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Pets and PWDs
David J
Posted: Sunday, December 27, 2020 4:14 PM
Joined: 2/15/2020
Posts: 212

My DW’s relationship with the dog seems to have changed. 12 years ago we lost our dog, and I found a puppy for us that was born and the same day. We drove to the MA/NH border and picked up our little Golden Doodle. A kinder, gentler, happier dog than we had ever had. We have had many happy years with our petite Chou Chou. That’s a French term of endearment that doesn’t translate well: little cabbage!

As DW has progressed down this terrible road, she has forgotten the name but still wants companionship of the dog.  She has started to feed her from the table, something I have never allowed with our dogs. This one gets very insistent in begging at her side of the table, and seems to be asserting herself in the authority chain.  Unfortunately, DW grabs at the dog, and hauls on her collar. The poor dog has hip problems and is often in pain and uncomfortable. When DW grabs the dog, the dog doesn’t like it and she snaps. Poor DW has bruises and scabs on her hands because she can’t learn to leave the dog alone. I can’t blame the dog for asserting herself, but I can’t let DW get hurt. 

Anyone else see changing pet relationships? I don’t know if I could handle getting rid of the dog. 

Posted: Sunday, December 27, 2020 6:59 PM
Joined: 4/2/2018
Posts: 3837

David, I'm sorry. My wife also started feeding the dog. At one time she knew better. After trying to get her to stop, I finally decided to choose my battles wisely. So whenever she eats, the dog always gets part of it. 

Do you know why she grabs the dog's collar? Would she still do that if you didn't try to get her to stop the feeding? You could try to make a deal with her if she's capable of that. You can say she can feed the dog if she doesn't grab the collar. If she agrees, you might have to remind her every time you sit down to eat, but that might be the best you can do. I know getting rid of a pet is very hard to do. I hope you can find a way to keep your wife safe, while keeping the dog too.

Posted: Sunday, December 27, 2020 7:32 PM
Joined: 2/16/2017
Posts: 1183

Hi David, 

It would be a very sad thing if you had to give your dog away. What would happen if you took the dogs collar off and put it on when you need to take her for a walk.. 

Posted: Sunday, December 27, 2020 11:17 PM
Joined: 10/24/2019
Posts: 386

Alas, been there, done that.  DW no longer remembers the dog’s name, either.  We’ve always adhered to a practice of  never feeding our dogs from the table, so they don’t learn to beg and don’t pester us while we’re eating.  DW was particularly steadfast in holding to this ‘rule.’

Then in walked Alzheimer’s.  DW doesn’t manage a fork so well any more, and some food always makes its way to the floor.  The dog recognized the change, and learned to hang around DW when she is eating. 

Fast forward a few months, and the dog has gained weight.  A lot of weight.  And when she was a puppy, she was (mis) diagnosed with elbow dysplasia, so extra weight is a bad thing.  It turns out that my DW, with less appetite of her own, was hand feeding her meals to the dog, from the table.

Too hard for my DW to remember not to feed the dog from the table.  So when she is eating, I shut the dog out of the kitchen or dining room.  Case solved, dog slimmed down.

So my thought for you is to remove the dog when your DW is eating, so these incidents don’t occur.  Agree with other comments here (and yours) that getting rid of the dog is a very undesirable solution....

Posted: Monday, December 28, 2020 2:02 AM
Joined: 8/22/2020
Posts: 762

My partner is a real animal lover preceding her dementia, and feeding has become an obsession, especially with the cats (two outside, two inside).  Leaving dry food out won't suffice, she's convinced they all need wet food as a "treat" every day.  There are also chickens and ducks on the property and it's starting to extend to those too. Fortunately so far she's leaving feeding the one dog to me, though she asks about it frequently. This has been my first experience with sundowning, as feeding time is early evening and it's a ritual every night, being confused as to who needs feeding, where and what they eat, how many there are.  One little indoor kitty we've had for over two years is "New" and still surprises her.  And this very sweet gentle young dog is allowed on furniture and beds, and absolute no no for past ones.  

I like the idea of taking her collar off David, maybe that will help. 

Posted: Monday, December 28, 2020 6:48 AM
Joined: 4/2/2018
Posts: 3837

You have some good ideas here. I also like taking the collar off, but then you'll have to watch closely that she doesn't grab the dog by the skin of the neck. I have, on occasion, also locked the dog in another room until meals are over. This works very well if you don't get too much push back from your wife.
Posted: Monday, December 28, 2020 7:28 AM
Joined: 3/6/2017
Posts: 2478

I am sorry you are dealing with this.

You've already gotten some great advice around strategies that, while more work for you, would allow you to avoid rehoming a beloved pet. Removing the dog to another place for snacks and mealtimes makes sense although you may have to also restrict your wife's access to the fridge and pantry if she is stuck on this activity. Removing the collar or replacing it with a different kind also makes sense. 

Another thought is to provide your wife with her own "dog". Joy for All makes robotic cats and dogs which appeal to many PWD. Perhaps you could redirect her to one of those. I was skeptical because they aren't very cuddly, but dad's MCF had a couple and they are weirdly engaging. A friend who cared for her dear mom with dementia at home noticed her cats started to avoid mom. I suggested the JFA cat which she was able to checkout at the local library and my friend would redirect mom to the new "cat". It worked so well for her mom, who was probably late-middle stages at the time, that she bought one from amazon.
Rescue mom
Posted: Monday, December 28, 2020 8:04 AM
Joined: 10/12/2018
Posts: 1816

Pets can be so hard with a PWD. I had to hide the dog food and treats, and be ever vigilant about other foods being “sneaked” to her. I was lucky in that we never had given the dog any “people food” so that did not seem to occur to him, (I hid the worst culprits regardless) and she’s a picky eater. And she’s too small (toy poodle) for him to easily grab or manhandle. He’s almost never been rough with her, the time he did in play she just left. she’s never nipped, she just leaves. He also does not move fast.

One thing I never anticipated —which could have been tragic—was this: I came into the kitchen and smelled bug spray. DH said he saw a bug, and he sprayed her food and water so heavy I could see the oily film covering the water. He was capable of thinking bug means spray, (which surprised me) but not capable of seeing danger to dog. But I was there quick, and the dog doesn’t scarf down food. Now the bug spray, and all other cleaning/poisonous things, are hidden and locked. You never know what they will do.

I’d take off the collar. And keep dog in another room at meals or people-feeding times. And think hard about those Joy for All robotic pets. It’s amazing how many people with dementia, even early stages, are very happy with those. I’ve seen it facilities, with people I thought were still too “with it” to enjoy something like that. Staff said the same.

David J
Posted: Monday, December 28, 2020 10:19 AM
Joined: 2/15/2020
Posts: 212

A lot of good advice. Thanks!  I had heard of the mechanical pets, but not of the acceptance by PWDs. Maybe worth a try. 

Posted: Monday, December 28, 2020 2:03 PM
Joined: 1/12/2018
Posts: 330

Yes, there certainly has been a change in how my DH deals with our dog. We have a 4 1/2 year old golden retriever. DH now thinks she only needs to go outside once a day, and it must be when the sun is up. I did not realize how bad it had become for our dog while I was at work, until a couple of weeks ago, my DH explained she made a mess in the kitchen. He tried to clean it up as well as he could. I got out the carpet cleaner when I got home and finished the job. This dog has never gone in the house before. Now I call him during the day and ask if he has let her out. He also claims it's too cold for her to go out, she's a hearty soul, she's not going to freeze being outside for half an hour. We never fed her from the table, but he has taken to doing so and now he says it's not good for her. So it's a crap shoot which way he will roll from day to day. I try my best to get a walk in with the dog once a day, more on weekends.

Posted: Monday, December 28, 2020 10:12 PM
Joined: 5/25/2020
Posts: 178

Once you've tried the excellent suggestions here, another thought is to muzzle Chou Chou. The right muzzle shouldn't bother the dog, and she'll still be able to eat and drink. That wouldn't solve the problem of the dog being in pain, although it would mean DW wasn't being nipped at.

I am another member of the overweight because-of-spouse-dementia dog club. I couldn't convince to stop DH feeding our dog all sorts of food, often by the forkful, or spoonful, although I always stepped in when I saw it. At the emergency vet one day, after DH had given Archie a whole tub of chocolate peanut butter treats (eek!), the vet came out to give us an update. She said she'd noticed something that looked like sweet potato when Archie had thrown up. I said "that would be the burrito DH fed him earlier..."

Since DH moved into MC, Archie is losing weight nicely!

Posted: Tuesday, December 29, 2020 9:56 AM
Joined: 12/22/2020
Posts: 10

We have two indoor cats. Years ago, we fed them twice a day, with the amounts measured out because we (my wife, primarily) didn't want them gaining weight.

A couple of years ago, however, my wife started feeding one of the cats (her rescue cat) all different kinds of food (Don't like that? Try this!) during every meal, including chicken breast meat she had sliced thin and poached in water. This behavior corresponds to the beginning of my wife's condition, although I didn't see the warning signs then.

The cat in question is smart. He has now trained my wife to get up at all hours of the day and night to feed him in response to his howls. It's a problem, but she seems extremely happy puttering about the kitchen, preparing multiple offerings for her favorite cat. And the problem we have now seems insignificant to the problem we will face when the cat—who is elderly and living with lymphoma—finally passes.