My best friend Clare’s dog, Archie, was just diagnosed with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD): Doggie Dementia, or Canine Alzheimer’s.
Archie is nearly 15. According to the speakers at a recent Nestle Purina Companion Animal Nutrition Summit, an estimated one in four dogs over the age of 10 shows at least one sign of brain aging, with almost two in three dogs over the age of 15 showing signs.
Those are the cold facts, the ones that Clare was expected by many to take in stride. Several people told her that, because Archie is old, she shouldn’t be shocked or upset by the diagnosis.
Those people are idiots.
By the time Clare sent me an email to explain the impetus for the rather cryptic, slurred messages she’d left on my voice mail a few days earlier, she had decided that she ought be stoic. She had been “irrationally distraught” by the vet’s diagnosis, she wrote, and then,”I don’t know why I’m so heartbroken. It changes nothing.”
Bullcrap. It changes everything.
In addition to the vigilance required to keep a disoriented dog comfortable, the medications to administer — I’ll get to all that in another post — there’s the awareness that Archie is not going to be cured. And that the end is approaching.
Archie is not physically ill, mind you. He’s a bit arthritic, a little deaf. His eyesight isn’t what it used to be. But, according to the vet, he has the constitution of a dog a quarter of his age. So there’s no question at this point of “putting him out of his misery.”
It’s Clare’s misery that is at issue.
When Frankie was first diagnosed with diabetes — another disease that can’t be cured — I lay down on the floor and wept. It was a hand-pounding, snot-producing, gasping-for-air tear fest. I was upset for Frankie, sure. But I was also upset for myself. The time that would be required, the expense, the constant worry…
Of course I coped. And Clare will too. Anyone who loves a dog does. And Frankie’s care has become routine. But I still wish for the days before the disease set in and sometimes I feel terribly sorry for myself. Then Frankie licks my face or does something goofy and I feel terribly lucky that he’s in my life.
Bottom line, for anyone who gets a feared diagnosis for a beloved pet: It’s perfectly natural to be upset. And anyone who tells you otherwise can… well, do what Jon Stewart has been telling Fox News and the group that made death threats against South Park’s creators to do.