of her and I reluctantly allowed her to go live at his son’s house. After all, she was his cat. He left Suze with them, and brought home Rusty, a stray Westie.

The photo is Rusty and Lily.

Fast forward to Sally, a Carolina Dog, who followed him home about the same time he brought Rusty home from his son’s house. Even swap. Okay. I adored Rusty, a Westie, who was low to the ground and white. Read lots of baths. Lots of mopping up South Carolina mud. Lots of his griping

about Rusty’s messes in the house. Rusty was so cute I almost did not mind. Lots of us both griping about Sally’s messes outside. Those I did mind. He practically forced me to find Rusty a home, but even though I begged him to find Sally a better home, she stayed through the winter.

Photo to left is Sally.

It got down to 16 degrees. If she stayed on the porch she chewed up the antique wicker. If she came in the house she chewed up the sofa. He built her a dog house. I laid awake nights, praying she was somehow warm out there. I swore never again. I kept on begging him to find her a better home than we could give her. When I was hospitalized he took her to the pound, saying he realize she would be too much for me when I got home. I called the shelter and told them what a wonderful dog she was – smart and playful, eager to please, a perfect dog for adolescent boys who would play with her. I never heard back from them. I still worry. Make that grieve.

He said he’d like another cat, this time to live outdoors. At the animal shelter I found a beautiful little silver tabby, named what else – Silver. After she was spayed and vaccinated, I set her up in a secure warm building, with lots of good food and a litter box. She apparently loves it as she has never even tried to wander off. Soon Panda showed up. We live in the country. Animals, especially cats, come and go. Panda is black and white, a perfect buddy for Silver. Soon a huge yellow Tom spotted Panda and nailed her before I could stop him. I heard her yowl. So now Panda is pregnant.

Photo to right is Silver.

One day I heard a shotgun blast. I saw him coming back into the house carrying his gun. I never saw Tom again. I’m still heartsick. I am getting over knee replacement surgery and have not been able to wrestle Panda into a cage and take her to the vet. Our area lacks a spay neuter program for strays. He refuses to pay a vet the full price. I can't even think about that now.

Panda hunts and kills birds. I hate this, but she is just being a cat. I like birds, but I understand the laws of nature. She brought a bird into her and Silver’s building. Feathers everywhere. Next thing I know, the door to the building is closed and both cats are shut out away from their food and water. He had already gotten rid of the litter box, which Silver used but Panda didn’t. Said they are outdoor cats. They go to the bathroom outside. He ranted all day about the feathers mess in the building. I knew what was coming. He wanted to be rid of Silver and Panda both.

Panda and Silver both claiming the rug.

Picture this: Beautiful fall afternoon, the two of us standing on the back porch, him yelling, me fighting for control. I am headed out to sweep up the feathers.

"I can’t believe you’d let a cat... a cat... believe me… I am this close..." He pinched his fingers together.

"You wanna know what’s wrong with me? There’s nothing wrong with me. It’s you and those cats."

"Convenient for you to think of that in the last five minutes."

"Cats! They’re cats for God’s sake!"

"I thought you liked cats."

"Not when they make messes..."

"All cats are messy. You are being cruel."

"Cruel? I’m not cruel."

"I know you don’t think so, but I don’t agree."

A week has gone by.

He locked Silver and Panda out of their building again today.

It is turning cold.

I unlocked the door and let them back in.

When he saw it he freaked. Raging so the neighbors could hear, I'm sure.

I stood my ground.

Torn up, that's what I am.

Photo, right, Fearless and Sally, nose to nose.

Behind all this is Fearless, the cutest little four-pound MinChi who ever lived. I brought him home from the pound the same day as Silver. He was going to be my pal who would help me when Lily goes. She is already 11, with arthritis. Fearless earned his name by protecting me from a pit bull who wandered into the yard, which is not fenced. Before we'd had him a month, he got hit by a car. I still long to feel his silky little belly under my hand at night. So now when I think of having to lose Silver and Panda, on top of Suze, Rusty, Sally and Fearless -- and knowing Lily's days are growing shorter, it all piles in on top of the greater loss -- the loss of my husband.