My mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease at the young age of 51 years old. It was not until the death of her husband that her condition worsened at a faster pace. As her life was gradually taken over by Alzheimer, both her sons discussed the possibility of adopting a dog to keep her company.
She never had a dog before but had displayed patient and a loving attitude towards the neighbor's pet. Despite her objections as she was a woman that did not want anyone to fuss over her as she was used to care for others, both her children decided to get her one anyway.
A puppy to keep her company
As months went by, my husband got tired of waiting for his brother's approval about a certain breed and did some research. He soon discovered that the best breed for his mother may be a Labrador retriever. During a short trip, a bit later, he visited a pet shop and fell in love with a Chocolate Labrador puppy. The next day, the puppy was on the road, excited at the prospect of meeting his new mistress.
From a pet to animal therapy
Despite her repeated objections, like her son, she fell in love with this adorable puppy that she later named Cocoa. As time went by he became more than a pet, he was her best friend. She felt needed and useful again. He was always by her side, comforting her and keeping a watchful eye on her.
When Alzheimer started to take over her world, he never leaved her sight of stopped being affectionate; on the contrary, he was always there for her. He put a smile on her face with his clumsy ways; he forgave her when she was mad at him thinking that he was responsible for the voices that she heard or for her mistakes. He never left her side when she was sick and always included her by making sure that she was not alone and was joining us often. When he felt that something was odd or wrong, he would get our attention and guide us to check on her. Cocoa was solid, strong, patient and loved her unconditionally.
Always part of her world
As her condition worsened, she became more distant, enclosed in her own world. Despite that fact, her dog was always part of it. Even at night, he was keeping a watchful eye on her. He was there to help her mourn the loss of her rabbit. He was there to comfort her through difficult times. Loneliness was never part of her life since the first day she met him. I truly believe that he is the reason why Alzheimer's disease took the slow route with her as her dog made her happier and prevented her to become anxious and depressed and helped her more than any treatment or medication. And he was there for her, good days, bad days...until the end.
The following year, we noticed how much he missed her. Approximately a full year later, he passed on...hopefully back by her side. He was her ray of sunshine and made a difference in her life. That is why I would encourage anyone to not only see an animal as a pet but also be aware of the unlimited benefits of animal therapy. In this case, this young Labrador retriever may not have represented a cure for Alzheimer's disease, but it changed the quality of life of the woman suffering from it, making it worthwhile.