Thursday, April 3, 2014

April 2014: Reminiscing about poor Ned as a puppy

Mum is 87 now. I'm not sure how long she's had Alzheimers Disease but it's probably close to twelve years. I keep looking back and recalling weird symptoms that I would now pick up on, but didn't then. For example, for a few years before she started behaving extremely weirdly, she was paranoid about my brother's cats. She said he never fed them and they would die. So every time we visited, we had to buy large bags of dry food and hide them in various sheds on his property, open at the top, so the cats wouldn't starve to death. He had four or five of them to keep down the mice. At the time, I believed her 100%, that he was cruel to his cats and never fed them, or he forgot to feed them. It was most unlike him, as he'd loved cats since he was a little boy, but who was I to disbelieve my mother? She was only in her 70s so I never suspected anything was wrong. But now my sister in law tells me it was all in her imagination. They never forgot to feed their cats. They'd have to go round and gather up all the cat food after we left or it would have attracted more mice.

She wanted a watch dog when she was living in her own house. She asked me to find her one. This should have rung warning bells - she didn't like dogs much - she was a cat person. And so when my Kelpie and his girlfriend across the laneway, a pure bred Border Collie show dog, had pups (accidentally), I got her one and we called him Ned.

I was working full time and didn't realize what little Ned was having to suffer. At eight weeks of age he was being barricaded as far down the back yard as she could get him. She was telling people, "That dog is giving my cat asthma attacks!" The stupid cat was hissing at Ned and scratching his face. And, "That dog is giving my cat a nervous breakdown!" The poor little thing was never being patted or played with, was never allowed inside and was being yelled at all day long and told he was 'bad'. 

It was three months before I realized what this was doing to poor little Ned. He became scared, withdrawn, depressed and anxious. I took him to live at my place. He's eight years old now and still has problems. He has no confidence and always looks unhappy. I feel terrible that I did this to him. I trusted my mother. I had no idea she was going crazy. But this paranoia about needing a watch dog and then the puppy ruining her cat's life should have rung warning bells.

Don't necessarily look for memory problems in your elderly relatives. Look for weird behaviour, especially paranoia. Mum had no memory problems at this point and didn't have any for years. It was all crazy behaviour. Barricading the front and back doors inside the house with furniture. Cutting up her good clothes to make 'rope' to tie around door handles and gates. "I couldn't find any rope and I couldn't let them get in so I had to cut up my clothes. I didn't want them, anyway."

Dialling 000, calling the police, telling them she had intruders - that was another sign. There are people walking around my yard with torches. There is a man in a trench coat outside my bedroom window. Again, there was no memory loss at this early stage. 

Anyhow, here is a picture of Mum and Ned, taken last weekend. She was the first owner he bonded with so he still gets wildly excited when I bring her home on Saturdays and sits at her feet for hours. These days she's not so interested in cats and her cat obsession has disappeared. She will actually pat Ned and talk to him. I don't know how much he remembers of the horrible way she treated him when he was just a baby.