From the warmth of a south Florida late fall day, I look back to the same time last year in North Carolina.
I spent the last two winters there, working for a clinical research consortium and as part of my Mom’s team of caregivers. My Mom is 84 years old and has Alzheimer’s disease. You may have noticed I used the word “team” when I spoke of caregivers. The team consisted of my sisters, my brothers, a daytime nurse, and a tea cup Chihuahua named Gracie. Gracie is a small thing, all of 4 pounds if you don’t cut her nails on a regular basis.
Gracie entered our family as the pet of my oldest sister, but was immediately adopted by my Mom. From her perspective, Gracie is her adoptive granddaughter. My oldest sister is Gracie’s mother and the rest of us as aunts and uncles round out the family. We won’t go into how the grand and great grandchildren fit into the kith and kin in relation to Gracie.
Gracie is Mom’s constant companion and protector. More constant than a shadow: shadows disappear in bright light and darkness and are silent. Gracie is ever present and makes herself heard. Always either at Mom’s feet, by her side, or in her lap, with that stereotypic, energetic, Chihuahua yappy bark at the ready. Baby talk is the language of their relationship, with a constant banter the norm. Most see a quaint and charming relationship while I see and appreciate it as much more. Despite our best efforts, Gracie is able to do something with my Mom the rest of us can’t. She is able to live and interact with Mom in the moment.
We all are so involved in our own daily lives of work, family, and personal concerns. Our thoughts are typically everywhere except where we are at the moment, except during the most dire of situations. As my Mom’s disease progresses, her decreasing cognitive functions confine her to a world more about the moment and less about the past and the future. Gracie is in the moment, with my Mom, at all times. Her ability to do so offers us an entry point, if ever so briefly, to that moment to enjoy and interact with Mom, giving us the precious opportunity to share and experience our lives with her much as we did prior to the onset of Alzheimer’s.
What a wonderful gift form such a small being.
Dr. Pierre Bland is the owner of “Dr. Bland’s Vet House Calls”, a veterinary house call service. He can be reached at 954 673 -8779 or at doctorblandvet.com. He is also the son of Mary Lois Bland and uncle of “Gracie” Spencer of High Point, North Carolina.